AN English critic, unable to bear an English poet’s broken metre, with its orchestral suiting of sound to sense, at length cried aloud to the British public, —
‘If we are to arrogate to ourselves poetic license such as this, what is to become of the iambic pentameter?’
To which one of his public very reasonably inquired, —
‘Whose iambic pentameter?’
And this is the kind of question
which some of us would ask of those whose alarm is unbounded at the deleterious effect which, since college doors opened to women, feminine influence is said to be having on education. On whose education? To whom does education belong, anyway? For we seem to be having always laboriously to prove the ancient, evident, fact that education is not a thing at all, that it is only a name for the unfolding of human life. The thing with which we are concerned, then, is simply how education affects this unfolding; what, on the students themselves, are the reactions of coeducation. There is no other issue involved.
We have never said co-playing or codancing or co-serving. When we have talked, sung, observed, traveled, rejoiced in the sun, wondered about life, been conscious of the Substance of things, we have done it all without the prefix co. We do these things simply, act in them as human beings, know them for our common province. They unfold us from within. They co-unfold us, only we have never troubled to say it that way. But when this unfolding began to be valued, and men pursued it deliberately, and when, much later, it was recognized that the sooner the whole race shared in it the better, and women began to respond to it too; and when human beings, in a common plight, moving to a common destiny, seriously undertook the great business of self-conscious development — then education ceased to be a sufficient term. We divided it. And to one half of it we gave a co.
Now in reality we thus made a beautiful word, a word as beautiful in content as coöperation, or coalition, or coincidence; carrying a sense of fellowship; meaning together, jointly; having a human tang that is thrilling, electric, intentional. But at once an amazing thing happened. Prefixed to education, co somehow developed in the word a new property, a property which speedily transformed everything else about it: it developed an import of gender. All the merely human significance of the word vanished. As poets, handworkers, scientists, tradesmen, publicists, industrial slaves, prophets, we disappeared from the scene. The word coeducation, the unfolding of all of us, the leading out of our common divinity from our common humanity, fell in bondage, had one of its implications over-specialized, and now connotes merely the process of educating together the two sexes, as such. This psychology is not unfamiliar. It may be that of an elemental people who regard the distinction as one representing differences alone; it may be that of an intellectualized, somewhat intuitionized people who regard the distinction as the symbol of complements. To the former, sex has always been a kind of final word and wall. To the latter it will be a window and a door.
Meanwhile, being neither as elemental as we were nor as wise as we shall be, we may as well face the word in its ordinary application, and to do so is to reduce a statement of the issue involved to this: —
Since in the world there is to be coexistence of the members of the human race, their co-use of products, their codevelopment of more products, their co-labor for the future of the race, their co-aspiration to a dim co-destiny, what will be the probable effect upon them if we permit them to have co-education too?
In the ancient pastime of judging we not infrequently make the ancient mistake of confusing the idea of a thing with the method in which that idea is being expressed. ‘We have not achieved social justice: Democracy is a failure’ — this kind of argument still deceives. We know well that we are continually obliged to try to express spiritual values by the use of physical terms; yet when we are called upon to judge some created physical envelope, we forget our synthesis and, instead of analysis, put faith in what we see.
If we put faith in what we see of coeducation, we are of course obliged to admit that after fifty years and more of experimentation in America the effect of coeducation on the students undergoing it is not wholly desirable. Similarly, after uncounted thousands of years of living, the experience of individuation is not always operative to develop the Substance so expressed. But if we are wise, we shall voluntarily abandon neither coeducation nor living, on account of conclusions important only as they furnish bases for examination and modification. And the reactions from four years of educational life are important in our seekings for democracy — and for other things.
This conclusion regarding the present partial failure of coeducation we may reach while still regarding as negligible in our consideration those institutions where coeducation is as yet markedly undeveloped, or abandoned for a compromise; where, for example, men and women students are assembled for four years of propinquity—not of real association; where the term ‘co-ed,’ with a feminine connotation, is not only stupid, as it always is, but is anathema as well; where ‘co-eds’ are in one class, and one’s friends and one’s sisters and one’s sweethearts are in another class; where to no man intent on propriety does it occur to appear at promenade, or formal reception, or even hop, with a woman student of his own college; where, in short, the order of things is as false to the habit of any other social group as to the habit of life. Obviously, such a condition will in some respects result perniciously. But this situation is so baldly a rudimentary development that in considering ultimate values it need not enter. Nor in a discussion of the effect of coeducation on students need those institutions be considered wherein is practised the compromise of segregation. Segregation is to coeducation what class-conscious government is to democracy.
