|Back Row, L-R: Louis Raush, Bookkeeping, etc.; Pearl W. Geer, M.G.H. Secretary & Lecturer. Third Row: Katie Mattesan, Librarian; Alice Davenport, Shorthand & Typewriter: Minnie Preston, Primary & Kindergarten; Emily L. Wakeman, Girl's Matron. Second Row: J.E. Hosmer, PhD., B.S.D., President; A.A. Leonard, M.D. M.E., Anatomy, Physiology, Hygiene, Electricity; Thaddeus B. Wakeman, History, Society, Law, Ethics. Front Row: Lora Ames, Physiology, Hygiene; Minnie P. Hosmer, I.S.B.S.D., History, English, Botany, Music; Sophie Wolf, Piano, Elocution, English Literature; Clara Wakeman, Art|
Image by Courtesy Silverton Country Historical Society
The Liberal University of Oregon
By T.B. Wakeman
From Free Thought Magazine, 1897: The statement of Mr. Pearl W. Geer and his coadjutors in regard to the establishing of the Liberal School at Silverton, Oregon, shows that it has been so far successful that it surely indicates that a trend has been struck which only needs to be followed to bring most useful and desirable results; desirable to all those who appreciate that our country has reached a state of progress in which the higher Liberal education and Secular culture of a large mass of its people is the condition of further progress under republican institutions, and probably of their continuance. Our Republic must be saved by a higher Secular education.
Our common school education is excellent as far as it goes, but it only covers "the three Rs" and those rudiments of learning which are merely the instruments by which any higher education must be reached. The sciences, such as economics, politics, ethics, art and the religious meaning of science and humanity, in a word, the higher and final motives and purposes of life, and all of its higher hopes and aspirations remain to be determined.
The universities and colleges which were founded in the past to reach this higher education were, with rare exceptions, brought into existence to educate clergymen of the "revealed religions," or their supporters in other professions, which then and now generally dominate the ultimate hopes, aspirations, and hence the morals and general conduct of the masses of the, people; except in so far as they have been left to drift into the indifference and degradation of a nothingarian vanity, brutality and selfish pessimism. The result is an interregnum as to the higher religious, social, moral, aesthetic and inspirational nature of man.
The old religions and their clergy and churches complain that our public education is "Atheistic" and wholly deficient; but they cannot remedy the deficiency in the face of science, which has thoroughly discredited them as to their revelations, methods and objects. Nor can the existing colleges, even those most free from theology, furnish the remedy. They were not organized to take the place of the churches, and do not even try to do so; but in the meantime they are in mortal fear of offending the powerful churches and their supporters, and thus losing their patronage. Therefore any scientific or other teaching which would be inconsistent with the theologies and the "vested interests" which sustain them is dropped, omitted or modified.
Our young people who go to colleges, therefore, cannot get an education which is fit for Liberals, that is, emancipated peoples, and which would fully and impartially cover and stimulate the higher culture and motives of life. That has been left to the family, the Sunday schools and the churches, and their special colleges, all notoriously deficient and not in the modern world at all.
It results that Liberals cannot find the sciences fully and fairly taught, but only such science, and in such a way as the popular superstitions happen to believe may be "safe" to their catechisms and the people at large; all other science is avoided, or warned against, as "science falsely so called." The prevailing religionists find "no conflict between science and religion," only when they can control, dictate or nullify scientific instruction as they like. When this is not done by perversion or omission, it is done by overwhelming the student by details, mostly useless or ornamental, under the pretense or motive of "thoroughness."
Thus the uses and meaning of the great laws of the sciences in replacing superstition with truth are lost. The student is fenced in and stunted, or worse, and only learns enough to be a good Catholic, Presbyterian, or other religionist.
This was the method adopted by the Jesuits to defeat the Reformation, and it has been followed by every religious sect and denomination since; for it is the most easy, cruel and effective mode of arresting growth and progress known. This is using science to defeat its main object, for it should never be forgotten that the first and main object of science, as set forth by the original Greek scientists -beautifully re-stated by Lucretius - was not so much its practical utilities, astonishingly great as these have been. but its power to remove superstition, emancipate the heart and mind of man and to develop and expand his nature in the highest degree. True education in stead of defeating this primary object should never lose sight of it as a purpose to be attained. The only higher education we have leaves the higher purposes of life a blank, or misleads as to them. Instead of educating for an ever higher and better Republic, we are "educating" for nothing in particular, unless it is a "kingdom come," in which a republican would be sadly out of place.
Such is the general nature of the education open to the comparatively wealthy few who alone have the means and opportunity to enjoy the privilege of a higher education. And it is fearful to think that the masses of the people have no opportunity for any higher Liberal education at all! Yet upon them the future of progress and of the Republic rests. Those who are taught to live and to pray for a "kingdom" to come are even worse off than those who live only for themselves and the necessities of the hour. The latter may have no mainspring of aspiration to sustain the Republic, but they have not a false one pressing for its destruction.
Thus the spell of the old religions still hangs like a pall of darkness over nearly all of our higher education, certainly over all except that which the few Liberal wealthy can reach. The "plain people" and their children have little or no opportunity of ever knowing what science really reveals as to this wondrous world of which they are parts; or of the motives and purposes of life which science and humanity inspire, or of the hopes of the future which they reveal as the foundation of individual and social life. A true Liberal University, therefore, established near the center of the State, near the State Library of its capitol, and in a situation unequalled for health and beauty, merits the support of every Liberal and patriotic American, in every sense in which those words can be used.
The question may be asked, Why design and designate as a Liberal "University" that which cannot be inaugurated as such at once, or only sparingly so, for want of the means and students, all of which must be a matter of gradual accumulation?
We answer: We have commenced with the kindergarten and the school, and the first steps and stages of the University for good reasons. We learn from the enemy; we will build as the Roman Catholics build their great cathedrals and institutions, by years and generations! A Liberal University can never come into existence in any way except by assimilation, growth and evolution out of itself. Unless its schools are introductory to its own higher stages designed from the start, they are simply feeders of, and must be, therefore, dominated by, the other colleges to whom their students are to be sent; and thus they are hopelessly subjected to the dwarfing systems above explained.
The only way out, the only way to get the new, impartial, untrammeled, modern Liberal education, is to inaugurate and gradually establish a university which will provide and cover it. The only way to get such a university is to develop it out of Liberal schools; and the best way to make sure of them is to sustain those which have already been hopefully begun, like that now building its own University at Silverton.
The following extract from the proposed Articles of Incorporation of the Liberal University will give the reader some idea of its Liberal aim and scope:
"The existence of this corporation and of its said University, and the power and right thereof to exercise or do any act for the attainment of any of the objects, pursuits and purposes as aforesaid, are conditioned and dependent upon this provision and condition, to wit: That all of the education, or courses of education, instruction, art and culture shall be conducted and kept forever free from and uninfluenced by any kind or form of theology, sectarian religion, or supernaturalism, Christian or other; and that no religious creeds, catechisms, dogmas, public prayers, masses, sacraments, incantations or religious exercises, shall ever be allowed upon its property or premises under its control; or be used or connected in any way with any of its discipline, courses of study, or functions of any kind, except for the purposes of historical exposition or illustration; but the main purpose shall be, in regard to religious matters and culture, to replace all of the said past phases of religion by the universal religion of Liberty, Science and Humanity."