« ÖncekiDevam »
ble, as has been said, and the foreign schools will continue to lead us in this respect, until our schools can command more thorough and more uniform preparation, and can raise their entrance requirements to a point approximately the same as those abroad.
The above statements will be substantiated by any one who compares the amount of time devoted to various technical subjects here and in the continental schools. In one German school we find the course on railroad engineering consisting of eight hours a week devoted to lectures and eight hours to drawing, during one year (about eight months of school work). This is considerably more than is given in any American school with which the writer is acquainted, the greatest amount of time here being the equivalent of six hours a week of lectures, and five hours of drawing. In the same German school, bridges and the theory of structures are assigned eight hours a week for lectures and six for drawing during one year, and four for lectures and seven for drawing during the following year, probably double that given in any American school. At the same time, indisputable as it is that the preparatory training is much more thorough on the continent, the age of students greater, and the technical courses more extended than is the case with us, these facts, nevertheless, cannot be said to constitute an unmixed good, or to be without disadvantageous results which go far towards off-setting the superiority which they indicate. The foreign student, upon completing his studies, is much broader than the graduate of an American school, but he has attained his breadth by the sacrifice of some of the best working years of his life, and instead of concentrating his mind upon the branch of his profession which he is to follow, he has spread himself over all branches of engineering, often in such a way as to induce superficiality. Certainly it is an advantage to a young man, even if at the sacrifice of some breadth, to begin his life work at the age of twenty-one or twenty-two, instead of waiting till he is twenty-five or twenty-six; and surely the average young American engineer who has graduated at twenty-two is, at twentysix, after four years of experience, much more capable of doing, of achieving, than the German just out of the polytechnic. This view is shared by some prominent educators abroad, and a German friend of the writer's, whose name is known to many of those present, has very recently expressed his sense of the advantage which our students have in this respect over his own countrymen.
Having considered the preparation required, let us now turn our attention to the means and appliances for instruction—the machinery of the mill. These consist of
THE TEACHERS AND THE EQUIPMENT. With regard to the teachers, the first point to be noticed is the greater number of professors in the foreign schools. While many schools in this country have one professor of civil engineering, and none have more than four in purely civil engineering branches, continental schools have generally as many as four, while some have as many as eight. The comparison holds for mechanical engineering, architecture and other branches. This is a direct result of the better preparation required for entrance, and of the more specialized instruction in the foreign technical schools. But while the number of full professors is greater abroad, the number of assistants and instructors is generally smaller than in our own larger schools, and always much less than the number of professors. In Munich, for instance, where there are two hundred and thirty-three students in civil engineering, there are but three assistants. The lectures are, of course, all given by professors, and most of the drawing and field work is also given by them; but the result of the small number of assistants (combined with the lecture system, which will be discussed later) is, that the student receives less individual instruction and attention than is the case at our best schools. Indeed, in some of the German schools field surveying parties were, note many years ago, sent out with so many students to one instructor that most of the men devoted themselves to surveying glasses of beer in a neighboring Gasthaus. This matter will be again touched upon in considering methods of instruction. It will suffice here to say that the foreign student needs less personal attention than our students do. He knows better how to think and how to study, and is much better qualified to take in and assimilate knowledge when it is merely presented to him.
With regard to material equipment, the European schools, on the average, are apparently better off than our own. The explanation is clear. Many of our schools, supported by the state, are too often dependent upon the ideas of legislators, some of whom are no more able to appreciate the value of a testing inachine or of an engineering laboratory than they are to understand the higher mathematics, and the educators in charge of such institutions have frequently to resort to every possible device to demonstrate and illustrate the necessity for such equipment. The masses of the people in many of our states are far below the degree of enlightenment necessary for the proper appreciation of a technical school of high grade; and it is the people who, through their representatives, control the state universities. On the other hand, some schools founded by private munificence, or otherwise supported by private funds, are not able, through lack of means, to furnish equipment, the educational value of which may be fully recognized by those controlling these institutions.
On the continent the great technical schools are all supported by the states, which vie with each other in securing the highest degree of excellence in equipment as well as in instruction. In fact, it has been thought by some keen observers that there were too many polytechnic schools in Germany, and that better results would be attained with fewer and larger institutions. Apparently, however, the desire of each German state has been to have as good a polytechnikum as it could provide, and the importance of a good equipment, in teachers and apparatus, has been fully recognized by the officers of these governments. The sums of money at the disposal of some of these schools have been apparently almost unlimited. In Berlin the new building for the royal polytechnic school was completed in 1884, at a cost of over two million dollars, and some other schools have buildings and laboratories almost as fine. In some of our larger schools, nevertheless, the equipment for instruction is certainly as good as in any school on the continent, and in the use of laboratories for purposes of instruction in engineering we are far in advance of our continental brethren.
METHODS OF INSTRUCTION.
We come now to the third and last topic to be considered, namely, the workmanship, or the methods of instruction. To this one topic this paper ought perhaps to have been devoted, were it not for the fact that, without the statements that have preceded, the methods of instruction could not well be discussed.
In comparing our niethods of instruction in engineering with those in the continent, the following is a general classification of the main points of difference, so far as the writer has observed them:
First. Abroad, the main object of the instruction in many branches appears to be to impart information-to offer the student food, but to leave him to his own resources in devouring and assimilating it. Here, the main object is to train the student to think.
Second. Abroad, laboratory work is not made use of as a means of instruction to the same degree that it is here.
Third. Abroad, the student is absolutely free to choose his course of study, and is required (generally) to pass no examinations unless he seeks a diploma.
Fourth. The technical curricula in the great continental schools are broader and more general in their scope, technically, than the courses in our own schools.