But even in those institutions where men and women meet as normally and casually as they will be meeting in later life, coeducation now has certain deleterious effects. Stated, their causes have a mediæval look; but then we, too, are mediæval, and so, in a consideration of ultimate values, we should know how much to allow to current prejudices at this stage of our evolution. Which is to say, we should exercise a god-like intuition. And so we should.
There are, for example, the effects of sex-repulsion. There comes wide testimony to the effect that in coeducational institutions, classes in political economy, sociology, logic, and law are largely made up of men, while literature and ‘æsthetics’ generally are elected by women, somewhat to the exclusion in each case of the other sex. Each sex is said to be found refusing to elect branches popular with the other. And some educators have admitted that they see no way out of this, since the more frequently women enter courses, the more definitely do men shun these courses, and vice versa, until the progression and retrogression proceed automatically. And this tendency is actually resulting, it is affirmed, in ‘natural segregation,’ due to sex-repulsion, a phenomenon long incident to social life and as a matter of course reasserting itself as soon as a common intellectual training for the two sexes is institutionalized. Sexrepulsion would thus appear to indicate biological grounds against coeducation which no arbitrary opening of college doors to men and women has overcome, — ‘ can ever overcome,’ some have put it.
But this is not all. There is also sexattraction. There comes wide testimony that in coeducational institutions there enter a large number of women whose function appears to be chiefly social, in the narrowest sense of that word. Every year sees an influx of these young women, whose popularity is based on their ability to make themselves centres of masculine admiration. Serious-minded men, who would otherwise be intent on serious study, are immeasurably distracted. At the very time of life when all their energies should be spent in preparation, these men are bent on ‘social’ offices, are falling in love, becoming engaged, with the incident entailing of economic readjustment in an effort to live up to a hostage so early assumed. Also, although this is far less frequently urged, the young women themselves, who might be leading sober lives at some female college, are diverted and overstimulated. For it is observably not the intellectual leaders among the young women who thus become disturbing influences. It is the ‘socially fit.’ We might ponder this antithesis, to such random lengths has gone our sense of the phrase ‘socially fit.’ This wholesale disturbance is due to sexattraction, long incident to social life, to be sure, but appearing to indicate biological grounds against coeducation which no arbitrary opening of college doors to men and women has overcome.
There is no doubt at all, so wide is the testimony, that these extremes of both conditions do now exist to some extent in coeducational institutions; and that both carry harmful consequences. But granting that they do exist, and that they are harmful, it is well to get on to the heart of the matter; for to be alarmed by these appearances may be much like ‘letting straws tell the wind which way to blow.’
Here is the hackneyed historical sequence (and for the present purpose we may neglect its materialistic interpretation, which is that the education of women was begun, and continues, because it pays; because educated women are now of greater economic value to the state, though to the state of the past they were useful exclusively as bearers of children and of domestic burdens): —
First, we have women’s ignorance of their need of ‘higher; education, while they were busy bearing and rearing children to balance the ravages of war and famine and disease. Then, women’s own recognition of their need and its denial by men. Next, women’s gradual, grudged, admission to institutions of learning through the tedious compromise of ‘normal’ courses and female colleges, on the same campus with the men and under the same faculty, but rigidly separate. And now, their present state of advance — their admission to some colleges as ‘co-ed’ and anathema, to others in segregated classes, to some in full citizenship, with still by far the greatest number of women taking college courses in either one of the first two groups or in women’s colleges.
