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These are innocent enough things for him to do and to learn, though hardly very important in the long run; they may, for all I know, make for efficiency in some of the simpler kinds of business; and no wise man who knows college lads would propose to shut them off from them or wish to discourage their interest in them. All work and no play makes Jack not only a dull boy, but may make him a vicious boy as well. Amusement, athletic games, the zest of contest and competition, the challenge there is in most college activities to the instinct of initiative and the gifts of leadership and achievement—all these are wholesome means of stimulation, which keep young men from going stale and turning to things that demoralize. But they should not assume the front of the stage, where more serious and lasting interests are to be served. Men cannot be prepared by them for modern life.
The college is meant for a severer, more definite discipline than this: a discipline which will fit men for the contests and achievements of an age whose every task is conditioned upon some intelligent and effective use of the mind, upon some substantial knowledge, some special insight, some trained capacity, some penetration which comes from study, not from natural readiness or mere practical experience.
The side-shows need not be abolished. They need not be cast out or even discredited. But they must be subordinated. They must be put in their natural place as diversions, and ousted from their present dignity and preëminence as occupations.
And this can be done without making of the college again a boarding-school. The characteristic of the boarding-school is that its pupils are in all things in tutelage, are under masters at every turn of their life, must do as they are bidden, not in the performance of their set tasks only, but also in all their comings and goings. It is this characteristic that made it impossible and undesirable to continue the life of the boarding-school into the college, where it is necessary that the pupil should begin to show his manhood and make his own career. No one who knows what wholesome and regulated freedom can do for young men ought ever to wish to hale them back to the days of childish discipline and restraint of which the college of our grandfathers was typical. But a new discipline is desirable, is absolutely necessary, if the college is to be recalled to its proper purpose, its bounden duty. It cannot perform its duty as it is now organized.
The fundamental thing to be accomplished in the new organization is, that, instead of being the heterogeneous congeries of petty organizations it now is, instead of being allowed to go to pieces in a score of fractions free to cast off from the whole as they please, it should be drawn together again into a single university family of which the teachers shall be as natural and as intimate members as the undergraduates. The "life" of the college should not be separated from its chief purposes and most essential objects, should not be contrasted with its duties and in rivalry with them. The two should be but two sides of one and the same thing: the association of men, young and old, for serious mental endeavor and also, in the intervals of work, for every wholesome sport and diversion. Undergraduate life should not be in rivalry and contrast with undergraduate duties; undergraduates should not be merely in attendance upon the college, but parts of it on every side of its life, very conscious and active parts. They should consciously live its whole lifenot under masters, as in school, and yet associated in some intimate daily fashion with their masters in learning, so that learning may not seem one thing and life another. The organizations whose objects lie outside study should be but parts of the whole, not set against it, but included within it.
All this can be accomplished by a comparatively simple change of organization which will make master and pupil members of the same free, self-governed family, upon natural terms of intimacy. But how it can be done is not our present interest. That is another story. It is our present purpose merely to be clear what a college is for. That, perhaps, I have now pointed out with sufficient explicitness. I have shown the incompatibility of the present social organization of our colleges with the realization of that purpose only to add emphasis to the statement of what that purpose is. Once get that clearly established in the mind of the country, and the means of realizing it will readily and quickly enough be found. The object of the college is intellectual discipline and moral enlightenment, and it is the immediate task of those who administer the colleges of the country to find the means and the organization by which that object can be attained. Education is a process and, like all other processes, has its proper means and machinery. It does not consist in courses of study. It consists of the vital assimilation of knowledge, and the mode of life, for the college as for the individual, is nine parts of the digestion.
CHARLES MILLS GAYLEY
AN INDIFFERENT GENERATION
The world of learning was never better worth preparing for. Why is it, then, that from every university in the land, and from every serious journal, there goes up the cry, “Our young people were never more indifferent.”
How many nights a week does the student spend in pursuits non-academic; how great a proportion of his days? What with so-called “college activities,” by which he must prove his allegiance to the university, and social functions by which he must recreate his jaded soul, no margin is left for the one and only college activity—which is study. Class meetings, business meetings, committee meetings, editorial meetings, football rallies, baseball rallies, pajama rallies, vicarious athletics on the bleachers, garrulous athletics in the dining-room and parlor and on the porch, rehearsals of the glee club, rehearsals of the mandolin club and of the banjo, rehearsals for dramatics (a word to stand the hair on end), college dances and class banquets, fraternity dances and suppers, preparations for the dances and banquets, more committees for the preparations; a running up and down the campus for
1 From Idols of Education, in part a commencement address delivered at the University of Michigan in 1909 as a valedictory to James Burrill Angell
, who was retiring from the presidency of the University after a service of thirty-nine years. Reprinted by permission of Charles Mills Gayley, an alumnus of Michigan, and Messrs. Doubleday, Page & Company.
ephemeral items for ephemeral articles in ephemeral papers, a soliciting of advertisements, a running up and down for subscriptions to the dances and the dinners, and the papers and the clubs; a running up and down in college politics, making tickets, pulling wires, adjusting combinations, canvassing for votes—canvassing the girls for votes, spending hours at sorority houses for votesspending hours at sorority houses for sentiment; talking rubbish unceasingly, thinking rubbish, revamping rubbish --rubbish about high jinks, rubbish about low, rubbish about rallies, rubbish about pseudo-civic honor, rubbish about girls ;—what margin of leisure is left for the one activity of the college, which is study ?
In Oxford and Cambridge, than which no universities have turned out finer, cleaner, more manly, more highly cultivated, and more practically trained scholars, statesmen, empire builders, or more generous enthusiasts for general athletics and clean sport-in Oxford and Cambridge the purpose is study, and the honors are paid to the scholar. There are no undergraduate newspapers, no class meetings, no college politics, no football rallies, no business managers, no claques for organized applause, no yell leaders, no dances, no social functions of the mass. Social intercourse during term between the sexes is strictly forbidden; and it is a matter of college loyalty to live up to the rule. Of non-academic activities there are but two: athletics and conversation. They are not a function, but a recreation; nor are they limited to specialists whose reputation is professed. Young Oxonians, in general, lead a serene and undistracted, but rich and wholesome life. They cultivate athletics because each is an active devotee of some form of sport. And conversation—in junior commons, in the informal clubs, in study, or in tutor's room—it is an education, a passion, an art.