The Advantages of a University Education
It is to be feared that getting of a degree is to many students the chief advantage of having a university education. To have the right of putting the magic letters B.A. or M.A., B.Sc. Or M.Sc. after their names will, they think, give them a better chance of securing respectable posts. No doubt this is true; but if a degree is all a young man gets out of a course at a university college, he has missed the most valuable gifts which an education is meant to give him.
What is the main object of any education? The word “education” is derived from a Latin word meaning “to draw out”; and true education is the drawing-out of the mental faculties, not a mere “putting-in” of so much knowledge. An educated man is not so much a man who knows a large number of facts as a man whose intelligence has been awakened, and whose latent powers of observation, reasoning and thought have been trained. Unless he means to be a teacher, a student may some-times wonder of what practical use in after life will be some of the subjects he studies at college. When will he ever want a knowledge of algebra, for instance, or ancient history, or theories of philosophy? He does not realize that the study of any subject is meant to develop and exercise his mental powers. In fact, studies are mental gymnastics. In the gymnasium you practise on the parallel and horizontal bars, the rings and the “horse”; though your life may never depend on your ability to turn a somersault on the bars. These physical exercises are meant to develop muscles and give you physical strength and agility. So your studies are meant to develop and train your mental faculties—faculties which, if trained, will be of the greatest value to you in life.
This mental training begins at school. It is carried further in the university, which provides what we call higher education. Taken rightly, this higher education has many valuable advantages. First, it gives the student higher knowledge of certain subjects ; and, what is more valuable, a desire for knowledge, and an interest in the search for truth. It awakens the mind to the wonder and mystery of the universe in which we live, and a thirst to know more about it. Secondly, it still further trains the intellect, and develops thought, logical reasoning, the imaginative and critical faculties. Thirdly, it imparts culture, the cultivation of taste for the best in all things. It turns an educated man into a cultured man. Lastly, it will influence the rest of a man’s life, so that he will eagerly continue his education, which will never cease till he dies.