- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 13 Oct 1920, p. 344-355
- Currie, General Sir Arthur W., Speaker
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- Hope for the effectual solution of problems which confront our country dependent largely on our educational systems. The universities and the nation inseparably linked together in any wide view of the function of either institution. The nation as a field for the exercise of citizenship and for the display and service of man's knowledge. The university as the place where the men are prepared to discharge their duties as citizens. The two laws that govern humanity here coming into play: the law of self-culture and the law of service. The duty of every man to do everything he possibly can to make the most of himself. The need for our schools and our colleges to supply his reason with ideas, his memory with history, his will with weapons of force. Looking at the matter from another angle. A discussion of ideas that govern the world, vision as the apprehension of ideals; nationality which expresses itself in different ways. An examination of some of those ways, to better appreciate the relationships between the universities and the nation. First, economically, or in terms of industry. Then, the matter of the distribution of our wealth. Our security depending on the intelligence of the people in a nation where the government rests solely on the will of the people. How education works downward, like water. The need for universities to be strong enough to push their influence down and affect every grade and condition of society. The development of unusual talent as another province of the university. Spiritually, or in terms of the ideal, with no nation being truly great without the ideals of truth, righteousness, justice and honour. The aim of the university and its staff: to touch every stratum of national life. Education as the only thing in this country for which the people have not paid too much. Ignorance as the most costly thing in the world.
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- 13 Oct 1920
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- THE INFLUENCE OF CANADIAN UNIVERSITIES IN CANADIAN DEVELOPMENT
AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY GENERAL, SIR
ARTHUR W. CURRIE, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., LL.D.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto.
October 13, 1920
PRESIDENT HEWITT, in introducing the speaker, said,--Few men within the Empire have reached equal distinction or proved more worthy .of a place in history than our illustrious guest of today, General Sir Arthur Currie. On the occasion of his former visit to the Empire Club, we welcomed him on his return to Canada from Overseas service, and on that occasion the then President of the Empire Club, Mr. R. A. Stapells, reviewed the wonderful accomplishments of the great Canadian Army, of which Sir Arthur Currie was Commander-in-Chief. General Currie was said, in a military sense, to be one of 'the "finds" of the war, and now it would appear that he is also a "find" in the academic world. When it was found that Sir Auckland Geddes would be required by His Majesty for service as Ambassador to the United States, McGill University met with a great disappointment; it had expected to have Sir Auckland as its chief executive officer. That a man of Sir Arthur Currie's quality should have been available for this appointment appears truly to have been providential. In view of the important place which higher education is to have in Canada's future history, we may consider ourselves wonderfully favoured that men of such sterling quality and high academic standing are found at the head of our great National Universities-in Toronto, Sir Robert Falconer; at Kingston, Dr. Bruce Taylor; and now, at the head of McGill, General Sir Arthur Currie.
For the encouragement of some-and I must ask Sir Arthur's pardon for making this reference, and I have not consulted him about it, it seems to me a striking opportunity to add something to the interest and the ambition and the gratification of men engaged in the education of the young, to recall the fact that Sir Arthur is a product of the Ontario Educational System. I am told that from the age of thirteen to the age of eighteen, he attended the Collegiate Institute in Strathroy, and the man who was the head master of that Collegiate Institute, who must have had so much to do with the moulding of the character and the general development of the mind of Sir Arthur Currie, is present with us today, Mr. J. E. Wetherell. (Applause) You know much has been said about education's field-that every school if we only knew it, might have in its ranks presidents and governors or premiers; but here is an example of the product, and it seems to me that it should be a source of gratification not only to the men directly concerned but to all those engaged in educational work, 'to realize the possibilities that may follow as a result of the sacrificial efforts which they make in the training of the young mind of our country. (Applause) I have great pleasure in calling upon our guest for an address on, "The Influence of Canadian Universities in Canadian Development."
SIR ARTHUR CURRIE
Mr. President and Fellow Canadians;
It was only two days ago that I learned that I was to have the honour of addressing the members of the Empire Club of Toronto. I received a telegram saying that I was expected to be here today, and that I should speak to the members on the relation that exists between the university and the nation. It has always given me a great deal of trouble to decide what to talk about, so it was some relief to have the subject already selected; and as I had demanded and expected obedience from so many others in my life-time, it was a real pleasure to obey the order of the man who told me the subject on which I was to speak to you.
I can never forget, Gentlemen, the kindness and courtesy I received .at your hands a little over a year ago. Then I came and spoke to you about the efforts of your fellow-countrymen in fighting in the trenches in Europe, the battle for decency and justice and right. Some may have thought that I was boasting a little; but even after a year's time, I submit that I did not exaggerate what your fellow-countrymen did. (Applause) I am no longer identified with the militia system of this country, but we are standing together in another set of trenches, Gentlemen, and we are conducting a fight today against greed and selfishness and ignorance.
