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Colleges, Municipal

Suniland Magazine


City-owned colleges are no novelty in many parts of the country, as witness Boston University, the University of the City of New York, and Cincinnati University. The utility of the municipal college is readily apparent. It provides for the stay-at-homes opportunity for continued education. Not the least of its services is to keep the best of the community at home. It counteracts congestion in a few big centers where cut-throat competition limits achievement and dwarfs self-expression. It renders unnecessary prolonged absence from home and heavy expenditures at a time when youth has small financial or moral discretion. The municipal college permits close personal touch between faculty and students, so often impossible in great universities. Some day parents will awake to the fact that the value of a college to their children does not depend upon, courses they never take nor prominent professors whom they never meet, but upon actual human contacts. Many an obscure teacher has inspired youthful students more successfully than celebrated doctors of philosophy with scores of honorary titles after their names.

In another respect the city college is very efficient. It trains with an eye to local needs. It has definite background to vitalize its instruction. The large, university strikes out in general, but the small college can cooperate with its community, sympathize with its aspirations and respond to its requirements. The municipal school prolongs the education of those who must work through part-time instruction, otherwise delegated to less interested commercialized night schools or correspondence schools administered primarily for pecuniary profit to its operators. The city-owned institution arouses young men and women to unexploited possibilities in their present situation. Whereas the distant university has no means to investigate the resources of a particular locality and the ordinary business college has neither the desire nor ability in that direction, the locally-owned school has every incentive to be very much alive not only to the demands of the hour but also to the hidden future concealed in the casual present. Finally, the municipal college provides library and laboratory and shop manned by experts who thus constitute a permanent, accessible reference or authority to answer immediate questions. Education does not cease with graduation any more, if it ever did. For education is not information but guidance; learning is a process terminated only by death and at no time completed. The small college is a splendid expression of genuine Americanism with its emphasis upon decentralization of power and individual independence.

Perhaps no section could more profitably utilize several municipal colleges than our own state of Florida. Local conditions which are at the same time nation-wide in their significance have brought about this situation. A rapidly growing population daily augmented by immigration from forty-seven other states creates an unparalleled opportunity for unusual educational developments as well as unprecedented material advancement. The high level of intelligence concentrated in Florida by this new phase of the age-long Aryan trek presents the chance of centuries in education. For the available energy and alert mind of Florida's "pioneers" do not have to be expended in laboriously hacking out forest clearings or in exterminating wild beasts. The newcomer can enter almost at once upon a luxurious existence possible heretofore only to a favored few and after two or three generations of settlers had toiled over the same fields and by rigid self-denial and with hardship accumulated capital. Shall we let this magnificent array of brains and energy dissipate itself in random and self-defeating adventures or direct it into new channels of endeavor which will rehabilitate the nation and redound to the benefit of our state.

A compelling reason for the establishment of municipal colleges aside from the wealth of human material to be educated is Florida's geographical position. Whether we will or no, the United States has had thrust upon it world leadership. And likewise whether she realizes her responsibility or not, Florida is the logical mistress of the Caribbean. The flood-tide of Spanish expansion swept over the "American Mediterranean" with the conquistadors, but ebbed many decades past. Now next door to Cuba, "Pearl of the Antilles," stands Florida, eldest of these states, but at last reborn. Of the twenty Latin republics in Central and South America, one-half border the Caribbean. And into this commercial Promised Land projects Florida, nearer by hundreds of miles than any other portion of the United States. By a happy accident of geography, Tampa, Fort Myers, Key West and Miami enjoy incalculable advantages which every other port along the eastern seaboard from Galveston and New Orleans to New York and Boston would give half of their kingdoms to possess. But Florida cannot fulfil her destiny without forethought and preparation. There must be trained a host of virile young men alive to the resources of the region and filled with a passion to exploit them. They must have wisdom to conquer disease and exterminate the scourge of death from these tropical countries. They must have tact and understanding of Latin customs and ideals to win the southern republics as friends and partners in world enterprise. This is the supreme task before the yet unfounded municipal colleges of Florida.

In one respect Florida is very fortunate; she has no cumbersome educational machine to overthrow or reconstruct. No bureaucrats must be ousted or venerated traditions trampled underfoot. The city college in Florida has a chance to strike out in novel directions without let or hindrance. The fruits of educational research can be freely appropriated and applied. There has never before occurred so fortunate and wonderful a combination of circumstances as now exists in this state. An opportunity for world leadership and in particular for commercial mastery of the New World Garden of Eden arises at the very moment when the entire nation has focused its attention upon the signal privileges which Florida grants her residents; and simultaneously, for the first time in history, there exists a group of men who have a scientific grasp of education and of how learning can be effectively directed toward the attainment of human purposes. If the civic organizations of this state can only glimpse the benefits which colleges in every city of importance can bestow unendingly upon their communities and the state as a whole, there will be no difficulty in the way of founding many such institutions.

Let it be understood from the outset that the city college has no quarrel with the state university. The local school is no rival but the strongest ally of the greater institution. It approaches to similar problems. The laboratory is a place to put things to test, the shop to develop skill. At each point instead of indolence and indifference would be action and interest. No feat of memory is involved in learning things done, not just read about. The business and professional men of the city are available to discuss certain phases of each subject with the students and to afford better graduates employment in their offices. Architecture takes on a new significance when homes and buildings are going up daily. Commerce has deeper meaning where ships are unloading the produce of far countries. The city college is invaluable just because it is not retired to itself but is in the heart of a busy neighborhood.

The subjects studied necessarily will vary with the needs of the students. Each should learn a good deal, however, about the economic and physical geography of Florida, its relation to the United States-and to the American republics. Much emphasis should be placed upon biology of this part of the earth to the end that people may become familiar with their plant and animal neighbors. Personal and crowd psychology with sound economic principles should be imparted to every one. The student intending to do business in other countries will master Spanish and French, the latter the tongue of the cultured Latin. One of the greatest obstacles in the past to our successful trade with Latin America has been our ignorance of their literary and historic background. To get their business we must acquire their point of view. Friendship and association count for much. It may be that we ourselves can benefit in no small degree by transition from high pressure salesmanship to dignified and artistic methods. If the city college can interpret Florida for Floridians, can demonstrate unsuspected possibilities awaiting only men and vision, and as in this mightiest of American projects, the municipal school will have justified itself many times over to the county or city which fosters it.

Excerpt from: Hewlett, T.W. & Hansford, R.S., eds. "Municipal Colleges in Florida."
Suniland, Nov. 1925, Vol. 3, No. 2. Pgs. 33-35


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