The role of the college tutor

‘It will be prudent in him to anticipate, in the case of many of his charge, little love of study and no habit of application, and, even in the case of the diligent, backwardness and defective or ill-grounded knowledge. Towards them, as well as towards the studious and advanced, he will have to address himself according to the needs of each. He will select for them their course of reading, recommend them the lectures which they are to attend, and the books and subjects which they are to present for examination.’

‘As to the more promising, he will superintend their reading. He will set them off, for instance, in private informal lectures and conversations, at the commencement of new and difficult authors. He will then let them go a while, and bid them bring him their difficulties. He will keep his eye upon them, and from time to time examine them, take them in hand again when they come to more difficult portions, and bring to their notice points which would otherwise escape them. He will direct them to works in illustration of their subject, help them with analyses and abstracts, or teach them how to make them; and, as their examination draws near, he will go over the ground again with them, and try them to and fro in their books.’

‘On the other hand, in the case of the backward, he will ascertain their weak points, and set them on remedying them. He will force upon them the fact of their want of grounding and other defects, and, without annoying them, will be jealous and importunate on the subject in proportion to their indisposition to amend. He will try to keep them up to the mark of the Professors’ Lectures which they attend, and prevent them from showing ill there. As to the idle, he will be in [the] practice of sending for them, will ask them if they have prepared to-morrow’s lectures, oblige them to come at a certain hour for examination in them, treating them throughout with good-humour, but with the steadiness of a superior. In like manner, he will bring before them their approaching examination, confront them with the disgrace of failure, and impress upon them their ever-accumulating loss of time, and the extreme difficulty of making up for it.’

‘All this involves a real occupation on the part of the Tutor, but it is close rather than great, and continual rather than continuous; it does involve, however, a sustained solicitude, and a mind devoted to his charge. And because of the serious importance, and the really interesting nature of the office, when understood and entered into, and again, of the difficulty some persons have in understanding it, its duties have here been drawn out somewhat in detail. The way to a young man’s heart lies through his studies, certainly in the case of the more clever and diligent. He feels grateful towards the superior, who takes an interest in the things which are at the moment nearest to his heart, and he opens it to him accordingly. From the books which lie before them the two friends are led into conversation, speculation, discussion: there is the intercourse of mind with mind, with an intimacy and sincerity which can only be when none others are present. Obscurities of thought, difficulties in philosophy, perplexities of faith, are confidentially brought out, sifted, and solved; and a pagan poet or theorist may thus become the occasion of Christian advancement. Thus the Tutor forms the pupil’s opinions, and is the friend, perhaps the guide, of his after life. He becomes associated with the pupil’s brightest and pleasantest years, and is invested in the hues of a past youth.’

‘In this idea of a College Tutor, we see that union of intellectual and moral influence, the separation of which is the evil of the age. Men are accustomed to go to the Church for religious training, but to the world for the cultivation both of their hard reason and their susceptible imagination. A Catholic University will but half remedy this evil, if it aims only at professorial, not at private teaching. Where is the private teaching, there will be the real influence.’

‘To fulfil this idea, however, the Tutor must have no part in the College discipline, nor any academical authority over his pupils. Should he be invested with these additional duties, he will often find it expedient to commit the Tutorial care of certain of his pupils to externs [i.e. outside Tutors]; on the principle on which the offices of Ruler and Confessor are separated in Religious communities.’ (‘Scheme of Rules and Regulations’, 1856)

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