THE CAVENDISH 'COLLEGE,—ITS USE AND ABUSE. rpHE promoters of Cavendish
College are, no doubt, making
a wise and useful experiment on what may be called the extension of the elasticity of the Educational system of our Universities. Almost all the educational experiments of modern days in the higher regions of teaching, have been experiments on that elasticity. The University of London has adapted its tests of the higher teaching to those who can obtain it only from private reading, with or without tutorial help. The Cambridge and Oxford Local Examinations have adapted their tests to the same class, though with more direct relation to the young men and women just issuing from the higher secondary schools. The recent University Extension Scheme has provided teaching of a high kind for those whose main work in life absorbs the day for practical duties, and leaves only the evening for the culture of the intellect. And now the Cavendish College is established, to provide for the wants of an intermediate class, —those who cannot, without serious loss, extend their education up to the age of twenty-one or twenty-two,—who must enter ou the practical work of life at nineteen or twenty, at the very latest, but who, nevertheless, wish for something rather beyond the education of a first-class school, and desire to carry with them into life not, indeed, the advantages of a full University course, but a fair share of those advantages, together with satisfactory evidence to the world at large that they have been attained. If Cavendish College is not too ambitious, it will not. aim at gaining for its students those highest honours which are only attainable—or at any rate only attain- able without risk to both health and brain—after a full four years' course of study, begun not earlier than at the age of eighteen. It will rather aim only at such honours as can be secured without detriment to the health by ordinarily industrious lads, who begin their College life at sixteen, and leave it for more practical duties at nineteen. If the College really keeps this limited object in view, and does not strive to make up for the loss of two or three years of maturer study by excessive and dangerous over-work,—if it does not try to pit lads of nine- teen against men of two-and-twenty or three-and-twenty,—.
it will add something fresh to that elasticity in the Uni- versity teaching of the day,—that carefully adjusted adap- tation of it to a great variety of different circumstances, aim-, and means,—which is the most marked and most useful feature of our recent University extension. The old idea used to be that University teaching existed only for a youth of leisure,—a youth entirely free from practical responsibilities. In modern times, we have tried to adapt it to all degrees of leisure,—from the leisure which is to be found only in the alternations of hard, practical work, to the leisure of that absolute kind which the sous of the wealthy and the powerful almost alone enjoy.
Now we fully recognise the wisdom of this more elastic con- ception and adaptation of the idea of University culture. We fully admit that for men of all degrees of leisure, there may be University teaching which will be really useful, and that it should be carefully adapted to the circumstances of those by whom, in greater or less degree, in larger or smaller instalments, in deeper or shallower measure, it is required. At the same time, there seems to us to be a danger, inherent in the prepossession of the hour, which the foundation of Cavendish College renders it very opportune to discuss. This College, as we have said, is meant for parents who cannot afford the full University education for their sons, but who can afford, and think they can bestow with advantage, something more than the best school education. It is meant, we are told, for parents who can devote £84 a year to their sons' education be- tween the ages of sixteen and nineteen, and thereby secure to their sons both a University degree and a collegiate training, though not so long a collegiate training, and not, in general, so high a class in honours, as would have been within the reach of the same young men had they staid a couple of years longer at school, and then, after entering College later, prolonged their College training itself for a fourth year, instead of limiting it to three years. But the only real danger of establishing a College which professedly aims at affording this intermediate species of collegiate education, is lest it should stimulate parental ambition,—already, we think, in many parents rather dangerously high,—to send to the University, and subject to a collegiate training, lads whose education would be far more really efficient, if they were plunged into practical life immediately on leaving school. The cant of the day regards nothing as educa- tion which is not book or class education. In fact, however, probably the best part of ninety-nine out of every hundred men's education is not got from books or classes at all. It is the highest test of wise discernment in a parent to judge where the school education of a child should cease, and where the practical education should begin. We do not in the least believe that it would be a desirable thing for England if all our middle- class youths could be sent to the Universities, and taught by bboks and tutors even up to the age of nineteen. We suppose few would assert that this would be a desirable thing for the working-class of England, and yet, in reality, the advantage or disadvantage for each individual, if it were otherwise possible, depends not at all on the means of the parents, but solely on the character and understanding of the indi-
vidual scholar. Doubtless, were there adequate means for a prolonged education, there are many of the children of the working-classes who would do much more justice to it than some of the children of the middle-classes. And equally, with- out question, there are many of the children of the very rich who would have been far more self-respecting beings, and far more useful to society, if they had been put to learn some practical business at sixteen, instead of remaining at school till they were eighteen and being sent to study at the University between eighteen and twenty-two. If there be, as there certainly are, many poor men whose loss of University education is a great loss to the world, there are, no less, many rich men, and many men of moderate means, whose prolonged theoretical education has been equally a loss to the world. Indeed, we suspect there are at least as many whose latest years of school and college would have been advantageously exchanged for years of appren- ticeship to practical life, as there are whose earliest years of practical life could have been advantageously exchanged for longer training in the books and classes of our collegiate institutions. Let us banish at once the absurd notion that it is in any sense a disgrace to a young man to have devoted less of his time to theoretical, and more of his time to practical, training than his fellows. We main- tain, on the contrary, and strongly believe, that that false impression is one of the most mischievous prejudices of the Uay,—a prejudice