All signs seem to point in the same direction. From the primary school to the university, from the kindergarten to the vocational life, there seems to arise in our day a demand for greater thoroughness and effort and serious concentration. A hundred symptoms indicate, and serious educators proclaim, that a turn of the road is near. There may have been a time- perhaps it is only a legend - when education had become ineffective through its formalism and rigidity. The children were forced by severe methods to do work repugnant to them. The prescribed studies of the college boys were dry and tiresome. It must have been a depressing kind of instruction in which the best energies of the youth were insistently subdued. A great reaction had to come. School-time was to be made a period of happiness, the child was to learn only what he liked, the college boy was to study only that which seemed interesting. Only that which appealed to the taste and to the attention was deemed worthy of the classroom. Instead of formal training, at last we had instruction which really opened to the boys and girls a gay-colored world where they might enjoy themselves to their heart's content. It was a period in which the children were no longer ordered, but begged and persuaded; in which the abundance of elective courses made a handsome volume out of the announcements of the smallest college; athletics flourished, and in the school all, with the exception of the teachers, had a good time.
But now in the zigzag movement of educational progress, a new countermovement seems imminent. We have been trying the national experiment long enough to test its results. We have seen the girls who have been educated in the high schools with "current events," and the boys who were no longer molested by the demand for Greek. But the outcome seemed more disappointing than ever. Every one who was not deceived by a showy exterior soon discovered the mental flabbiness and superficiality which resulted from the go-as-you-please methods. We began to feel that those who had never learned to obey never really became their own masters; those who had never trained their attention by forcing their will toward that which is unattractive had to learn by severe disappointments later that a large part of every life's work must be drudgery. The youth left the school with a hundred things in their minds, but without any power of intellectual self discipline.