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SCHOLARSHIPS, OR MILLSTONES?
Chill penury repressed their noble rage,
THERE has recently been preached a new doctrine as to the duty of ex-scholars and even of the beneficiaries who have obtained their education by the help of willing individuals to whom fortune had been kind.
It is now urged that we should regard such educational help as of the nature of a definite money debt, to be measured precisely by the amount received, and refunded in its entirety either to the educational endowment or to the private benefactor, as the case may be; though some, with greater apparent leniency, would allow that it should be passed on in its integrity to an equally worthy recipient in a later scholastic generation. This debt is to have priority of all else according to the stricter views-nay, interest should be paid on it in coin of the realm. This new demand received authoritative countenance at the last meeting of the British Association at Portsmouth. Sir William Ramsay in his inaugural address said :
The remedy lies in our own hands. Let me suggest that we exact from all gainers of University scholarships an undertaking that, if and when circumstances permit, they will repay the sum which they have received as a scholarship, bursary, or fellowship. It would then be possible for an insurance company to advance a sum representing the capital value viz. £7,464,931, of the scholarships, reserving, say, twenty per cent. for non-payment, the result of mishap or death. In this way a sum of over six million pounds, of which the interest is now expended on scholarships, would be available for University purposes. This is about one-fourth of the sum of twenty-four millions stated by Sir Norman Lockyer at the Southport meeting as necessary to place our University education on a satisfactory basis. A large part of the income of this sum should be spent in increasing the emoluments of the chairs; for, unless the income of a professor is made in some degree commensurate with the earnings of a professional man who has succeeded in his profession, it is idle to suppose that the best brains will be attracted to the teaching profession. And it follows that unless the teachers occupy the first rank, the pupils will not be stimulated as they ought to be.
I propose to examine this view, and hope to show that not only does it lack justification in the intentions of the pious founder of the past and the liberal patron of the present, but that, based
on a narrow view of money as a thing apart, the general enforcement of the obligation' by law, public opinion, or sense of honour, would do much to annul the benefit derived from educational foundations and benefactions.
We should indeed stray far from the wishes of the pious founder in this commercialisation of his generosity.
What he wished, in pre-Reformation days at least, was the assurance in each generation of a supply of educated men : either directly to pray for his soul or for the souls of all erring mortals; or what came indirectly to the same thing, the provision of a stream of welleducated adolescents to supply the needs of the priesthood. In France, up to the time of the Revolution, I find that the newfledged graduate in arts, if he wished to enter Holy Orders, bad a direct claim on the bishop for such ecclesiastical employ as would give him a title to ordination; and, in the practical absence of most of our learned professions of the present day, we may well suppose that this future for most of the scholars was present to the founders. They were followed in post-Reformation days by others inspired by a more disinterested love of education, or by an enlightened patriotism that saw in the provision for education a factor making for national advance and national prosperity. Many of the founders of this later epoch were themselves former scholars who, having profited by endowments already in existence, sought to increase their number for the satisfaction of their highest feelings, and not as a money debt to be cleared off and forgotten. Certainly the idea of starting a 'snowball' was never present to the mind of the pious founder.
If we pass from perpetual foundations to private benefactions for individuals of promise the aspect is equally clear. Two communities in this country have distinguished themselves by the readiness of their wealthier members to help lads of intellectual promise to the means of making their talents bear fruit : the Wesleyans and the Jews. Here the beneficence may assume one of two forms. In the one the single benefactor takes up the whole financial care of the lad's future, makes his acquaintance if necessary, and takes up a godfatherly attitude; and this is requited by a filial attitude on the part of the protégé, who, to my knowledge, is prone indiscreetly rather to magnify his gratitude in the market-place to the abashment of the modest patron than to ignore or suppress it. It is an open secret that the house of Rothschild actively seeks for opportunities of what we may call 'sponsorial benefaction. The second mode is what we may call ‘syndicated liberality.' A limited number of men combine to afford the student the means of study and of suitable living, usually at the suggestion and through the agency of the teacher or minister. In this case the names are usually
kept secret from the beneficiary : I know of one instance where after a distinguished university career he only obtained them on his definite request, so that he might have the opportunity of thanking personally those to whom he owed his successful start in life. It often happens, indeed, that the members of the syndicate ignore each other's names, and, asking no accounts of their almoner, do not even know the relative magnitude of their own contributions. Now I have had opportunities of familiarising myself with the attitude of educational benefactors of both types, and have found them substantially in agreement. Their aim is to give tools to him that can handle them, to open the course to the racehorse for the benefit of the breed, and for the future satisfaction of those that have effected this praiseworthy end. As a teacher wrote once, in his appeal for funds to enable a man of exceptional promise to leave for a time his bread-winning occupation and train himself for scientific research-an appeal fully justified by the subsequent career of the man :
This is no question of charity, for my man is supporting himself already; it is one of your future satisfaction in having helped him to do the highest work of which he is capable, and for which very few are competent.
