A Change of Educational Emphasis
No part of our educational system occasions such searchings of heart or shakings of head as does the college. Everywhere else in the field of education we have evidence of healthy growth, of vigorous life. The high school not many years ago maintained an apologetic attitude toward a public which grudgingly supported it, but now asserts itself as “the people’s college.” The graduate school, with its work of research, hardly known, even by name, a generation ago, is to-day established, not only as part of our universities, but also as part of the scheme of public education. The schools of medicine and law have doubled and trebled their demands upon the student who seeks entrance to the professions whose doors they guard. It seems to some of the less hopeful members of our college faculties that, amid these growing and spreading institutions, the college course is likely to be crowded and starved out of existence. From below, the high school has threatened to absorb a year or two of its time. Graduate and professional schools have reached down to snatch away its students from the last year, or even two years, of the course.
The college teacher has lived between these forces, in dread of losing his field of labor; fearing that when, like all Gaul, his domain was divided into three parts between high school, professional, and graduate schools, there would be as little left for his control as was left to the Gauls when Cæsar was through with them. Still more, he has felt that the temper of college studies and the nature of college students have altered and — he may be pardoned for thinking — have worsened greatly. New studies have entered the college; many of them technical and alien to the old college course. A new type of student has come, especially alien, seeking and expecting practical results rather than culture. And since all of these changes, present and threatened, have come upon him with bewildering rapidity, it is not surprising if he sometimes feels that the very life of the college is in danger. I do not share his apprehensions, believing that the college has a tough and enduring vitality. These changes, whose significance and importance I would not underrate, seem to me to have been the result of a natural evolution, which has thrown the emphasis of college activities and college teaching upon the intellectual rather than the ethical side of life.
Let me draw a little from my own college experience and observation, in order to characterize this change of temper a little more clearly. Forty years ago, I entered college — a small Eastern college, whose freshman class is now far larger than was the college of my day. I cannot boast that we, the “few but fit,” who were freshmen in 1869 were intellectual prodigies, of even or exceptionally distinguished excellence. The records of my class and college mates show that they have taken an honorable part in the world’s work, but one not greatly different from that taken by college students of any period before or since. But we had at least one merit, or demerit, as contrasted with the freshmen of to-day. We did not come to college seeking studies which would directly prepare us for our future career. We entered on a four years’ college course with no such definite plan. We came not merely for the sake of the knowledge which we might get from our studies; still less to secure a practical training for life; but for the sake of somewhat vague and intangible intellectual gains. We were in search, too, of that still less tangible thing, culture, as we found out later when Matthew Arnold taught us to use the word.
For the American college of that day was still in that condition which it maintained for a great part of the nineteenth century, and which one may call beatific, or the reverse, according to his point of view. In still older times it had been a professional school, founded to train godly youth for the Christian ministry. and its curriculum and its methods had carried out the intention of pious founders and equally pious faculties. As time had passed it had lost its professional purposes, but had retained its intellectual qualities and its ethical tendencies. During much of the nineteenth century the college expressed its own character, and wrought out its own purposes, with a freedom and independence which it never enjoyed before or since. Ecclesiastical control was a thing of the past, as was also the adjustment of teaching to the needs of the ministry. The correlation of college work with the practical demands of society was yet in the future. The college offered a simple, homogeneous course of study, so simple and homogeneous that its ends and purposes could be clearly seen and definitely sought. The college selected carefully those who should become the students in this course. The nature of the programme of education which it offered kept from its halls all but those who thought themselves in sympathy with its purposes; and that it might winnow still more perfectly those seekers for learning, the college established and enforced narrow and rigid terms of admission.
In 1869 the course of study remained, but little changed from that of the old time; for the new learning, which forty years ago was the learning of science, had barely reached the college. Science in name was there indeed, but not in spirit. Recitations and illustrative lectures constituted all the instruction in physics and chemistry which we received from men who later and elsewhere became the heads of great laboratories. Of laboratory work we had none. Our college indeed had laboratories, but they existed for the professor alone; and we used to wonder what the professor did in them; for I suppose that no other laboratories for physics and chemistry ever enjoyed such a situation as did these, which had a gymnasium above them and a bowling-alley beneath.