Is it great wonder that in these mediæval days of 1914 sex-repulsion should still be manifesting itself somewhat in the coeducational colleges? Not many women, tending to elect the immemorial French and literature courses, and to shun sociology, will realize that their impulse is based on the long need of women to be accomplished within limits rather than to be abreast of life. Not one in a myriad of undergraduate men, feeling a smother of resentment at women’s presence in ‘his’ law class, or permitting himself a shrug at a ‘lady class,’or at ‘dope for the dames,’will recognize his shrug as a primal stirring which he felt ages ago when women were a part of his impedimenta. Yet this is what his shrug means, modified somewhat by the years, mixed with vanity, with egotism, with provincialism, but, not the less, still strong enough to commend itself in the breasts of living faculties and regents as a thing to be taken into account in the policy of institutions whose prime use is the development of the divinity in our humanity.
It is not surprising that the recognition should be slow; that women should first be allowed to enter law schools; then should be, with much indignant protest, admitted to state bars, and allowed to interpret the laws which they have studied; and then, much later and much more indignantly, should be given the right, of citizenship to help make and administer those laws which they are studying and interpreting. We need not be impatient with the process. But how can we make the mistake of taking any one of these phases as the norm? And this suggests that we might, if we were wise, express a wise wonder as to what the next step in that familiar historic sequence may be. Has it been going toward coeducation and working out the bad results of coeducation’s reactions? Or have we, at the line of sex, really now complacently sounded the dernier cri, and may we rest? Or is it not just possible that these flights of change may be bearing toward future coeducational students a power which is current with great portents? . . .
As a stumbling-block in the way of the success of coeducation, sex-attraction is obviously not less explicable than sex-repulsion. Here is no historic sequence, but an historic deadlock, down all the weary years when, to men, women have been valuable — and consequently able to get a livelihood for themselves — in proportion as they have been able to make themselves attractive, and able to exert that very power to distract, from work-a-day concerns. So we may as well pass over the fact that in these first years of the life of coeducation, certain of those women who seek coeducational institutions do come there crudely exercising all the old charm on which they have learned so well to depend for the very economic needs of life. Not one undergraduate girl in a myriad who in a coeducational institution has had her head turned by the successful exercise of her charm will recognize in that exercise her ancient office. Yet that is all that it is, becoming with the years in a variety of aspects more and more ignoble, less and less of an economic necessity, and nearer to recognition as a biological anomaly— that of ‘genus homo, of which alone the female wears the bright plumage and dances before the male.’ But the habit is still strong enough to foist itself upon us as a menace instead of as a long abuse of a relation still but dimly understood, an abuse whose remedy is slowly evolving from that coeducational companionship which the traditionists so fear.
The deterrent to the recognition of this companionship as a remedy has been the realization that although the future normal association of men and women in socialized coeducation, in socialized industry, in full citizenship, in all democracy, will clarify the relations of men and women, yet sex-repulsion and attraction will exist as long as does life. Extending from the time when youngish men put feathers in their hair and lurked outside the doors of caves and ran away when those primal beloved appeared, down through the time when a man and a woman try to see each other and then become tongue-tied or exasperated in each other’s presence, the law has been operative like that of any other rhythm, and will be so, at least until our area of consciousness is extended considerably beyond its present confines. That which is operative in the failures of coeducation is not the effect of this law, but the effect of certain abuses resulting from vanishing standards.
The whole area of the social life of coeducational institutions lies just here. And this, and not coeducation as such, is the heart of the problem.
Upon the social relations afforded by coeducation, a heterogeneous group of young people emerge abruptly from a variety of thresholds: thresholds radical, conservative, democratic, aristocratic, provincial, cosmopolitan, poor, rich. Most of these young people have this in common, that they stand at many beginnings: the first check-book, the first adventure in certain clothes and personal belongings, the first leisure that need not be accounted for, the first freedoms in countless walks. Also, each has his knapsack of dreams, dreams in which we are just beginning to realize how potently and vitally and wistfully gregariousness figures. This is normal and human; but many of these young folk arrive at college with an entire kit of measuring tools already made for them, and the selective process almost precedes the impulse to gregariousness. In their resultant social life, the standards are standards of social life as it has been obscurely reported to them: not a thing of human companioning, but a thing of display and competitive spending.
