27 October 1891
CAMBRIDGE, Oct. 26.
For the information of non-resident members of the Senate, who are expected to attend in unusual numbers at the Congregation to be held on Thursday next, at 2 in the afternoon, it may be useful to know that the two graces to be presented are as follows:-1. That a syndicate be appointed to consider whether it is expedient to allow alternatives, and, if so, what alternatives, for one of the two classical languages in the Previous Examination either to all students or to any classes of students other than those already exempted. 2. That the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Butler, Master of Trinity, Sir George M. Humphry, Dr. Sidgwick, Dr. Jebb, Dr. D. Macalister, Professors Browne, Stanton, Foster, Maitland, Mr. O. Browning, the Hon. A.T. Lyttelton, Master of Selwyn, Mr. R.T. Glazebrook, Mr. R.A. Neil, and Mr. A.W.W. Dale be pointed members of the syndicate. Notice of non placet of the first grace has been given, signed by the Master of St. John's, Professors Swete, Jebb, Mayor, Robertson Smith, Browne, Newton, Dr. Glaisher, Mr. Boughey, Mr. Mollison, Mr. R.A. Neil, Mr. Larmor, and Mr. W. Bateson. It is significant that of the proposed members of the syndicate Professor Jebb, Professor Browne, and Mr. Neil oppose its appointment. If the question was to be decided by the residents only, the prevailing opinion is that the proposal would be rejected by a large majority. There has been circulated during the last few days a list of the general committee for opposing the appointment of a syndicate, and it appears that 290 members of the Senate have joined. Of these it appears from an analysis of the list that of the heads of colleges the Masters of Peterhouse, Clare, Pembroke, Corpus Christi, St. Catharine's, St. John's, Magdalene, and the President of Queens' are opposed to the grace. Eighteen tutors of colleges, 67 fellows of colleges, excluding those who are also Tutors, have joined the opposition, and also the following 15 Professors-Professors Adams, Bensly, Browne, Hort, Jebb, Kirkpatrick, Latham, Lumby, Middleton, Mayor, Newton, Robertson Smith, Stanford, Swete, and Sir T. Wade. Of non-residents the Masters of Charterhouse, Bath College, Liverpool College, High School, Nottingham, and Lancaster School have joined the committee, as well as 19 assistant masters, and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishops of Bath and Wells, Carlisle, Durham, Ely, Hereford, Manchester, Peterborough, Ripon, and Worcester. Professor Mayor has published a pamphlet, as has also Mr. J.K. Stephen, of King's, vindicating their opposition, while on the opposite side Professor Clark, Professor Sidgwick, and Mr. F.E. Kitchener, recently head master of the High School, Newcastle, Staffordshire, have circulated pamphlets and flysheets. To the latter Mr. W. Bateson has issued a reply. The flysheet of Dr. Butler and the case of the opposition, as stated by Professors Mayor, Jebb, and others have already been published in The Times. There is no power to vote by proxy, as in the case of a contested election for a member of Parliament for the University. The result of the voting will depend upon the votes of the non-residents. The result of past experience is that non-residents do not care to interfere in matters which they think chiefly concern whose who have the conduct and management of the University; but the question raised in this controversy is one of such importance and its decisions of such vital consequence that many, especially those engaged in educational work, may be induced to come to record their votes in favour of a proposal which, if carried, commits the University to no definite proposal, but only affirms the principle that the Council of the Senate who as the governing body of the University have assented to the presentation of the graces, think that it is expedient to institute an inquiry whether the compulsory study of Greek ought to be continued. If the syndicate is appointed it is still open to the Senate to reject their recommendations.
This afternoon the following letter from Lord Grimthorpe to Professor Mayor was circulated:-
"I am quite unmoved by the stereotyped suggestion that a syndicate of inquiry will commit the University to nothing. That is the common device of destroyers of institutions. In some mysterious way the right kind of committee or commission always gets appointed which in one way or another answers their expectations. The next stage is to tell the world that their views have been endorsed by an able and impartial committee comprising a sufficient number of men prejudiced the other way. And so the new scheme is thrust down the public throat on the strength of names of persons, who, one often learns afterwards, never approved of it at all, but were overborne or cajoled or set down by nimbler arguers and better managers of a committee. I have had to deal with many cases of that kind publicly, and sometimes with success where it has not been too late.