The case of the “new humanities” was still worse than that of science. We never heard of “sources” in history or in literature. We prepared our lesson from the text-book, recited and discussed it, and let the evil of the day suffice to itself without further question or debate. Elective studies offered us no problem worthy of the name. We might choose between one year of French and one of German. Otherwise, we all met in the same classes. We accepted the intellectual fare that the college set before us, asking no questions for conscience’ or any other sake. Latin, Greek, mathematics, and philosophy, all taught in a way now called “old-fashioned,” were still the backbone of our course, which lacked almost wholly the things which the undergraduate values in the college of to-day.
But simple and impoverished as such a course of study must seem to the present generation of students, I question whether those of us who were exercised thereby would greatly wish to exchange it for the far richer programme of the present time. For the limitations of the college of our day, which we recognize as freely as any one, were in some sense of the nature of virtues to the youth who sought it. We came to it with no delusions as to what the college would give us. We did not suppose that Livy and Demosthenes, calculus and natural theology, or any combination of these studies, would be of “practical value” to us in later life. We knew that the life of the college was dissociated from the life to follow it; that it led directly to no calling, to no profession. This was one reason for our going to college. We took four years of our youth and devoted them, quite unconsciously, to the intellectual life and to the ethical spirit. We accepted that life as we found it in the college; not, indeed, without grumbling, — the immemorial and dearest privilege of the undergraduate, — but without thought of altering its conditions, and at bottom without seriously desiring to do so. The absence of electives was by no means an unmixed ill. It was not our duty to forecast our future lives and to imagine the result upon them of selecting this study or that; for all studies were equally removed from any profession except that of a teacher, and in no case was there opportunity for choice.
This freedom from responsibility was, no doubt, a loss to us on one side, but in other directions it was no small gain. We were free from a host of considerations alien to the work of the college. Our minds and hearts during our college lives were within the college walls, and we were the more readily subject to the influences of the place. If the methods of teaching history, English, and science were imperfect, there were compensating advantages. At least, we had no assigned collateral reading, nor required notes, and literature came to us in the form of pleasure rather than of work. If we had no laboratory courses, we had at least the time which the laboratory would have demanded. When the day’s lessons had been prepared, we still had leisure to waste or to improve at will. As I look back, I feel that many hours of my college life, wasted on ineffective work for natural history collections, in loitering in the remoter alcoves of the library, in turning over old and forgotten books, have in time yielded me a far larger harvest than much of my serious work. I have found that the intellectual fun of college life has given me quite as much as its labors.
Thus we sought and we gained, both from work and from play, each according to his desires and his capacity, an entrance to the intellectual life. We acquired, most of us without becoming conscious of the fact, the rudiments of a liberal education — the education of a free man in a free state; the education which, preparing him for no particular calling, fits him for a life of freedom. We caught a glimpse of the liberating truth; of that wisdom which makes one not wholly alien or ill at ease in the silent society of the leaders of the thought and life of all ages, nor out of place in the company of those whose lives to-day are guided by the wisdom of the past and inspired by the vision of the future.
The life of the college a generation ago was, then, a spiritual life, freed from all considerations both of professionalism and of practicality. Devoid of all direct relations to the life which was to follow, it was free to work out its own ideas as it never had been before, and as it is not now. The intellectual life, lived in an ethical spirit: this was central to the college a generation ago, and a youth could do far worse than spend four years in close contact with that spirit. Do I too greatly exalt the life which I shared for four years? I think not, for its defects are clearly before me as I write. I recognize that much of its teaching was such as would not be tolerated to-day in any college of high rank. I see clearly enough its narrowness, its absurdities. When I think of the use, or rather non-use, to which it put the scientific abilities of its faculty, I must both smile at the situation and grieve at our losses. Yet if I idealize it in spite of these faults, in spite of years spent in helping to build up a college of another type, is not this fact itself the strongest evidence that I can give of the power of that life and of the quality of its spiritual character?