So it befalls that a portion of the student body is drawn into a social life which comes to exist almost independently of anybody’s wanting it there. Everything is prescribed. Every fraternity and sorority must have one or more ‘ formals ’ a year, and every class its party. Here are numerous social affairs already provided for in advance, plus the three-day celebration of the Junior Prom, the social functions of commencement week, and all the festivities of the games and of the rushing season. To these are added dinners and ‘informals’ and a varying amount of town entertaining, with whatever of the musical or dramatic can find a place. Upon all this the students enter willingly, with far more expense than many of them can afford — and who cannot understand? If the smart thing, the late thing, the spectacular thing is emulated by them, who is at fault but those who are being emulated ? And of course the answer is, as it almost always is, that those who are being emulated are victims too. The same thing, eternally economic, is the matter with the society of a coeducational institution — that little world
— that is the matter with the world outside.
Realizing, however, that something more immediately assailable is wrong, criticism strikes out and falls on the fallible field of number, and says that there will not be enough Fridays and Saturdays in the semesters to accommodate all these entertainments — that the other evenings will be invaded
— students will have their minds ‘taken from their work’ — in short, that when young men and young women are associated in college, the stimulation of their social life is a grievous il. And so it is — though this is often overstated, because to predicate all these social affairs of the majority of students is like adding up the thousand or so annual social functions of a little town and concluding that the village is populated by butterflies. Also, the matter has another side, in the lack of social stimulation of the students who are not ‘socially fit’ and who almost altogether miss a social life. But if one is going to attack the situation — and we ought to be attacking it instead of criticizing it — there is a thing more logically attackable than the mere number of the social affairs in which these college men and women participate, or which they miss. That is to say, the difficulty is not so much in the incidence of festivity as in the quality of a social life which is still tirelessly presenting itself in its elementary conditions.
Development after development takes place in the academic life: new departments are added, investigations are encouraged, appropriations increase, buildings multiply, both student body and faculty enlarge, the hands of state and educational institutions lock the more closely in proportion as waxes the wisdom of both; educationally, and little by little legislatively, the father-motherhood of the institution is felt; and yet that recreational life, hardly even second in importance to the academic, has, almost until this moment, failed to present itself as a problem with as inevitable a solution as, say, poverty; and has therefore been permitted to find itself at random; indeed, to lose itself in the pathetic attempt to take its uninvited place in the house of college life.
Above all other places, it is to coeducational institutions that the new evaluation of recreation should be vital. We developed the new social attitude toward recreation first among little children, and sought to fill the need for it in the kindergarten. To the public schools we are tending to give playgrounds with directed play, gymnasiums with a director, social centres in which pupils shall have a part. The building of the first stadia, the desultory production of outdoor plays, the occasional giving of pageants, certain commencement customs which have haltingly come into the educational colleges, all symbolize this new knowledge. But as yet there is no effort at all commensurate with the sovereign importance of the end, to standardize coeducational recreation, to put social life in its rightful place in coeducational curricula.
They are still frequently saying that it can never be done. They said that for a long time when it was proposed to standardize education itself. We have become so habituated to looking upon bad amusement as the bad private schools were looked upon, as legitimate commercialization, that box-offices, caterers, florists, garages, and expensive clothes are inextricably confused with our social conceptions. The fact that the desire for social life has a sound, democratic,uncommercial basis—that of the wish for human companionship — disappears behind the mock walls which we have built. There is sharp pathos in this, that after all this time, men and women in their official social capacity still confine themselves so largely to the rudiments of social communication, by means of a social life either commercialized or otherwise made prohibitive.
Is it too much to say that when the first folk had triumphantly developed the rudimentary stages of human communication in speech, they had done rather more toward the task of human socialization than ever we have done since?
There is, however, one rather fine contributing circumstance in our having so long continued, with more or less of consciousness, to regard as self-indulgence all recreation not engaged in as physical exercise — for we were a new world, and we were exceedingly busy. Once, in the daytime, as I was lying down, a woman of two generations gone observed to me with the utmost tolerance, —
‘I don’t blame you a bit.’
The thrill of the recognition of what that meant was like touching hands with generations of pioneers to whom rest, when it came at all, was all but stolen. But though we are now basing a whole new horizon of human efficiency on right rest, rhythmic rest, and though play in its simpler aspects we have come to value as a formative force, yet the average ‘social recreation’ we stiff regard as an indulgence, and either chide or loosely tolerate.
