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The Faith of a Liberal: Selected Essays by Morris R. Cohen

By Morris R. Cohen | Go to book overview

ideal that education should provide the best opportunities for all members of society, provided we recognize the inherent diversities of temperaments and native abilities and aptitudes.


31
THE NEED FOR A MODERN UNIVERSITY

LORD BRYCE somewhere sententiously remarks that all the great institutions that enjoy the respect of mankind have their roots deep in the past. Our universities as highly respectable institutions are no exception to this rule. They originated in the Middle Ages and still bear clear traces of their origin. For the very strength which enables a deeply rooted institution to weather all kinds of storms necessarily hinders its free mobility. Now it must not be forgotten that our medieval universities were founded not for laymen but for monks and clerics whose business was primarily not with worldly affairs but with the eternal hereafter. We must also keep in mind that the students of the medieval universities were boys or very young men, and that the sum of human knowledge which could be imparted to them was definitely limited to a few well-known texts. In spite of the splendid progress which many of our universities have made, these medieval features are still controlling, especially in this country. Thus, in our popular discussions as to academic freedom it is generally taken for granted that the universities exist to give instruction to the young whose tender minds must

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Published, under the pen-name Philonous, in The New Republic, Vol. 17, p. 130 ( November 30, 1918).

-278-

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