It is a pleasure for me to meet here this afternoon the Gentlemen I met here a year ago, but it is also a particular pleasure to meet so many of the old comrades that I knew over there. The Chairman has spoken about the uncommon situation of a soldier, one who has devoted all his time during recent years to soldiering, being engaged in university work; but I leave it to President Falconer if they do not mix very well. I know he has on his staff my old friend "Mitch" (Brig. Gen. Mitchell, Dean of the School of Practical Science), and I dare say he has no more enthusiastic or efficient professor on the staff. Applause)
To me, Gentlemen, hope for 'the effectual solution of problems which confront our country depends largely on our educational systems. I maintain that the universities and the nation are inseparably linked together, in any wide view of the function of either institution. The nation is a field for the exercise of citizenship and for the display and service of man's knowledge. The university is the place where the men are prepared to discharge their duties as citizens. Here the two laws that govern humanity come into play-the law of self-culture and the law of service. The university offers opportunity for the former; the state provides scope for the latter. It is the bounden duty of every man to do everything he possibly can to make 'the most of himself, and he needs our schools and our colleges to supply his reason with ideas, his memory with history, and his will with weapons of force; and, if he has gained those resources of knowledge and virtue, the other law asserts itself, and he steps out into the state and does battle for humanity.
Let us look at the matter from another angle. Ideas govern the world. That was never so true as at the present day. The Good Book says that "Where there is no vision the people perish." Vision is simply the apprehension of ideals. The seers and prophets are the makers of history. It was Carlyle who said that the history of nations is simply the history of great men writ large-the men who climbed the hills and caught the vision which would lead the people out of darkness into light. These hills are the hills of thought, reflection and meditation; and the men are the men of learning, wisdom and experience. The production of these is the highest aim of any university. Education merely for utilitarian purposes can be justified, but education merely as a domination is despicable. The education which kindles the imagination, which awakens the vision and enables men to create and evolve new ideas and blaze new trails-that is the highest aim of the university. (Applause) That, then, is our summit; that is our mount of vision; and there rests the ark which bears all that is left of the older civilization; from there we will create new ideals and send forth new life and new strength in the hope of a better civilization which shall not again be destroyed.
Now, nationality expresses itself in different ways. Let us examine some of those ways, that we may better appreciate the relationship between the universities and the nation. First, economically, or in terms of industry. Let me begin by saying that economic robustness is the only foundation for the temporalities of the state. We must learn how to produce and how to distribute. I ask you whether we produce with wisdom and distribute with skill? During the last five years there has been a great burning up of natural resources and manufactured things. During the war there has been such a destruction of wealth as would have been considered incredible before it; and today you are labouring under a very great and overwhelming burden of taxation. Now, to find some relief from that burden, wealth must be made up again. Everybody seems to be out for the loaves and fishes to an extent greater today than ever before. It costs more to live; it costs more to feed and clothe ourselves; the demands of labour are becoming more insistent, and to enable us to meet that increasing cost, or to reduce it, we must make up that wealth. So we must employ improved methods in agriculture, in mining, in forest production, in manufacturing, and we must appreciate the value of conservation. We must employ nothing but the most careful methods; scientific methods must be employed. We cannot mine our resources without paying due regard to natural laws. Strength of muscle is not the only thing necessary in labour. Ignorance, you know, is a most prolific cause of waste, and therefore in this matter of production the knowledge which educated and scientific men have must be called into play.
Then in the matter of the distribution of our wealth, are you going 'to leave such an important thing as that to demagogues or to the unlearned leaders of men? Surely here, of all places, you must have men who appreciate the lessons of history, who have studied economic laws, and who are able to give safe and sane counsel in the matter of the distribution of the world's wealth. (Applause) Now, knowledge gives power over nature. The soil will yield more fruitfully if touched by the skilful hand. The ore will leap from its beds in contact with the mechanic's aft. The waterfall will sing on its way to the mill, and the walnut and pine and oak will rejoice at the prospect of polished furniture. The university will send forth her graduates to coax from nature her choicest treasure; her engineers will swing their bridges across mighty chasms for the wheels of mighty locomotives, and the hills will laugh and sing that there has come to the land the touch of the trained mind and the skilful hand. (Applause) In the great business of the world the influence of education will be felt.
There was one time when business men thought that university training was not necessary to make a successful business man; it may have been on account of the courses of study in the universities. But that day has gone by and today business men appreciate the wider view and the finer perception of university men and the great elasticity of their minds. Now, what does the business man require? Accuracy in apprehending, quickness and certainty in seizing opportunities, power and discrimination, and appreciation of what is right and honourable. Now if a university is carrying out its proper functions, that is the sort of training it gives. It is said that from one-third to one-sixth of the men who enter Harvard, eventually go into business, and one-eighth of these men make striking successes. There is another thing: You men are successful business men, and it may be that you have not a university education, but I put it to every one of you, if you are in a position to do so, you will send your son to a university; won't you? (Applause)
In all the social urgencies of this time the same influences are felt; what the world is in need of today is ballast. The war seems to have thrown everything out of order, and the gravest necessity today is a sense of repose-or probably poise would be a better word. Knowledge properly applied can be a great factor in restoring this equilibrium which is so highly desirable.