The country newspapers say of it: —
‘Revelry was frankly the order of the day.’
‘The time was then given over to social intercourse.’
‘Dancing was indulged in.’
‘The party dispersed, feeling that the evening had by no means been wasted, or, if wasted, then was well lost.’
And with this attitude we show exceeding good sense, withal, for the most of what we have so far developed in social life, as such, independent of its healthy incidental occurrence, is still so embryonic that we must consider our lapsing into it as akin to indulgence.
We must do better. And what finer opportunity could there be afforded for the further development of sane social life than coeducational life, whose social reactions are unquestionably as strong as those which are technically educational? The arraignment of ‘ too much society,’ and this accusingly thrown back on sex-attraction, holds the candle responsible for its blowing flame. The thing is as much greater than sex-attraction as life is greater than any one form of love.
We are beginning to make desultory and partially self-conscious attempts to face a query as to what, constructively, co-recreational life may come to mean, and our imaginations work with really marvelous rapidity. If only so much as we have now come upon were to be applied to coeducational social life, we should be some distance toward its development. Whatever else such development will involve, it will involve nothing paternalistic. As unsuccessful as the growth of undergraduate coeducational society is proving, it is far better than direction handed down from above. For the undergraduate generation is forever recasting the ideals of the faculty generation, and this is true in recreation not one whit less than in ethics; and the tendency is welcome.
Perhaps a shaping at the hands of representatives from the student body and from the faculty is the first possibility, with the coöperation of that community servant soon to be taken for granted not less than vocational teachers — the director of public recreation. In Wisconsin, the state university is recommending the appointment in every town of an assistant to the superintendent of education. The assistant shall be a superintendent of recreation, who shall bear to recreation the same relation that the present superintendent bears to the other aspects of education.
However such programmes may be worked out, already we have intimations of what the new recreation, when it is found, is going to include. For example, the development of an intelligent attitude — one may as well say the new attitude— toward drama, resulting, as the value of the amateur is more and more clearly revealed, in groups of young players presenting the vital classic and modern plays and meeting to read those plays; the whole area of pageantry, with its rich possibilities in a winter’s preparation of music, of folk-dancing, of dramatic entertainment; socialization through music; the vista just opened by the connection of the college with the college community through the departments of sociology, revealing activities involving social — not service and not coöperation, with an implication of task and teaching — but co-recreation, in the ‘foregathering of folks,’ with implications which are fascinating and absorbing those who are already participating in such foregathering. These intimations, however, hardly more than point toward the way; but the way is thereabout, just as certainly as the way lay fallow for the development of the other phases of education now partly provided for in the college curriculum.
Of all the kinds of places that there are, a coeducational institution is the place where seeds such as these should germinate. Here, as elsewhere, repressive measures are going to avail far less than the gospel of a wise substitution. And what could not have been done a decade ago finds its faint beginnings now at this high moment of what we call social awakening. Why, on its crest, should not coeducational social life begin to be socialized?
Even as we now practice it, my contention is whole-heartedly that the reactions of coeducational life, its insufficient social life included, are eminently more healthful than otherwise. Indeed, to the majority of us here in the Middle West, the contention long ago lost its savor; and when, a few years since, at the installation of a dean of women of one of the eastern colleges, the dean made her address a defense of coeducation, a graduate of a Middle Western university who had listened, said with real wonder, —
‘Should n’t you think that she would have chosen a modern problem?’
We used to discuss the effect of four years of masculine criticism upon the manners, conversation, and dress of young women. That was natural, for men were in possession and women, as late-comers, were subject to doctrine, reproof, and correction. At first we expected nothing new, but looked merely for the repetition of the ancient, simple process of women’s wish to please, somewhat intensified by constant association. But gradually a new thing became evident. Save in the minds of the preëminently ‘socially fit’ — still in its bad sense — this wish was not the ruling passion of university women. The ruling passion of university women was identical with the ruling passion of the university: development. And masculine criticism took its proper place, as a valued and effective means of influence, but not in any sense as a determinant. It is by no means that these university women are indifferent to the opinion of men. Only, as women’s means of livelihood multiply, women are ceasing to sacrifice to this opinion. And who is there to be recorded as deploring that?