But what sort of an education came from a course of study thus conceived and thus carried out ? What preparation for modern life could the student get from a course that offered practically no science, no history, and small German and French? Without electives, how could it be adapted to varying tastes and necessities? Can we call such a course of study adequate, or can we fairly name it a liberal education ?
Shall we agree to test this old-fashioned course by Milton’s still older definition of a liberal education ? To my thought, two and a half centuries have neither mended nor bettered his conception. “I call, therefore,” he said, “a complete and generous education that which enables a man to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously all of the offices, public and private, both of peace and war.” Let us try our college course by each of Milton’s words severally. Can we say that it enabled us to perform “skillfully” the offices of life ? I can hardly claim this virtue for it and yet say, as I do, that the course of study was detached from life. Assuredly, we must mark it very low as rated by this test.
“Justly” — the word gives us longer pause, and we must consider what it is to perform justly the offices of society. If we mean accurately, construing justice in the strict and narrow sense, I fear that our college of a generation ago must be ranked low in this respect also. Its course of study afforded no adequate basis for an accurate weighing of competing claims, of conflicting duties, or of clashing interests. But construe the word more broadly, and we shall rate the college much higher. Is the sense of just proportion cultivated by that course of study which, during four years, attempts to make the soul sensitive to those forces of the invisible world whose presence is not readily felt in the hurry and bustle of life ? Is justice disclosed in a nice weighing of claims which stand on the same basis, or in the power to set over against the mass of the things of the visible world those things which, being not seen, are eternal? May not those most wisely adjust the claims of conduct who have not indeed been taught very much about its rules and methods, but who have spent four years amid high thoughts and in worthy company and with worthy examples? If we assent to this view, then must we admit that the old-fashioned college course highly fulfilled this part of Milton’s conception.
But “ magnanimously”— what shall we say to this term, which so triumphantly closes Milton’s triad of qualities, whose sound in the ear is worthy of the “ mightymouthed inventor of harmonies,” and whose sense awakens the soul to surprise and delight ? What did Milton mean by “magnanimously”? He might well accept that definition which Bacon had given to the word a generation earlier: “ Magnanimity no doubt consisteth in contempt of peril, in contempt of profit, and in the meriting of the times wherein one liveth.” These are lofty terms, and we graduates may well shrink from testing our lives by them, lest, as in Bacon’s case, the wide difference between teaching and practice appear too plainly. Yet as I look around me at the college men of my generation and see their work for their times, I can but feel that their alma mater showed them somewhat of this magnanimity. Can we older men stand, each in the forum of his own conscience, and claim that here I acted in contempt of peril, there I rejected profit, and in this respect I have done somewhat to better my times ? If we can do this, do we not feel that in this we were but worthy children of alma mater?
Wherever we must in justice pronounce that our actions have lacked her magnanimity, do we not feel it as at once our deepest condemnation and our bitterest regret that we have fallen away from her spirit and her wide view of life ? However weak we ourselves may have been in the face of moral danger, we are sure that alma mater lived “ in contempt of peril.” However heavy the dollar may have weighed in the scales of our motives, she at least lived “ in contempt of profit.” However pitiful the remainder of benefit which the world receives from our lives, hers was unselfishly devoted to “meriting the times wherein she lived.”
When the college of a generation ago planned the training for the offices of life which its students should receive, it set little store by skill. It supposed that the graduate would acquire this in later life, in the natural order of events, and as a matter of course. It expected its graduates to live justly, rather because of a quickened moral sense than from a trained and discriminating judgment. The emphasis of its reading of Milton’s definition was placed on the word “magnanimously.” Out of the three terms which define a liberal education, this was the one which the Lord had given to the college; not indeed to be in its mouth, but in its heart; and therefore the college of forty years ago furnished its students with the rudiments of a liberal education. This it did in spite of a limited programme of studies, in spite of narrow views of education, of inadequate resources, of methods already antiquated. It succeeded in spite of these and other defects, and in some sense by means of them. It succeeded because it was able to inspire its alumni with some portion of its own intellectual sympathies, of its ethical purposes, of its spiritual temper.
