Part 3j of Chapter 1 of Book 5 of The Wealth of Nations Simplified

Article 2-Educational Institutions for the youth Icon

August 1, 2021

130 The educational institutions for the youth may generate a revenue to defray their own expence.

The fee or honorary which the scholar pays the teacher is naturally a revenue of this kind.

131 Even if the teacher’s reward does not come from this natural revenue, it still is unnecessary that it should be derived from the society’s general revenue.

In most countries, the collection and application of the society’s general revenue is done through the executive power. Through most of Europe, the endowment of schools and colleges takes a very small amount, or none at all, from that general revenue.

It arises chiefly from:

  • some local or provincial revenue,
  • from the rent of some landed estate, and
  • from the interest of money allotted for this purpose and managed by trustees, sometimes by the sovereign or a private donor.

132 Have those public endowments promoted the education of the youth?

Have they encouraged the diligence and the improvement the teachers’ abilities?

Have they directed education towards more useful objects than towards objects it would naturally have gone into of its own accord?

133 In every profession, the exertion of those who exercise it is always proportional to the necessity for that exertion.

This necessity is greatest in professions where emoluments are=

  • the only source of their fortune, or
  • even ordinary revenue and subsistence.

To acquire this fortune or subsistence, they must execute a certain quantity of work of a known value.

If the competition is free, the competitors try to jostle one another out of employment. It obliges everyone to execute his work with exactness.

The greatness of the objects acquired by the success in some professions may animate those of extraordinary spirit and ambition towards exertion.

Great objects are unnecessary to cause the greatest exertions.

Rivalry and emulation are enough. These=

  • render excellency as an object of ambition, even in mean professions
  • frequently lead to the greatest exertions.

On the contrary, great objects alone, and unsupported by necessity, are seldom enough to lead to exertion.

In England, success in the law profession leads to very great objects of ambition. How few men born to easy fortunes have ever here been eminent in law?

134 The endowments of schools and colleges reduced the necessity of exertion in the teachers.

Their subsistence is from their salaries. It is derived from a fund independent of their success and reputation.

135 In some universities, the salary makes a small part of the teacher’s emoluments.

Most comes from the honoraries or fees from his pupils. The necessity of application is still always reduced. But in this case, it is not entirely removed.

Reputation is still important to a teacher.

  • He is still dependent on his students’ affection, gratitude, and favourable report.
  • He is likely to gain these only by:
    • his abilities, and
    • diligence to his duty.

136 In other universities, the teacher is prohibited from receiving any honorary or fee from his pupils.

His salary is his whole revenue. In this case, his interest is opposite his duty. It is the interest of every man to live as much at his ease as he can;"

If his emoluments are the same whether he works hard or not, it would certainly be his interest to:

  • neglect his duty or
  • perform it as carelessly as possible.

If he is naturally active and hardworking, his interest is to do activities where he can derive some advantage.

He will do this rather than perform his duty, from which he can derive no advantage.

137 The teachers are likely to be very indulgent to one another if:

  • they are under the corporate body’s authority, and
  • most of the members of his college or university are teachers

Every member will allow other members to neglect their duty provided he himself is allowed to neglect his own. In Oxford university, most public professors for so many years have given up even the pretence of teaching.

138 The teacher will not likely neglect his duty if his superiors are some other extraneous persons such as:

  • the diocese bishop,
  • the provincial governor,
  • some state minister.

However, such superiors can only force him to=

  • attend to his pupils a certain number of hours, and
  • give a certain number of lectures.

Those lectures still depend on the teacher’s diligence. That diligence will likely be proportional to his motives for exerting it. This kind of extraneous jurisdiction is liable to be exercised ignorantly and capriciously.

In its nature, it is arbitrary and discretionary.

Such persons who exercise authority over the teacher are can seldom exercise it properly because they=

  • do not attend the lectures themselves, and
  • do not understand what he teaches.

From the insolence of office, they are frequently indifferent how they exercise it. They are very apt to censure or deprive the teacher of his office wantonly, without any just cause. The teacher is then degraded by it.

Instead of being respectable, he becomes one of the meanest and most contemptible persons in society.

  • He can guard himself only by powerful protection.
  • He can most likely gain this protection, not by ability or diligence, but by:
    • submissiveness to his superiors’ will, and
    • being ready to sacrifice the university’s rights, interest, and honour to that will.

Whoever attends a French university’s administration for a long time will these effects. These naturally result from this kind of arbitrary and extraneous jurisdiction.


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