So after a time we found ourselves discussing the effect of four years of feminine criticism upon the manners, conversation, and dress of young men. And few of us have ever heard a word implying that the effect of this criticism tends to be pernicious.
Then we said: ‘Now we must watch the effect on the young women of the stimulus of intellectual rivalry with the male mind.’ We did watch. And at length, of mothers who had had to let their minds lie fallow while they bent backs to the pioneer tasks, there came daughters as salutatorians and valedictorians, as ripe-minded women, as social servants. And we understood that the initial spur of competition with the masculine minds which were the flower of the racial development, had been forgotten in the simple discovery that women have minds too. Discovery of magnitude. We had lately conceded to them souls; now, under normal conditions, here they were, like the camel, occupying the tent. And how simply the university women wore this circumstance. Far from feeling an ill-bred satisfaction in keeping pace with their male companions, or a becoming shame in graceless new attainments, here they were unconscious of both. It may be confidently ventured that if the majority of women graduates of coeducational institutions were to be asked for the comparative average of scholarship of the men and women who were with them in their own university, they would have to write to their registrars to determine. For, in the language of the undergraduates themselves, —Who cares?
It may be that to a woman, a man is a greater stimulus in the classroom than is another woman. This may have been, in the beginning, a real factor. But there are those of us who would not regard an affirmation of this as one of the arguments in favor of coeducation, and who would consider it as altogether negligible. The type of woman who seeks a university education is not there to win out in competitive standings. In fact, she has begun to see that averages, and degrees themselves, have no great import, even as symbols. Rather, these women are beginning to have a sense of life, as such, and to relate to it their university experiences. Not the ‘socially fit,’ perhaps, and not always the grinds; merely the majority. Their faces are toward the new civilization whose child’s play may be competition and titles, but whose man-talk and woman-talk, and deed, are going to be concerning a simpler thing: growth.
The two ways in which women are chiefly benefiting from college association with men, of both the student and the faculty body, are perhaps: first, in winning to the human outlook, which men’s wide experience has given to many men, as distinguished from the restricted outlook to which woman’s household experience has largely confined her. Second, in winning to the understanding that athletics is not distinctively a masculine prerogative, but a human prerogative and duty; and that, as a deliberate encouragement to the super-race, Nature actually does not intend the fathers of the race to have strong bodies and the women of the race to remain in ‘ladylike’ underdevelopment. And for the late discovery and emphasis of this so obvious fact, we of to-day are deeply indebted to coeducational association.
The way in which men are chiefly benefiting by college association with women is perhaps in having their ideal of women recast. In the past there were occasionally men who chafed at the restricted lives of their wives and mothers; who understood that these creatures had somehow not yet come into their own, that they had been caught in a cul-de-sac of over-specialization to domestic duties and to sex, till the world should be peopled and science and economic conditions should help to free them; who had visions of the time when these other selves should bloom and glow in more abundant: life, and mother the next advance of the evolving thing folk are. And now it is being given to university men to see, faintly and far off, how these potentialities are on the way to fulfillment, and what the great-great-great grandmothers of the super-race will conceivably be like. And if some of them still shrug at a ‘lady-class’ — well, when the creature first struggled up out of the ooze, the ooze must have rocked with laughter.
These two sets of benefits are not lightly to be foregone. In a word, the best that men and women are develops in their normal companionship, because they are also intellectual and spiritual complements. Does this axiom then become operative with a click at Commencement? Does it in America exist through the high-school age, and lapse abruptly with matriculation, and revive by dint of a degree? Do not we believe that it becomes operative with life, and that it is our business to make of life, including education, a condition under which this law shall always be operative?
The healthful and diseased reactions of coeducational life are identical with the healthful and diseased reactions of society, and they are not other. The reactions of coeducational life, as of life, are more healthful than diseased. To find what is wrong with coeducational reactions, we must look to society and prevent the evil there. And it is the distinguishing spirit of the age that this prevention is beginning, in the functioning of what seems almost a new form of consciousness. May it not be that pessimism with regard to coeducation is only an anachronism, and that in time we shall lay objection aside, even as the country churches have ceased to have two doors, the one for women, the other for men?