Intellectually, or in terms of education, in a nation where the government rests solely on the will of the people, surely our security depends on the intelligence of the people. (Hear, hear) Now education works downward like water. Pour it at the base of society and there will be a saturation, a dissipation; but if you pour it on top it will gently descend and percolate, germinating every seed, feeding every root, so that over the whole area will be. blossom and fruit. So the universities must be strong enough to push their influence down and affect every grade and condition of society. I think that university men should be our counsellors in all matters, of our school system, such matters as textbooks, courses of study, school management, qualifications of teachers, etc. Surely these are matters in which the advice of the university men should be sought and taken. The wisest are none 'too wise in pedagogy, but surely their advice is better than the counsel of the unlearned.
Another province of the university is the development of unusual talent. Genius can always look out for itself; but was it not Gray who mourned over the talent that lay buried in churchyards, the Miltons and the Hampdens and the Cromwells who never had an opportunity? Now, that is one of the highest functions of the university. One of the greatest services it can render is to take hold of this unusual talent, no matter what its property qualifications or its social condition may be; for wherever talent is found, it should be developed and put to the use of the state. (Applause)
Politically, or in terms of government, there is a sphere for Universities to exercise a great influence in. Too often, in these days, we speak in rude terms of the politician. Now, the highest function of the state is government, and surely in our government there is nothing which is essentially degrading; there is nothing in our goverment which should be shunned by educated or respectable men. I think that the practice of speaking slightingly of 'the politician is one that should be condemned most strongly (applause) because, if we speak slightingly of the men who make the laws, it is but a short distance to speak slightingly of the laws themselves, and from that we may soon pass to anarchy. (Hear, hear) Our universities should not only be counsellers but tribunes to the people; and when the exigencies of party warfare press dangerously near the safeguards of the state, then the university men should come forward and warn the contestants against the making of a breach that may be impossible to repair. Our universities can render a very high and patriotic service by insisting on the enforcement of those immutable truths, those fundamental principles, that are related so closely to our national life-principles which should never be dragged into the sphere of political strife or partisan contention.
Again, when selfish interests seek to gain undue personal advantage through governmental .aid, or when men demand high places as a reward of party service, then it should be the duty of the university men to persuade the people .to give up the party spoils system, to exhort them to love a government for its own sake. (Applause) When one thinks of the freedom from corruption and political chicanery of the governments of England, one is struck by the number of University men who are found at the seat of government. Behind all the nobleness of British institutions lies the influence of the universities in the old land. Oxford and Cambridge for nearly a thousand years have sent out their men, and practically every government has a large number of university men influencing its affairs. These are the men-
Who knew the seasons when to take Occasion by the hand, and make The bounds of freedom wider yet, Who kept the throne unshaken still, Broad-based upon the people's will, And compassed by the inviolate sea.
Spiritually, or in terms of the ideal, no nation can be truly great without the ideals of truth, righteousness, justice and honour. The spiritual must never be lost sight of, and last of all by the universities, because the universities were born of the spiritual, cultured upon it, and their influence depends upon its survival. By spiritual we mean the ideal; and it was Brent who said that idealism is the foundation of the experience of history and of national character; it establishes all our relationships, and eventually must be Heaven-high and Worldwide, It must not be forgotten, also, that the nation and the university were born of the church. Righteousness alone exalteth a nation. The universities were formerly children of the church, and today could render a very fine service in 'the disentanglement of the formal from the spiritual in religion, and in the severance of Christianity from mere denominationalism. (Hear, hear, and applause) In the final analysis, what the universities seek to turn out is men of character; and it should be the .aim of all universities to turn out a number of greater men rather than a greater number of men. (Hear, hear, and applause) In the manufacture of character the spiritual, or the ideal, is the first and chiefest aim. I am reminded of those lines:-
God give us men; an age like this demands Strong minds, true hearts, firm wills and ready hands; Men whom the lust of honours can not kill, Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy, Men with opinions and a will, Men who have honour, men who will not lie; Men who can stand before the demagogue And damn his treacherous flattery without blinking; Tall men, sun-crowned, who stand above the throng In public duty and in private thinking; For while the rabble, with its worn-out creeds, Its loud professions and its idle deeds, Mingle in angry strife, lo, Freedom weeps, Wrong rules the land, and weeping justice sleeps.