highly contagious amongst the young,—and one to which parents are far too apt to defer, from a vague feeling that whatever requires the greatest sacrifice on their own parts must conduce to the good of their children. We are disposed to think that no greater injury can be done to the career of two-thirds at least of middle-class boys, than to prolong unduly their theoretical at the expense of their practical education. To wait till a lad's intellect is mature before you begin to mould it to the practical business of life, is, in the majority of instances, —and in the majority of instances in all classes,—to render it less efficient for the whole work of the world, less endowed with that degree of practical ease and of instinctive self-reli- ance which are essential to efficiency and self-contentment, than it would have been, if moulded earlier to the practical work with which it has to deal. If we were asked what kind of mind it is that is likely to be the better for a prolonged theoretical education, and what it is which is likely to be the better for an early plunge into practical life, we should reply that those who are suited to, and intended for, intellectual or quasi-intel- lectual work should have an intellectual or quasi-intellectual training; while those, on the other hand, who are best suited for the transaction of administrative business, for weighing practical considerations, for judging the dispositions of men, for study- ing the resources of the world, should be early immersed in the transactions on which ultimately their judgment will have to play. Nothing ruins a strong, practical mind more com- pletely than to defer, till after the age of maturity, its contact with the medium in which eventually it will have to be chiefly exerted. A most sagacious writer—the late Mr. Bagehot—has said that " the life of a person who cannot suit his mind to his daily task is a constant wear-and-tear, a daily vexation, injuring the character by its inconsistency and painfulness, and also
impairing the form and perfectness of the intellect itself, by a constant strain to do work for which it is not fit,—a struggle to force the thoughts into directions they have been taught to avoid, by a sense of opposition between the world within and that without, by a habit of incom- petency, and a sort of schism of the mind against itself. In a few years, a mind that has been well prepared for its task will be a better mind than one which has been ill prepared, how- ever much, at starting, the latter might have seemed in informa- tion and formation, the better and more enlarged." That seems to us the very essence of practical wisdom. And we sincerely believe that a much larger number of young Englishmen of all classes are likely to be better educated, in the true sense of the word, by being plunged into practical life at sixteen or seven- teen,—not, of course, without a certain limited leisure for the old kind of study beyond the hours of practical work—than by being kept in the schoolroom or college up to eighteen or nineteen, to say nothing of one-and-twenty or two-and-twenty. We do not, of course, mean that in any sense the more intellectual education should cease at sixteen or seventeen, but only that the educa- tion of practical and professional habits ought then to begin. Comparatively few minds, and comparatively few callings, are the better for a long postponement of the habit of familiarity with the subject of these callings on the part of those who are to pursue them. With most men,—most Englishmen, at least,— the mind is very plastic to practical work before maturity, and loses plasticity of that kind very rapidly afterwards. Half our Solicitors even, would be far less efficient than they are, if they had not been articled till they had taken their degree. Few of our tradesmen or manufacturers would be up to their work at all, if they had had nothing to do with it till after graduating at Oxford or Cambridge. It is not the intellectual work which hurts them ; it is the postponement of the practical work. They become acclimatised to a region of habit and thought which unfits them for the region of habit and thought in which they have chiefly to labour. Had they plunged in time into their practical duties, the continuance (in intervals of leisure) of their earlier studies, would have done nothing but good. But the delay in getting the mind and character attuned to the medium in which they are to be chiefly used, is very dangerous. The loss of the early practical education can seldom be really balanced by the gain of the later intellectual education.
Hence we would say to the promoters of Cavendish College, that while they are opening what may be a most useful institu- tion, they should clearly understand that its uses will be limited to a relatively small class. Doubtless there are not a few lads who may be the better for a somewhat prolonged theoretical education, and who will not be injured by a delay of two or three years only in the commencement of their practical work, especially where that work is of a more or less intellectual kind, work which does not need the very early formation of marked prac- tical habits, so much as a certain amount of detachment of mind and independence of thought. On the other hand, let no parent be ashamed of saying openly to his son that this sort of de- lay in entering on practical life is not for him,—that he will be the stronger man, and in the end the abler man, for bending his mind early to habits of business and to the appre- ciation of detail ; that while it will do him nothing but good to keep up his intellectual studies in the intervals of business, it will do him nothing but harm to defer the habit of business till his character is formed. And above all, let parents remember that it is their own responsibility to decide on this, and not one which they can properly delegate to the immature minds of their children, who will often desire the comparative glory of a college education, without being in the least able to appreciate what they lose in securing it. There is no question which it is so idle to put to a lad of sixteen as whether he would like to go to college or not. There are, at least, half-a-dozen totally insuffi- cient reasons why he might prefer it, for every reason which has anything in it; and as a rule, his parents can judge far better than he can, what the weight of these reasons are. Most of all, let it not be supposed that in urging a lad to begin his practical education early, you are depreciating the value of education. On the con- trary, you are showing that you know what education really means. Education is that which draws out the powers. For four menlat least in every six, the full powers cannot be drawn out,• without an early apprenticeship to the business of life. And the longer the intellectual preparation, the less effective must be the practical,—a consideration which ought never to be overlooked in that false shame which treats a man who has not been " to the University " as an inferior being to the man who has been training himself to the strenuous performance of his chief work in life, during the whole period of what would otherwise have been his University career.