Examining certain social symptoms which we are likely to connect with coeducational life rather than with their birthplace in society, we are chiefly struck by these two symptoms: —
First, the abandoning of certain standards of etiquette and of propriety. For we in America, having left behind many forms of pioneering, have now time and inclination to attend to some ideals of a mellower people. Naturally, we have turned to the tried and ‘ safe’ ideals of the present mellow peoples. But during our magnificent pioneering, our social conditions have been so changed that certain proprieties of an older civilization would sit strangely upon us. Many of them, for example, are bound up with traces of the subjection of women. Yet in America, with its seven million women earning their own livelihood, we find ourselves trying to take over customs evolved by quite other conditions. Now, it is a sign of the healthfulness of our growth that the best traditions of the past do linger in our blood, even though they may not be useful to us now; their presence is the deterrent which gives us time to weigh and to judge — but they must not permanently deter us. Indeed, we must prompt them just when to depart, else their presence will breed another of our hypocrisies. The line of least resistance is to adopt the ideals of the mellow peoples, but the task in hand is to adapt and recast their ideals. For ‘ tried and safe ’ ideals are all pathos, and idealism cannot be all empirical.
It is because the young folk are themselves stirring toward that recasting of ideals, that we observe the second social symptom; and because it is evident in the universities, we predicate it of coeducation: the dropping of certain reticences. This threshed-out subject of lost reticence results most often in the usual exchange of misunderstandings between conservative and radical. But is there not an inviolate middle ground where may stand all those having any faint claim to prophecy? For the sake of this middle ground, some of us would lay aside our comparison of the number of coeducational students who make shipwreck with the number of shipwrecks cast up from the most carefully chaperoned society, and we would also lay aside our insistence that both varieties of shipwreck are fundamentally due to economic causes; and we would say merely that the loss of certain reticences we may well deplore, that unquestionably their going carries peril, as in any transition. But a factor in any transition, and in most growth, is peril to the least fit — that is to say, to those whom our society has not Fitted. In the loss of some of these reticences some of the least fit will go down. But it is to the loss of other reticences, prejudices, false modesties, that we owe a sane meeting of the facts of life, a sane preparation to cope with them, — that we owe, for example, the coeducational classes in biology, in eugenics, in various phases of social control, seminaries on The Family, on Sin, on the Dynamics of Population, on forms of pathology once folded in the immeasurable peril of silence. From the members of these classes, and from the groups of field workers, men and women, who are dealing with human beings involved in a tangle of the web whose very presence the old ‘reticence’ would have ignored as the part of good breeding, there comes no echo of sex-repulsion, no record of either men or women dropping from the task because the other sex is engaged on it. There comes no echo of anything save how to help society to‘take the short cuts for the race.’ Must not this middle ground of our choosing bear the implication that if the loss of some of the old reticences can do this, then we want them to go? For we are on the way to being completely articulate, and humanized.
The humanizing of social relations, — this is what we are about to-day. We are developing means of bringing it to pass: the quite dazzling understanding that our ills are economic; revised conceptions of industrialism; legislation and administration looking to human rights; suffrage for women, who are in their turn emerging, as group after group of men has emerged, into citizenship; the beginning of uncommercialized recreation; and, at the threshold of them all, coeducation.
Like many of these social forces, coeducation is a thing not of the past, hardly even of the present, but preeminently of the future, of that co-civilization which we descry dimly foreshadowed in the attempt to solve the precise problems which coeducation brings. Democracy, when we achieve it, will fit us better to understand coeducation’s import; and coeducation itself is fitting us for democracy. Later, that new individualism on which we shall enter and whose physical envelope we have tried to claim too soon, will perhaps find us equipped to recognize coeducation as a natural step in our long struggle for complete selfconsciousness. And as the race slips further into the cosmic consciousness which divines the pilgrim spirit in us and is chiefly concerned with its growth, there may fade away the ancient objections to many a form of growth to which in turn the spirit has been debtor.
When we have ceased to confuse the present tentative working out of coeducation with its sovereign idea, as yet implicit in the future, our question may not be, ‘Does it work?’ but, ‘Will it work?’ For the present is only one of the little things with which the spirit is concerned.