This, then, is the .aim of the university and its staff to touch every stratum of national life. For these heavy responsibilities, it must be strong and well-equipped. We do not need many universities in Canada, but those we have must be strong (hear, hear); and when men of vision, men of means, catch the vision of a university moulding 'the minds and the characters of the people, then the means will come.
Education is the only thing in this country for which the people have not paid too much. (Applause) The more they pay, the richer they become. Ignorance is the most costly thing in the world. (Hear, hear) When you compare the cost of ignorance with the cost of education, why, the cost of education is very, very cheap. Gentlemen, I think I can affirm with confidence that the wealth and power, the security and the success of existing nations are in direct proportion to their standards of education, and those nations have the highest standards and the best systems who contribute most generously to the cost of education. Now, if this vision of all the universities can do and should do is caught, and if they are supported as they should be supported, then we will find the answer to our country's prayer-I transpose the third line
Land of hope and glory, mother of the free, How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee? Wider still and wider may thine ideals be set; God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.
PRESIDENT HEWITT : Sir Edmund Walker has kindly consented to express the thanks of the Club today.
SIR EDMUND WALKER
Mr. President and Gentlemen,-It was Wolseley, I believe, who said that the greatest soldier of modern times, down to the moment when he was writing, was Robert E. Lee. Lee was perhaps the most cultivated and the finest type of citizen in the Confederate States. When the war was over, knowing perfectly well that as a soldier he had reached the height of fame although his State had failed, Lee's decision was that he would spend 'the entire remainder of his life in conducting a college for the education of the youth of the Southern States in order that, although they had been vanquished in the fight, they might assume their share in the development of the future of their great country. I am ashamed to say that, while I was grateful that McGill had made the selection that it has made, the analogy between that incident and what has happened to McGill never occurred to me until I Was sitting here today. A great soldier, whose name will be classed among the great soldiers of the world, a Canadian in the prime of life, comes back to this country his ears filled with the acclaim of his countrymen, to take the position of President of one of our old universities with precisely the object-because we have heard him today and we know-precisely the object that Robert E. Lee had with regard to the people of the South at the close of the Great Civil War in the United States. If we ever had doubt about the capacity of a soldier for taking his place at the head of a great university and doing his duty towards the university in its manifold aspects, I think that doubt must be dissipated by what you have heard from General Currie today. (Applause)
As one connected in a humble capacity with a university for over twenty-five years, I know perfectly well what the struggle has been in Canada to make ordinary business men believe in the practical usefulness of a university. Fhave been through the period in the United States when there were almost no university men in 'the ordinary ranks of business there until now when there is almost no kind of business in which it is not admitted 'that university men have the advantage over those who are not. In Canada we are coming slowly towards that time. We have, as yet, very few university men who are in the ordinary ranks of business-I mean outside of what are called professions; but I am glad to say we are reaching the time in Canada when industrial establishments that I know of give to college graduates a stated salary of $150 a month as a beginning on the strength of their graduation, and who believe that they need for their work men with university training. General Currie gave us the ideal side of the university -a little like looking at 'the obverse of a beautiful coin and admiring its artistic qualities and imagining what it may mean in the life of a country to have 'that kind of thing; but he did not turn the coin over too much to look at the other side, on which there is usually a very simple statement of what it represents in mere money. (Laughter) Now, as one who for twenty-five years has been striving for financial aid to the University of Toronto, I want to express my intense and most sincere sympathy with General Currie in the efforts he is making at this time to put McGill on a proper financial basis.
It is absolutely true that the future of this country rests not on the universities alone any more than on the rural schools, but it does not rest on the conviction on the part of the people, which should be pressed upon our political leaders, as General Currie has said, that the more we spend on education the better it will be for us, and the cheaper. We have in this country lofty conceptions as to what should be spent on education-very high indeed as compared with those of twenty or twenty-five years ago, but we have not lifted our ideas anything like high enough. We are not prepared for one moment to say that we will pay for ability, that we will pay the man who chooses to devote himself to the teaching of his fellow-man on anything like the basis that we will pay him if he goes out to earn, in any profession, as much money as he can. One very intelligent man, interested in labour, said in my hearing, "I don't know why he should not be paid as well as any other man in the community." Now I am saying this to you because you should not go away from here merely saying you are pleased at hearing a great and uplifting speech, or 'that you have a better conception of your duty towards the university; but you should be prepared as citizens to go and do your duty towards the university (applause) and help to build a conviction in the minds of all our political leaders that they need not be afraid to spend money on the higher ranks of education.
But what I got up to do, in a very imperfect way, was to pay my compliments to General Currie and to ask you if I may express, on your behalf, our sense of his generosity in coming here on such short notice and giving us this splendid address, and to voice the conviction that he has left with us-that we have now not simply a great soldier among us, but a great educationist who will make his mark upon the future of this country. (Loud applause)