Friday, 22 March 2013

College in the Old Days

I had a curiosity about what was really required of a college student in the 1800s.  So I went out to research this.  From the University of Pennsylvania  there is a publication left over from 1851.  There were two semesters each year.

Freshmen were required to take English composition and declamation (classic speech), ancient history and geography, algebra, geometry, Horace, Homer, Xenophon (Greek studies).

Sophomores were required to take modern history, English composition and declamation, trigonometry (with applications for surveying and navigation), elements of mechanics and chemistry, Livy (second Punic War), Horace, logic, rhetoric, and Demosthenes (a Greek orator).

Juniors were required to take general principals of equilibrium and motion of solids and liquids, Plato, chemistry with experimental lectures, machinery, evidence of Christianity, moral and intellectual philosophy, English composition and declamation, general theory of equations, Greek tragedy, Juvenal (a Roman poet), Constitutional history of the US, and international law (lectures).

Seniors were required to take lectures on geology and mineralogy, Aristotle, Cicero, optics, astronomy, heat-electricity, physical geography, magnetism-sound, moral and intellectual philosophy, English composition and declamation, analytical mechanics, elements of integral calculus, lectures on English literature, history, and Constitutional law (lectures).

Now, some observations.

First, you did a light class schedule even on Saturdays....which might shock some students today.

Second, as you gaze across the spectrum here, there was a good bit of Greek and Roman reading.  Logic and philosophy were a major part of your degree.

Third, speaking and orator skills were a standard requirement.

Fourth, what you generally left with....was a very developed mind to expand and take on more in life.

Fifth, you actually took a class in Christianity.

Sixth, you had a lot of basic skills in science.

Seventh, English was required each and every single year of the four years.

Eighth, declamation?  It's a speech activity that you give with strong feeling.  You say what you mean, and practice it....yearly.

Ninth, imagine trying to teach moral and intellectual philosophy today.

Finally, in an entire county of sixty young men graduating from school....if you had just one of them go off to this was a big deal.  You didn't borrow money or ask the government for a loan.  You either paid or you worked your way through the program.

I don't think many kids today could make it with this list of topics.

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