But a generation which has changed all things educational has not spared the college, and in the early seventies it stood on the brink of great and radical alterations, already foreshadowed in its actual conditions. First among the influences which have wrought these changes, I should place the enlargement of the curriculum; then, the introduction of research; and, third, the increase in the number of students. All these forces have acted and reacted upon one another in most complex fashion, but all have tended to the same general results. They have increased the emphasis on the intellectual rather than on the moral elements of a liberal education, and have made the college definitely and avowedly a preparatory school for life.
Consider the effect of the first of these forces: the enlargement of the curriculum. The beginnings of this movement go far back beyond the days of which I speak. In 1870 the larger universities already had numerous elective courses of study. Modern languages had long been taught, though none of them yet dared claim a place beside the classics. Science had become a necessary part of technical courses, and university laboratories for chemistry and physics, and even for biological science, were by no means unknown. But the college world as a whole knew little of modern language or of science. For the student of forty years ago a college education still meant classics, mathematics, and philosophy. Yet the college was about to discover science and to learn something of the scientific method, and of its possibilities as an educational instrument.
In the world outside, there was raging the storm of scientific controversy, very little of whose violence — astonishingly little — penetrated into the quiet retreat of the college. But the contest over Darwinism meant that men were thinking about science with an intensity, and to an extent, never before known in human history, and which will probably never be known again. Science thus won without the college the right to full recognition within it. It was no longer to be recited, to be lectured about in brief courses for general information and as a relief from severer studies. It demanded full and equal admission to the college course; and but a few years were to pass before that demand was granted and every college had its laboratories for all the fundamental sciences.
The college world was committed, not only to teach about science, but to that vastly different and harder thing, to teach science. Important changes followed this enlargement of the curriculum. The new laboratory courses demanded numerous teachers, and thus were introduced into faculties new men, trained by other methods than those of the old college, who brought with them a new temper and new ideals. Laboratory courses demanded time. Science teachers asked for their departments, not a secondary, but a coordinate place in the curriculum. Thus arose the necessity for still further changes. The old scheme of studies no longer fitted the new conditions, and the full acceptance of the elective system in some form became a mere necessity. This was a radical innovation in the college course, and one which altered both the nature of the course and the attitude of the student toward it and toward his work.
The multiplication of courses did not stop with the sciences. The modern languages began to assert their rights as disciplinary studies, and to take position alongside of the older courses in the ancient languages. When, in the eighties and nineties, men turned their thoughts from science and its message regarding man’s origin, to questions of government, to social and economic problems, they sought the answers from history, from economics, from political science, and sociology. They sought answers which the general and elementary courses of the college could not give, and the college was forced to widen the scope of its curriculum. Thus the mere necessity of responding to the movement and development of public thought forced upon the colleges a reorganization of their courses of study — a revolution which has resulted in completely changing the intellectual balance of power in the faculty, and which has altered at every point the temper of the student’s life.
But a change even more fundamental was at hand. No event in modern higher education in the United States is more significant than the foundation of Johns Hopkins University in 1876. With this event, research, and training for research, made their official entrance into American college life. I do not mean to say that these were unknown before that date. Higher degrees were well known, and graduate study, and even graduate schools had been established. But all these were still more or less incidental and accessory. They had not been a necessary part of the earlier college. Its professors were indeed supposed to be learned in the lore of their professions. They must be able to teach the known, but it was by no means necessary that they should have either the taste or the ability to seek the unknown. Neither the college nor the professor included research within the sphere of duty. But the advent of Johns Hopkins University changed all this. Research became fundamental, and training for research an indispensable factor in the equipment of the college professor.
