Letter from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Admiral H.K. Tu, October 25, 1927


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Letter from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Admiral H.K. Tu, October 25, 1927


Letter from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Admiral H.K. Tu, October 25, 1927


Typed letter sent from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Admiral H.K. Tu. Explains situation with Tu's son, Kong Y. Tu in regards to education and college. Explains most dentistry colleges require a college degree or a high school diploma. States Kong Y. Tu did poorly at Andover and the local high school. Believes lack of progress is due to lack of ambition but also believes schoolwork is hard for him. States Kong is discouraged. Thinks Kong would not gain much more from an American education.


October 25, 1927
Admiral H. K. Tu .
C/o H.K.Tang
Chihli River Commission
Tientsin, China

My dear Mr. Tu:

I have recently received your interesting letter of September 21, which came at a time when I was on the point of writing yon frankly and fully in regard to your son and my great concern over his seeming failure to make satisfactory progress in his studies. The case has proved a very perplexing one for me, and developments are such that I feel that in justice to both you and the boy I must be very frank in what I have to say.

In the first place, let me report that I have done my best to carry out your instructions in regard to a possible dental course for your boy. Bequests for information in regard to the admission requirements of the best dental colleges in this country brought out the fact that practically every dental school of the first rank now requires a college degree for admission. That in itself seems to be wholly cut of the reach of your boy. In answer to a personal letter of inquiry of mine to Dean of Tufts Dental School, one of the best in the country, wrote me that he knew of only two dental schools worthy of the name that would admit students on less preparation than the completion of a college course. One of them, which he designated as located in the South, he branded as hardly worthy of the name and one which he could not conscientiously recommend. The other was the Dental School of the University of California.

I wrote at once to the University of California and asked for full information, receiving somewhat later their catalogue. From the catalogue it appears that admission is granted only to those who have completed a full high school course. To meet even this lower requirement your boy will have not less than three more years of hard work, assuming that he is able to pass in his studies and maintain a satisfactory standing In his classes. This to date he has not done, and from the reports of his instructors, which have just come to me, there seems little prospect that he can or will do so.

I can’t decide clearly in my own mind just where the trouble lies. The boy made his first attempt with us and failed badly to meet the requirements of our lowest class. At my suggestion he tutored steadily for a time in English, chiefly, for
I believed that his faulty knowledge of the English language was at the bottom of his trouble. Finding that he was still unable to do our work here in Andover, I accepted hie suggestion that he enter a smaller school and one of somewhat lower standards out in New York State, which he did. We remained there two years, as you know, and the reports which I received from time to time from that school varied somewhat in their character and increased my doubts as to just what the boy was accomplishing. At the end of the past year I felt that if he were ever to do our work and meet the scholastic requirements which Chinese boys who come to us regularly do meet, he must attempt work in a higher grade institution like our own. Consequently I allowed him to come back here again on trial.

At the present time the boy is rated in our Lower Middle, or second year. Class where he is repeating a great deed of work already covered elsewhere. Even so, the first scholarship rating of the term indicates that he is far below grade in all of his studies and his instructors assure me that he seems utterly unable to meet their requirements and attain passing grades. Such being the situation, I can’t see any hope that the boy is going to be able to carry out your plan and gain admission to a dental school. Very probably his failure to do better in his work is due in part to his maturity, for he is much older than most of the boys who come to us and the older a boy gets, the more difficult he finds it to master elementary subjects.

I have talked with Kong very frequently ahout the situation, but I think that he, too, is a bit discouraged. Personally I have never felt that he showed any serious ambition in his work, and I must always believe that he could have done somewhat better in his studies if he had really set himself earnestly to that task. On the other hand, it seems clear that his studies come hard to him at best and I don’t wish to appear to blame him unfairly for results which may not, after all, have been wholly his fault.

As I look on the situation now, and basing my opinion on my experience with the scores of Chinese students with whom I have been privileged to have contacts in recent years, I have a strong conviction that your boy is not likely to gain very much by a further continuation of his American education. I hate to say this for it carries with it some indication of failure on my part to aid you in realising your ambition for your son. On the other hand, you, as the boy’s father , are entitled to an absolutely frank and unbiased statement on my part , and this I have attempted to give. I have thought of business schools as offering a possibility, but the best of them like the Harvard Business School*require college degrees for admission, and the next best one I can think of is the Wharton School of finances at the University of Pennsylvania, which requires the equivalent of a full high school course. Here again, we are up against the same obstacles, and they seem insurmountable. There are so-sailed business colleges of a still lower grade which give their students good courses in accounting, business practice, stenography and typewriting, etc., and that seems to be about the only thing left, if Kong is to remain in this country. Even so, these schools are almost all located in large cities and make no provision for the outside life and control of their students beyond the time they are actually in the class room. I should naturally hesitate very much to place a boy of my own in such an environment in a foreign land, and I must necessarily feel the same hesitancy in considering the welfare of your son.

The boy himself is pretty well discouraged at present and hardly knows what he ought to do. I have told him that I would write you very frankly and fully and, to facilitate matters, would suggest in my letter that, after giving the problem careful consideration, you cable me instructions for the future. Kong evidently is unable to continue his work here at Phillips Academy. If he were an American boy, he would have been dropped from our list at this last scholarship rating, but X have persuaded the faculty to take no such action until I hear further from you. He could, of course, go off to some other smaller and more elementary school, but at his age such a course X am sure would be of no permanent value to him and might even do him definite harm.

I am sure you will appreciate the spirit which prompts me to write what is not easy for me to write and what I know will be keenly disappointing to you. Knowing your deep interest in your boy and your ambition for his future, I am distressed beyond words not to be able to send you a more favorable report or paint a brighter picture of the future. On the other hand, we know from experience that it often happens that boys who are not cut out for scholars become eminently successful in other lines and often make as valuable contributions to the welfare of the world as od their more scholarly mates. The great problem now is to plan wisely for the boy’s immediate future, and I shall welcome full and frank instructions, preferably by cable, from you to govern my further actions.

With my very kindest regards, believe me

Very sincerely yours,


Dr. Alfred E. Stearns


Phillips Academy


October 25, 1927


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