"Another of their fallacies is that men need now only 'cram up a little Greek' for an examination and forget it as soon as they like afterwards. But a little Greek is just the thing which cannot be crammed up to pass any decent examination, as any quantity of prescribed 'useful knowledge' can. Nor does a man who has passed such an examination remain the same as one who has not, even if he forgets it in a few years. I thought that was universally recognized now, at least at such a place as Cambridge. I am the last person to depreciate scientific teaching, but I have never forgotten what an eminent Scotch Judge and reformer and friend of the original useful knowledge people, Lord Cockburn, wrote:-'There is no solid foundation for men's minds like classical learning grammatically taught, and the modern substitutes of what is called useful knowledge breed little beyond conceit, vulgarity, and general ignorance.' A few great scientific or other natural geniuses may be exceptions to that conclusion of his experience; but this movement is not made for them, but for that very different class of boys and parents who say, as one did to a distinguished classical professor at King's College, London, 'The fact is, Sir, Latin and Greek have no commercial value.'
"Those are the kind of boys who naturally want to drop it as soon as possible at or after school. They may be right for their own objects; and if schoolmasters and governing bodies like to lower the public schools to the level of 'commercial academies' to suit them that is their business. It is no reason why the character and real value of the old University degrees should be lowered or turned into false pretences. For those who want degrees, and the power of governing the colleges and Universities, want them to be still accepted by the world as implying what the world still understands by a 'liberal education.' It is one of the usual pieces of verbal trickery to use that term in a new sense for a temporary controversial purpose, intending as soon as it has served that purpose to have it accepted in the old sense.
"No syndicate of inquiry can alter all this, but with a few dexterous hands they will manage to obscure it or give it the go-by. Therefore let no one who does not himself want to turn Cambridge into a mere useful knowledge shop, or to make our degrees a false pretence, be deceived into not opposing this scheme just as much as if the Grace were for abolishing Greek as a qualification for a Cambridge degree honestly and boldly.
A notice of non placet for the nomination of the syndicate, signed by the Master of Peterhouse, the Master of Pembroke, and Dr. Cunningham, has also been issued. The ground of their opposition is that, when a syndicate is appointed to consider a fundamental change in the arts course, an opportunity of serving upon it should be offered to the head of each faculty in the University and to the professors of the subjects primarily affected.
Sir George Humphry has published a fly-sheet headed, "Is it wise to refuse even to consider the question whether the compulsory requirement of Latin and Greek from all our students should be continued?"
Professor Stanford writes against the passing of the grace:-
"I venture, although I represent a faculty which might appear to occupy a neutral position in the question of the retention or abolition of Greek as a compulsory study at the Universities, to express as shortly as possible the reasons which have determined me to vote against the appointment of a syndicate. The Master of Trinity has stated in plain terms that 'all students receiving a genuinely liberal culture should look to the great Universities as their natural patrons and leaders,' and proceeds to argue that they should look upon those bodies as their humble slaves and followers. If the Universities are to keep the position which the Master of Trinity desires, then assuredly their influence should be exerted in the direction of retaining a study which possesses so 'splendid a civilizing power,' whether their action affects the number of students who matriculate or not.
"But apart from this question may I, as one who when a student somewhat rebelled against the study of a language which seemed to me then to be a hindrance to more fascinating pursuits in my own art, express my thankfulness for the superior wisdom which compelled me to continue it? The amount of Greek which I learnt in my undergraduate days, if barely adequate for University purposes, none the less stood me in far too good stead in my later life to permit me to give a helping hand to those who would abolish or even consider the advisability of abolishing it. The fact that an expression of personal experience may possible represent the views of others must be my excuse for putting forward my own. On the other hand, many sound reasons might be given in favour of a more efficient and less perfunctory examination in the language than that at present in vogue. The allegations of 'smattering' and 'cramming' point rather to the necessity of an improvement in the system of examination than to an abolition of the subject for examination.
"The argument which would lead us to vote for an inquiry on the ground that we are at liberty to reject its results seems unconvincing when a branch of education which is to the minds of its supporters a fundamental part of a liberal training is even to be put upon its trial. It seems more advisable, because more decisive, to oppose the second reading rather than to allow the Bill to go into committee. I prefer for my part to save the time of our hardworking and willing University officials for more pressing and salutary legislation, such as, for example, the great expenses of University training in England as compared with that upon the Continent-a question which influences the number of matriculations far more than the compulsory study of Greek.
"C.V. STANFORD, Professor of Music."