If the enlargement of the curriculum introduced new types of men into college faculties, and if the result of the elective system changed the attitude of the student toward his work, this introduction of research far more fundamentally altered the spirit of the faculty toward its duties. As the new men, trained in the new method, assumed control of college teaching, it became plain that nothing short of a revolution had occurred. The temper of the new men differed from that of their predecessors. They were drawn to their profession by a different complex of motives. The excellences of the best men were widely various under the two systems, and the defects of the failures were quite as different.
It cannot be too clearly seen that the old college course concerned itself primarily with conduct, with that conduct which we students practiced without knowing it, until Arnold defined it and told us that it was nine-tenths of life. The spirit of research seeks the things of the mind for their own sake. Here is the first and fundamental distinction, and one that involved far-reaching consequences. For both student and teacher the subject became central where once the man was placed. The enlargement of knowledge came first rather than the development of character. The older college placed before its students a careful selection of “ the best things said and thought,” and asked them to remain for four years, to study these things and to gain from them a criticism of life. I do not mean that the college was so stupid as to put this purpose before its students in this way, but this was what it really did; and, so doing, it held its students within the area of the known, as near as might be to the spiritual centre of the known.
But the new temper of research was unhappy in this region. It was restless until it. had escaped from the pleasant parks and well-ordered gardens, where learning had loved to stay. It sought the wilderness of the unknown that it might add it to the known. Thus great additions were made to the realm of knowledge— a rough, uncultivated country, or half-cultivated at best, devoid of pleasure to those trained in the old learning. Research rapidly charted it, annexed large areas, and called on its students to follow and complete the occupation of the land. They heard the call; they responded to it; and each, as he entered the country, found duties suited to his nature. Here was still the great unknown world beyond the border, irresistibly attracting the explorer; here were the pleasures, as well as the hardships, of the pioneer. Here, for the vast majority, was that unadventurous and far less inspiring labor by which the former frontier is, through toil and time, converted into the home of civilization.
Thus a new type of teacher was developed. The old professor had become one because he wanted to teach. At the best, he became a master of men, rather than a master of his subject. Look at the great teachers of philosophy in American colleges during the nineteenth century. How much attention does the philosophical world of to-day give to their contributions to their department ? Hopkins and McCosh, Hickok and Porter — their works do not lie to-day on the table of the philosophical student. These men were teachers; to the problems of life as young men conceived them, they applied the fundamental ideas of philosophy as they conceived it. In human life, enriched and ennobled, in a pervasive social influence, exercised by them and their students, they had and have their high reward; not in their contributions to philosophy, still less in the schools of philosophy which they founded. Such was the older type of the professor at the best, he who best incarnated the spirit of the older college. At the worst he was a repeater of the traditions and platitudes of his subject, incapable of guiding his students to an outlook on learning or on life.
The new professor became one primarily because he was interested in a department of learning and desired to study it. He did not find in teaching, in the presentation of his subject to undergraduates, the fulfillment of his purposes in life; he felt rather that teaching was a duty, whose performance gave him the opportunity for research. Thus the centre of his interest and of his influence has shifted from the older position, and the results of his work are correspondingly changed. At the best, his studies enrich learning with new and fundamental conceptions; his teaching attracts those who share his spirit of research, and he founds a school in his department; at the worst, he mechanically presents the details of a subject whose details he loves to study, but whose general truths and vital principles he is unable to grasp.
While these changes were going on in the body of the college’s teaching, in the temper of its students, and in the personnel and spirit of its faculty, a third line of alteration was in progress, full of significance to the life of the college. If one is sufficiently interested in statistics to plot the curve of college attendance by years, he will find that the curve rises slowly, or remains nearly stationary, until the later eighties, and then begins to rise rapidly and with an increasing rapidity to the present time. This means that the college was discovered by the public at about the date named. The “ silver sea” which served this “little world”
Or as a moat defensive to a house,”
was crossed, and a new population swarmed into “ this blessed plot, this earth, this realm,” whose secluded happiness I have sketched.
