Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1899

Abstract

The past twenty-five years have witnessed many radical changes in professional education. Here, quite as much as in other fields of learning, the old has given place to the new. This is particularly true of legal and medical education. In these departments the changes have been chiefly in the direction of more scientific methods and greater thoroughness. In the United States, until within a comparatively recent period, professional education in law and medicine was very largely obtained through an apprenticeship in the office of the practitioner. It is true that under the old regime, the medical student, if he aspired to the degree of doctor of medicine, supplemented his "reading" with his preceptor by attending one or two courses of lectures at some medical college; but notwithstanding this, the principal part of his preparatory work was done by himself and without the aid of methodical instruction. He had of course, opportunities for observation and the help of occasional suggestions and directions from his chief, but the aid thus given him was incidental and fragmentary. The instruction that he received, under such conditions, might or might not be suited to his capacity and acquirements. If he came to his professional study with a natural aptitude for the work and well equipped by previous academic and collegiate training. He could undoubtedly accomplish good results, not by reason of the system followed, but in spite of it. But the seriousness of the situation is apparent when we remember that in the last generation the majority of those entering upon the study of medicine in this country were without adequate preparation. The case of the law student was in some respects worse. The lack of preliminary training was quite as general among law students as among those entering upon the study of medicine, and, as a rule, the office apprenticeship constituted the only means for professional preparation. Law schools were few in number and attendance upon them was not only not encouraged by the profession generally, but was emphatically discouraged by a very considerable portion of it. As a result, the great majority came to the bar through the law offices, and it was the exception for the law student to supplement his office reading even by a brief period of instruction at the law school. The natural and inevitable tendency of the old regime was to subordinate the science and to emphasize the art, to make practitioners simply of medicine or law and not investigators. Coming in contact daily with the practical side of the profession, and necessarily, during his short period of study, with only a small part of it, and learning of the other side only through his interrupted and desultory reading, the ordinary student was naturally impressed with the mechanism, so to speak, rather than with the science of the profession. His horizon was necessarily a narrow one. Opportunities for obtaining comprehensive notions, unless he made them for himself, were wanting. His investigations were fragmentary; as a rule, they were carried on only as prompted by a present necessity, and rarely were they extended beyond an examination of second-hand material. His surroundings were not such as to inspire him to go to the sources for a verification of conclusions or for the discovery of new truths or new relations. Under such a system, the proper foundation for subsequent growth and development was often lacking.


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