This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
In our SUPPLEMENT No. 283 we gave reports of some of the addresses of the distinguished speakers, and we now present the remarks of Prof. Raymond and Horatio Allen, Esq.:
A few years ago, at one of the meetings of our Society of Civil Engineers we spent a day or so in discussing the proper mode of educating young men so as to fit them for that profession. It is a question that is reopened for us as soon as we arrive at the age when we begin to consider what career to lay out for our sons. When we were young, the only question with parents in the better walks of life was, whether their sons should be lawyers, physicians, or ministers. Anything less than a professional career was looked upon as a loss of caste, a lowering in the social scale. These things have changed, now that we engineers are beginning to hold up our heads, as we have every reason to do; for the prosperity and well-being of the great nations of the world are attributable, perhaps, more to our efforts than to those of any other class. When, in the past, the man of letters, the poet, the orator, succeeded, by some fit expression, by some winged word, to engage the attention of the world concerning some subject he had at heart, the highest praise his fellow man could bestow was to cry out to him, "Well said, well said!" But now, when, by our achievements, commerce and industry are increased to gigantic proportions, when the remotest peoples are brought in ever closer communication with us, when the progress of the human race has become a mighty torrent, rushing onward with ever accelerating speed, we glory in the yet higher praise, "Well done, well done!" Under these circumstances, the question how a young man is best fitted for our profession has become one of increasing importance, and three methods have been proposed for its solution. Formerly the only point in debate was whether the candidate should go first to the schools and then to the workshop, or first to the shop and then to the schools. It was difficult to arrive at any decision; for of the many who had risen to eminence as engineers, some had adopted one order and some the other. There remained a third course, that of combining the school and the shop and of pursuing simultaneously the study of theory and the exercise of practical manipulation. Unforeseen difficulties arose, however, in the attempt to carry out this, the most promising method. The maintenance of the shop proved a heavy expense, which it was found could not be lessened by the manufacture of salable articles, because the work of students could not compete with that of expert mechanics. It would require more time than could be allotted, moreover, to convert students into skilled workmen. Various modifications of this combination of theory and practice, including more or less of the Russian system of instruction in shop-work, have been tried in different schools of engineering, but never under so favorable conditions as the present. With characteristic caution and good judgment, President Morton has studied the operation of the scheme of instruction adopted in the Stevens Institute, and, noting its deficiencies, has now supplied them with munificent liberality, giving to it a completeness that leaves seemingly nothing that could be improved upon, even in a prayer or a dream. Still, no one will be more ready to admit than he who has done all this, that it is not enough to fit up a machine shop, be it never so complete, and light it with an electric lamp. The decision as to its efficiency must come from the students that are so fortunate as to be admitted to it. If such young men, earnest, enthusiastic, with every incentive to exertion and every advantage for improvement, here, where they can feel the throbbing of the great heart of enterprise, within sight of bridges upon which their services will be needed, within hearing of the whistles of a score of railroads, and the bells of countless manufactories which will want them; if such as these, trained under such instructors and amid such surroundings, prove to be not fitted for the positions waiting for them to fill, it will have been definitely demonstrated that the perfect scheme is yet unknown.