Seclusion has become a thing of the past, and modern life with its rush and hurry pervades the college campus. I do not think that the college has ever enjoyed the change. Sometimes it has struggled against it, multum reluctans, but vainly; more often it has contented itself with regrets for the past, and has looked back wistfully to older days. But the discovery was inevitable, and the results of the discovery equally so. So long as the college expected the public to accept its terms, to accept the education which it offered, or to leave it alone, it was safe from practical considerations. But when once it opened the door to modern knowledge, to modern methods, and to modern life, they naturally entered and dwelt with it. The college meant to open the door but a little way. It did not invite these new guests to share the house on equal terms, but it found that, when once they had established themselves, they were no longer guests but members of the family. The new college, thus constituted, had necessarily a new life and a new spirit. It stood in new relations to the rest of the world. No longer master of a little world of its own, it had become the servant of a larger people.
Thus the college of to-day is to be contrasted rather than compared with that of forty years ago. Outer form and inner spirit have alike changed. Familiarity with the facts does not render less startling the increase in the numbers of teachers and students to-day as compared with those of the past; nor do we cease to wonder at the multiplication of buildings, and at the growth of endowments, at a rate unexampled in history. But these evidences of material change are slight beside the spiritual and educational differences.
It is by no means my purpose to pronounce a eulogy on the “ good old times.” For one reason, I am not yet old enough to do it gracefully. For another, my work since I left college has been to aid in building up a college of the newer type, in which I heartily believe. All of the alterations which I have described have been, on the whole, for the best. The movement has been natural, necessary, inevitable; it has been upward as well as onward, and we who have given our years to help it forward have done so without the necessity for justification or apology. Yet we are not without regret for the life that has been left, while we welcome the new life into which we have entered. We hail the spirit of research, — the most fundamental of the changes which I have named, — we see the mighty intellectual uplift which it has contributed to our colleges. Yet it still may be permitted to us to regret the fine enjoyment of letters, the sense of elegant leisure, and of cultured pleasure, some part of which our colleges have lost. We are proud of the fact that our colleges yield to the community a more complete, a larger service than in the past. Yet we need not be ashamed to regret that in losing that narrowness which limited the influence of the older college, something of her independence has gone, and with it some part of that which made her influence precious.
In a word, we have paid a price for our new possessions; not an exorbitant price, I think; indeed, I believe it a small one to pay for great gains. Yet paid it has been and still must be; and, until fully paid, the college will suffer from the debt. The experimental method has become habitual to us. Nothing is fixed; nothing settled. The very narrowness of the old college, both in purpose and method, made that purpose and method clear and consistent; but we who are continually adjusting and readjusting come at last to lose the sense of aim and to abandon method. We who are members of faculties have frankly given up the task of prescribing courses of study as an impossible one. We say that only omniscience can wisely prescribe a college course. We abandon the task as beyond our collective wisdom, and we look for the omniscience necessary to comprehend the possibilities of a college catalogue to the youth or maiden of eighteen, whom the high school sends to us. We do not desire technical studies in our college of liberal arts, but the more we read our catalogues, the more clearly we admit that we do not know what is a liberal and what a technical study. We end by admitting almost, or quite, all to our curriculum, and if we rule out any we are quite sure that we have admitted that which had as little claim. We do not wish to become preparatory schools for law or medicine. Yet we find that we must meet the fair and legitimate needs of our students who are to enter these professions. Thus we move: often drifting; always ill at ease with ourselves, because our plans and our methods are tentative and hesitant. Our aims, too, are incoherent. Do we desire to cultivate the intellectual life in our students, to prepare them for professional study, or to select out of the mass of students the few who are fit for research and to train them ? Or would we adhere to the traditional function of the older college? We would do all of these things; do them at once and in the same classes. No wonder that we fail to see just how to direct our teaching so as to secure results so diverse, so irreconcilable.
With this hesitation there has come a distraction of spirit. We have lost the “ sweet serenity of books,” and we have not gained the freedom of pure research. We have lost the independence born of detachment from life, and have not gained the poise of practical efficiency. We have lost the sense of the mastery of ourselves and of our public, and in all things we have become experimental. In brief, we have suffered, and are suffering, from that distraction of spirit which always accompanies great and rapidly acquired gains; gains too large to be quickly mastered or readily put to full and easy use.
