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Scholarly Essay:
"A Southern University" by James L. Leloudis

Primary Documents Arranged by Subtopic:
The Plans of Education
Books and Apparatus
The Practice of Instruction
The School for the Application of Science to the Arts
The Student's Experience

Prior to the Civil War, most American institutions of higher education favored a classical curriculum, and the University of North Carolina was no exception. The plan of education adopted by the Board of Trustees in December 1818 included the study of the Latin and Greek languages; the prominent works of Horace, Sallust, Virgil and Homer; English grammar and composition; the mathematics, including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry; geography; the sciences, including chemistry, mineralogy, astronomy, and geology; and philosophy, logic and metaphysics. Students learned by memorizing texts and reciting them for the faculty, who typically presided over six to ten recitations per week. UNC student Iveson Brookes, in an 1818 address to the Dialectic Society, summed it up: "Hence in our collegiate course the study of the dead languages, Geography, & Arithmetic conducts us to the study of the Mathematics and that introduces us to the Study of Philosophy and Rhetoric which completes the course by including English Grammar." The documents presented in this section illustrate not only the students' opinions about the curriculum and method of instruction, but the opinions of some of the faculty as well.

The common practice of using tutors to teach the underclassmen came under particularly strong criticism from William Hooper in the early 1830s. Not only were these tutors inexperienced as teachers (most were recent graduates of the institution), they had very little control over the students. But the "precarious state of the funds of the Institution" (Board of Trustees minutes, 18 July 1834), combined with the difficulty of obtaining experienced faculty members at salaries the board could afford to pay, made it expedient to employ tutors.

Limited funds also affected the resources available to the faculty for books and scientific apparatus for their courses. Included in this section are documents regarding the gift and purchase of these materials for the university, including items related to President Caldwell's book-buying trip to Europe in 1824-25. The scientific apparatus purchased by Caldwell on that trip eventually found a home in the university's observatory. Erected in 1832, it was the first observatory on a U.S. college campus.

In December 1852 the Board of Trustees adopted a resolution providing for instruction in Civil Engineering and Agricultural Chemistry. Charles Phillips was appointed Professor of Civil Engineering and Benjamin Sherwood Hedrick, Professor of Agricultural Chemistry. This "School for the Application of Science to the Arts" was the university's attempt to incorporate more practical instruction into the curriculum, and the letters from Phillips and Hedrick to President Swain in this section provide a fascinating glimpse into how they attempted to develop this new curriculum.

The documents in this section are arranged chronologically within the subtopics.

General | Top of Page
The Plans of Education | Top of Page
Books and Apparatus | Top of Page
The Practice of Instruction | Top of Page
The School for the Application of Science to the Arts | Top of Page
The Student's Experience | Top of Page