Posted by: N.S. Palmer | September 28, 2016

I Couldn’t Get Into Yale (in 1745)

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If the year were 1745, I couldn’t get into Yale as a student.

I’m fairly well educated for the 21st century. However, I lack the qualifications that 18th-century Yale expected of incoming students. The Yale regulations of 1745 list the requirements. They’re an illuminating read. I found them in The Annals of America, but they’re also on the web.

Concerning Admission Into College

First, students had to be able “extempore to read, construe, and parse Tully, Virgil, and the Greek Testament.”

I’ve read a little Virgil and Tully (Cicero) in English translation, but I know only a few words of Greek. I couldn’t even begin to read “the Greek Testament.”

Second, students had “to write true Latin prose.”

I took two years of Latin in middle school, but I’m not sure if I could have written “true Latin prose” even then.

Third, students had to know “common arithmetic.”

Finally, it’s something that I’ve got covered. As a mathematician, I know a lot more than common arithmetic.

Fourth, each student had to “bring sufficient testimony of his blameless and inoffensive life.”

Hmm. Not sure about that one. A few people might say that about me, but I wouldn’t say it about myself. My ex wouldn’t say it about me, either.

Of A Religious and Virtuous Life

“All scholars shall live religious, godly, and blameless lives according to the rules of God’s Word, diligently reading the Holy Scriptures, and constantly attend upon all the duties of religion, both in public and secret.”

Frankly, I think that anyone who claims to lead a “blameless” life is a saint, a liar, or deluded. I read the Bible, but I have a feeling that “the Holy Scriptures” here means the New Testament. As a Jew, I’m familiar with it but don’t regard it as binding. And I’m sure that Yale in 1745 didn’t admit any non-Christians.

“If any student shall profane the Sabbath by unnecessary business, diversion, walking abroad, or making any indecent noise or disorder on the said day, or on the evening before or after, or shall be guilty of any rude, profane, or indecent behavior … he shall be punished, admonished, or otherwise according to the nature and demerit of his crime.”

It’s a safe bet that the regulation covers driving on the Sabbath. Darn it! Oops. That’s rude.

Concerning Scholastical Exercises

“No student shall walk abroad, or be absent from his chamber, except half an hour after breakfast, and an hour and a half after dinner, and from prayers at night to nine o’clock without leave. To this end, the president or tutors shall visit students’ chambers after nine o’clock to see if they are at their chambers and apply themselves to their studies.”

And of course, “his” chamber refers exclusively to male students. Yale did not admit female students until 1969.

“In the first year, they shall study tongues [languages] and logic. In the second year, they shall recite rhetoric, geometry, and geography. In the third year, natural philosophy [physical science], astronomy, and other parts of mathematics.”

Sounds like a pretty strong curriculum. But no gender studies? No “politics of pop culture”?

“Every Saturday shall especially be allotted to the study of divinity, and the classes shall recite the Westminster Confession of Faith received and approved by the churches in this colony.”

Apparently, all the Muslims who Obama says have been part of America since its founding were nowhere in evidence. Maybe they showed up later when they all signed the Declaration of Independence. Hmm. I don’t see them in the picture. They were probably taking a break.

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Of Penal Laws

“If any student shall be guilty of blasphemy, fornication, robbery, forgery, or any other such great and atrocious crime, he shall be expelled forthwith.”

There goes half of the football team.

“If any student shall deny the Holy Scriptures or any part of them to be the Word of God, he shall be expelled.”

Good luck with that now. Yale can’t even suggest that people chill out about Halloween costumes without causing hysteria among the special snowflakes.

“If any student shall be guilty of profane swearing, cursing, vowing, any petty or implicit oath, profane or irreverent use of the names, attributes, ordinances, or Word of God …”

Oh, and here’s a good part:

“… disobedient, contumacious, or refractory carriage toward his superiors, fighting, striking, quarreling, turbulent words or behavior …”

Someone call the speech police, because this is hateful transphobia:

“… wearing women’s apparel …”

And back to more mundane offenses:

“… defrauding, injustice, idleness, lying, defamation, or any suchlike immoralities, he shall be punished by fine, confession, admonition, or expulsion, as the nature and circumstances of the case may require.”

So let’s see: Students can get expelled for blasphemy, heresy, cursing; showing disrespect to professors (Nicholas Christakis, call your office); cross-dressing, and generally acting like the backside of a horse.

“That every freshman shall be obliged to go any reasonable and proper errand when he is sent by any student in any superior class.”

Uncompensated and involuntary? I don’t expect the snowflakes to like that very much. And please, nobody tell them that Elihu Yale made a lot of money in the slave trade.


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