What then shall we say of the college of the present if we bring it to Milton’s test ? Its graduates have far more skill than those of a generation or more ago. Numerous and widely varied courses bring into her class-rooms for discussion the principles which underlie every part of life. In a hundred ways the student is made to see for himself, to think for himself,— granting that he has any capacity for thought,—where his father was only made to learn. Skill of both brain and hand is cultivated in a score of laboratories. If the college graduate of to-day does not enter on life more skillful than his father did, it is surely his own fault.
If the college of to-day is inferior to its predecessor in enabling its graduates to act justly, this is mainly because so many of them choose a course which deals with knowledge rather than with action. They will find, I think, less of inspiration with that increased knowledge, but if not so highly motived, their performance or duty will be more discriminating. They will have also the advantage that their thoughts have been turned to the problems for whose solution there is needed a discriminating justice. It was possible that the very elevation and consequent remoteness of the ideals of the old college should allow the graduate to hold them as matters for his leisure alone, not as a part of the motives for business and for public life. The graduate of to-day cannot fail to remember the teachings of his college on historical and social problems, as these press upon him in the first years of his active life for that answer which comes with practical decision ; nor can he fail to be guided toward a broader and wiser justice in reaching his decisions.
I hesitate to touch the last term lest I should be misunderstood; yet we must face the question: do the changes in college life tend toward a larger magnanimity ? I do not think that we can fairly answer in the affirmative. I know that it is easy to be mistaken on this point. It is easy for us old graduates to see in the life of our own college days a greater magnanimity than was really present, and it is still easier for us to have a keen sense of the faults of to-day and to be insensitive toward its underlying strength of purpose. There has been an enormous increase of intellectual possessions, an increased attention to problems of knowledge rather than of conduct, a rapid multiplication of points of contact with the outside world, and a response to the demand of the world for skill. All these changes tend to usefulness, to increased efficiency, but not to magnanimity. Here is no indictment of the modern college, no thought that her life will not now, as in the past, inspire her sons and daughters, no suspicion that they will not play their full and worthy part in the world of tomorrow, as their fathers are doing in the world of to-day. It is a recognition at once of the fact that part of the price of progress has been a decline in the fine spirit of magnanimity, and of the duty which lies on the college to renew that spirit on wider and more secure conditions than those of the past.
I have ever believed that these ills are “ growing pains,” and that in growth lies their only cure. We might as well agree at once that there will be no return to old conditions and methods. Men may, if it pleases them, talk eloquently of “ harking back to the humanities,” and no doubt the humanities will play a larger part in the college of the future than they do to-day, but they will never occupy the whole stage as they once did. The college curriculum is permanently enlarged. Very likely it has grown too far in certain directions. It probably includes less than it ought in other directions, and unquestionably any abridgment of its courses on one side will be more than offset by growth on others. The last forty years have enlarged the charter of liberal education, and the college catalogue only reflects this fact. We shall never return to the old, simple, self-centred college of the past. Our way out is the way on, and progress is the only solution of our difficulties. Time will bring with it an increasing mastery of our materials. We shall sooner or later cease to be always experimenting with everything. We shall still have enough material for experiment, but all studies will not always be in a state of unstable equilibrium. With this mastery of our material of teaching will come a clarifying of our purposes. We members of faculties will see again pretty clearly that some things in education are good for certain intellectual purposes. We shall venture to say so; and, when we do this, students will trust our judgment. Seeing our purposes, and understanding how to adjust our teaching so as to attain them, we shall directly seek such ends and consciously shape our courses of study so as to reach them.