In France permanent endowments such as our scholarships are, I believe, practically unknown. But bursaries, usually large enough for complete maintenance, are given to deserving students without competition by the Ministry of Education or by the communes, as need arises. Their number is not fixed, and many communes have never given any, since the conditions have not arisen in them. Thus the specific debt view of the scholarship is of new and local origin. I believe that it came to us from Germany and America ; and though it is not necessarily the worse for that, it is not necessarily the better. At the present day the majority of our scholars enter what we may regard as the less remunerative learned' and 'scientific'
professions, where the rate of pay is low compared to commercial pursuits, promotion is slow, and prizes rare. If their studies lie in the direction of 'litteræ humaniores,' they become clergymen or ministers, or schoolmasters : if they follow science they take posts as demonstrators in our universities, lecturers in technical schools : many again take up law or medicine. But it is only in rare cases that the intellectual promise of childhood finds its realisation in the capacity for money-making on maturity. It is difficult to estimate what total amount is received in aid by the recipient of an assisted education ; but if I put it at 3001. I think that I shall be far below the average : however, I will leave it at that. It is obvious that it does no one good to go through life with a permanent money debt, and that it would be well to pay it off
as soon as possible. Let us take ten years; and we have our exscholar's salary subject to a deduction of 301. per annum for this time. Besides bare living and clothing expenses, in any of these professions there are special extras' which must be incurred if his work is to be really efficient. The purchase of books—for with the best of libraries handy, one does best work with one's own books—is one serious cause of outlay; or it may be instruments for his own research, or, if a doctor, for the more efficient treatment of his patients. Another, most important to a man engaged in education, is social intercourse with his pupils : going out on walks with them, asking them in to tea, or it may be supper, are not merely social pleasures to the young teacher : they are part of his function, and render more efficient the training he gives in official hours. Subscriptions to the clubs of the teaching institution are a matter of course. Vacation travel, to give a wider outlook, is advisable in all cases : nay, if the teacher's line be geology, it is an absolute necessity to keep his teaching and his progress in touch with Nature.
Moreover, apart from local subscriptions, he must subscribe to at least one society dealing with his scientific branch, or with his profession, such as, for instance, the Linnean or Geological Society, or the Assistant Schoolmasters' Association. If he be a doctor or a minister, a certain amount of private assistance to deserving cases, whether by way of forgoing hard-earned fees or of bestowing direct material assistance, will be a professional luxury that he will find it hard to resist constantly. If our man is very lucky he may begin with something like 1501. a year, but he may, on the contrary, have, if an optimist, to find himself 'passing rich on '901. 'a year.' If he has younger brothers or sisters of promise he will be expected to do his best for their education : if his parents have deprived themselves of his reasonable help when an adolescent, or scraped to give a necessary supplement to the funds available from the scholarship, he will want as a good son to sweeten their lot. Yet there is this weight of debt as a first charge. A little later, we may hope, his position is materially improved. But the young doctor, the curate, the assistant master, the lecturer or demonstrator has no claim to sick pay, no insurance against unemployment or arbitrary dismissal : nay, , the failure to commend himself to one chief will be a bar not only to promotion, but even to re-employment elsewhere. He ought certainly at this stage to make some sort of provision for the future, by insurance and by savings : but the scholarship debt stands in the way.
A little later he is in his thirtieth year, a time at which surely every man ought to think of marriage. But he has nothing put by to start housekeeping; and even if he has made his payments
in full for the last five years, he is still 1501. short of financial freedom. It is quite possible that for some time past womanly sympathy and affection have sweetened his work, that womanly encouragement has kept his intellectual aspirations alive, and prevented his work from degenerating into the routine handingon of the lessons learnt long ago in his student days. Still, his engagement must drag along till he and his love join lots in middle life; and his children only learn to know him when sobered, saddened, and aged by a decade or two of unceasing money preoccupations. As Sterne said, 'They order this matter better in France,' where a given position in the professional world is held the equivalent of a good fat dowry; but for this there needs a complete change of public opinion in these countries. Nor is it to be expected that the qualities of the high-minded student should conduce to his success as an heiress-hunter. Indeed, even in France many professors have married portionless brides. Much has been written of race suicide in these last few years.
Here we are directly discouraging the intellectual cream of the population from marriage during those years in which they are most likely to beget healthy offspring and to inspire them with the generous enthusiasms which assuredly will be destroyed, as we have seen, by the long years of privation of a happy home life. His children will be less well-born, less well-bred in every way and sense. Can the State afford this loss? What will the Eugenics Society say to the idea ?
And the man's professional work : what of that? His intellectual play and productivity will have suffered ; his sympathy with the young men and women who are his care and his associates will have been blunted in his narrowed life overshadowed by debt.
We have now traced our ex-scholar, embarrassed with the pious benefactions of his youth and adolescence, into early middle life; and the spectacle has not been a pleasant or a joyous one. But to grasp the full benefits of returnable scholarships we must consider his start in life, when fresh from college. Every bank has realised how disadvantageous to its service are the pecuniary straits of its employees; and in this matter Government has wisely taken a lesson from commerce. Does not the same hold good in professional careers ? As a member of a governing body I profess that in the interests of the college I would ever give the preference for an appointment to a freeman over a bondsman. Already for less responsible posts, such as porters, we seek for army and navy pensioners, who are able to supplement the meagre wages available by the deferred pay that they have earned in the services. As we have seen, the pay of all young professionals is so low that a small reduction makes it inadequate to their position. If the pay, then, is normally to become subject to
VOL. LXXI-NO. 424