Should A Teacher Also Be An Investigator? -- By: Charles W. Super

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 071:284 (Oct 1914)
Article: Should A Teacher Also Be An Investigator?
Author: Charles W. Super

Should A Teacher Also Be An Investigator?

Charles W. Super

It is generally admitted, in academic circles, that the college, or at least the university, professor should likewise be a creator of knowledge. It is doubtful whether this opinion is a wise one, unless many exceptions be admitted, particularly in its application to the historical sciences. Probably the domain of inanimate and unconscious nature is unlimited: the field of history is rapidly narrowing. In some remote corners of the earth, or in some large library, a few hitherto unexamined records may still exist above ground; within the realm of civilization they are comparatively few and unimportant. Besides, he who would explore hitherto unused or little known archives needs a special equipment as a linguist in addition to time and means, all of which are generally lacking to students after they have attained a graduate degree. The most that a large majority of the best-qualified postgraduate students can do is to arrange into a lucid whole materials already well known. This requires judgment and skill, combined with no small measure of literary ability. Research work, in order to be of any value, demands special qualifications which the best educational facilities cannot furnish. Our country has produced historians, broadly speaking, in strictly European subjects, of the highest rank. I need mention only Ticknor and Motley, but especially Lea and

Furness. Only one of these was connected with an American university for a comparatively short time in early life. It is a matter for profound regret that the old-time scholarship has almost become a thing of the past. A few years ago a pupil of the late Professor Shaler said to me: “I do not believe there is an American now living under sixty years of age whose knowledge is as extensive and accurate as his was.” The more’s the pity. Breadth of intellectual outlook is not necessarily inimical to profundity. Few persons are aware of the variety of subjects on which Kant lectured that had no connection with metaphysics.

Until about fifty years ago it was a comparatively easy matter, at least for foreigners, to obtain the degree of Ph.D. at most of the German universities. This fact was tersely expressed by Professor Kästner, who used to say: “We take the donkey’s money and send him back to his country.” It should be remembered, however, that “foreigners “in those days meant not only natives of another country, but also natives of another province. Until about the middle of the nineteenth century non-German students at a German university were very uncommon. It used to be said that when the trains first began to run, or rather to pass, through Marburg, in their leisurely way, the Pedell o...

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