There will be an enlargement of ideas, on the side of both student and teacher. The student will not cease to look to the college for a practical preparation for life, but he will enlarge his ideas of practicality. He will see that there is something practical in preparing for living, as well as in preparing for work. Many of the members of our senior classes today have shaped their college course with reference to the future study of medicine or of law. A generation later their sons will not be so eager as were their fathers to confine their college studies to the sciences immediately antecedent to their profession. Years will have brought a larger wisdom to the fathers and they will have learned that life, even for a physician, consists in something beyond the abundance of bacteriology and pathology. The coming lawyer may learn that it is not wholly practical for him to make his undergraduate course as nearly a legal one as is permitted by the conditions of election in his college. I am even so optimistic as to think it not impossible that even the general public will revise its notions of practicality. At any rate, my experience as a teacher has seen one complete change of judgment in this matter. When I began to teach zoölogy my teeth were continually set on edge by the well-meaning friends who talked wisely of the practical nature of the study of science as contrasted with language. For the past fifteen years, or more, I have heard nothing of this. All are now aware that the study of science is no more practical, and no less so, than is the study of philosophy. To-day that “practicality” which once seemed to inhere in science is placed in the study of history and of economics. In fifteen years more the world may have learned that these new humanities are chiefly valuable, not as furnishing practical guides to the affairs of active life, but because they stand with the old humanities, with the sciences, with philosophy, as furnishing a way into the intellectual life. It may well be that students will learn that in coming to college they are seeking the intellectual life, and that the way in which they reach it matters little, so that the result have in it abundant vitality and many points of growth.
On the side of the faculties I look for the more complete recognition of the spirit of culture along with that of research. This process is already advanced in the departments of language. We rarely see to-day those extremes of science to which our language-teaching tended a decade, or more, ago. Even candidates for the doctorate of philosophy are not set to work to count and tabulate the particles in an author’s works, and throughout the ranks the students are more humanely treated. Yet such change comes readily in these departments, because the region of the known is so large and that is so small which is at once unknown and knowable. In the sciences it will long be difficult to secure courses for culture. The unknown world of science is so vast, so close, that it beckons the student with an irresistible attraction. When the fields of knowledge are white to the harvest, it is not easy for the teacher to avoid recruiting laborers for them and setting them to work. Yet here, too, we shall find ways and methods for making the truths of science more available than they now are for training the average unscientific student, who does not expect to be a scientist, but who does need such a turn to his mind that he can orient himself in a world whose movement comes to depend more and more on science.
Progress toward shaping the college course for its proper work will be hastened by that revival of the ethical spirit in college which has already begun, and which will go on with increasing rapidity. The spirit of research, like any new ideal, has so filled our minds as to belittle older ideals and make them seem old-fashioned and inadequate. Time will give us a better perspective, and we shall learn that the art of adjusting the subject to the mind of the college student is as difficult and as worthy of study as is the enlargement of the subject itself. The student will take his due place in the teacher’s mind, not to the obscuring of the importance of the study, as was the case in the past; not hidden and dwarfed behind the subject, as is too often the case at present. They will stand side by side, and the teacher’s main problem will be how to adjust one to the other, so that the study may enlarge the student’s life and the student may come to share — though it may well be in small degree — the life of the study.
Thus the college of to-day has given first place in its curriculum, in its thought, and in its life, to the first of Milton’s triad of qualities. It is seeking first of all to give its graduates skill in performing the offices of life. It places no low or unworthy meaning on the word. It aims at no result to be reached by precept. It seeks no cheap or hasty practicality. The skill sought is that which comes from the mastery of principles. The college attempts also to fit its students to deal justly in society, and for this result it looks to a careful training in the principles which underlie society, rather than to the free working of a general moral impulse. The college aims to secure for its graduates that magnanimity of which culture is a part, and which, like culture, can never be directly sought or inculcated. Yet this part of its purposes has been obscured by the response which it has made to the new and vigorous demands of a changing social order. New conditions have brought to the front new ideals, which for a time disturbed the balance of its life. The old life will not return, and if it could do so we should be even more dissatisfied with it than with the present. Neither reaction nor revolution will hasten the working of the vital forces which are perfecting the new life, whose adjustment will be reached as the new motives find their place beside the older. The new college will not swing back into the old life; but, embodying a higher skill than its predecessor, as well as a truer justice and a wider magnanimity, will yield to its students a more “ complete and generous education.”