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present, and his historical studies will become significant; let him know what other men have discovered and thought about his problems, and he will be ready to deal with them himself. But in any case, the whole college course will be unified and dominated by a single interest, a single purpose—that of so understanding human life as to be ready and equipped for the practice of it. And this would mean for the college, not another seeking of the way of quick returns, but rather an escape from aimless wanderings in the mere bypaths of knowledge, a resolute climbing on the highroad to a unified grasp upon human experience.
I have taken so much of your time this morning that an apology seems due for the things I have omitted to mention. I have said nothing of the organization of the college, nothing of the social life of the students, nothing of the relations with the alumni, nothing of the needs and qualifications of the teachers, and even within the consideration of the course of study, nothing of the value of specialization or of the disciplinary subjects or of the training in language and expression. And I have put these aside deliberately, for the sake of a cause which is greater than any of them—a cause which lies at the very heart of the liberal college. It is the cause of making clear to the American people the mission of the teacher, of convincing them of the value of knowledge: not the specialized knowledge which contributes to immediate practical aims, but the unified understanding which is Insight.
what subjects a boy should study in order that he may gain insight for human living, and they will say: "It makes no difference in what department of knowledge he studies; let him go into Sanscrit or bacteriology, into mathematics or history; if only he goes where men are actually dealing with intellectual problems, and if only he learns how to deal with problems himself, the aim of education is achieved, he has entered into intellectual activity.” This point of view, running through all the varieties of the elective system, seems to me hopelessly at variance with any sound educational doctrine. It represents the scholar of the day at his worst both as a thinker and as a teacher. In so far as it dominates a group of college teachers it seems to me to render them unfit to determine and to administer a college curriculum. It is an announcement that they have no guiding principles in their educational practice, no principles of selection in their arrangement of studies, no genuine grasp on the relationship between knowledge and life. It is the concerted statement of a group of men each of whom is lost within the limits of his own special studies, and who as a group seem not to realize the organic relationships between them nor the common task which should bind them together.
In bringing this second criticism against our scholars I am not urging that the principle of election of college studies should be entirely discontinued. But I should like to inquire by what right and within what limits it is justified. The most familiar argument in its favor is that if a student is allowed to choose along the lines of his own intellectual or professional interest he will have enthusiasm, the eagerness which comes with the following of one's own bent. Now just so far as this result is achieved, just so far as the quality of scholarship is improved, the procedure is good, and we may follow it if we do not thereby lose other results more valuable than our gain. But if the special interest comes into conflict with more fundamental ones, if what the student prefers is opposed to what he ought to prefer, then we of the college cannot leave the choice ith him. We must say to him frankly: "If you do not care for liberal training you had better go elsewhere; we have a special and definite task assigned us which demands that we keep free from the domination of special or professional pursuits. So long as we are faithful to that task we cannot give you what you ask.”
In my opinion, however, the fundamental motive of the elective system is not the one which has been mentioned. In the last resort our teachers allow students to choose their own studies, not in order to appeal to intellectual or to professional interest, but because they themselves have no choice of their own in which they believe with sufficient intensity to impose it upon their pupils. And this lack of a dominating educational policy is in turn an expression of an intellectual attitude, a point of view, which marks the scholars of our time. In a word, it seems to me that our willingness to allow students to wander about in the college curriculum is one of the most characteristic expressions of a certain intellectual agnosticism, a kind of intellectual bankruptcy, into which, in spite of all our wealth of information, the spirit of the time has fallen. Let me explain my meaning.
The old classical curriculum was founded by men who had a theory of the world and of human life. They had taken all the available content of human knowledge and had wrought it together into a coherent whole. What they knew was, as judged by our standards, very little in amount. But upon that little content they had
TO THE GIRL WHO WOULD CULTIVATE
LE BARON RUSSELL BRIGGS
For a clever boy, no matter how poor, to rise as a man to his own level is so common, especially in America, as to excite no comment. His level may be that of the uncultivated rich, the self-made man of business, or that of the literary scholar; whatever it is, if he has energy, courage, and a fair chance, he reaches it. All this may be true of a girl; but a girl seldom gets what a boy would call, in his own case, a fair chance. In most of the learned professions she is still eyed with disfavor; in the effort to go to college she has many more sympathizers than of old, but few who feel that a college training is for her a necessity; in business, beyond stenography, typewriting, and such other subjects as are taught at commercial schools and paid for by small or moderate salaries, she can rarely compete with men. There is no getting around the fact that a girl is a girl, and that as such—whatever her courage and her cleverness—she is hampered in the rough struggle for advancement, distinction, and wealth. A few women of exceptional attainments and privileges earn large salaries; but compared with those who marry people that earn large salaries their number is insignificant. Through marriage or inheritance most women win such material wealth as
1 From Girls and Education. Reprinted by permission of, and by special arrangement with, Houghton Mifflin Company.
they possess, and with it such opportunities for culture and intellectual pleasure as well-spent wealth affords. Yet in our country an unmarried girl with only her own efforts to support her, may lift her life above its drudgery and may become in greater or less degree a cultivated woman. I assume that she has fair health, though many girls not physically strong do what I have in mind. The principal requisites are common sense and courage.
Common sense, like humor, is a saving quality, showing its possessor what not to do, as well as what to do; and by it all ambition may fitly be tested. No girl can learn too early that there is a vast difference between feeling too big for a place and being too big for it, and that feeling too big for one's work and surroundings seldom if ever results in culture. Rather it breeds discontent, vanity, idleness, and, not infrequently, 'vice. Sometimes it is accompanied by a dull persistency which achieves the means without the end. No just person will deny the merit, or even the success, of the intelligent dull, or will fail to see in their success hope for himself and the race; but every just person of experience will beware of artificially lifting the unintelligent dull to a level above their own, a level at which they cannot be maintained without constant "boosting." "It is better to be a good dyer than a poor preacher," said a shrewd gentleman to an ambitious millhand whose quality he suspected. The ministry offers a startling illustration of the danger in tempting men by large scholarships and the hope of social respectability to a life for which their sole fitness is a kind of negative virtue. "He ought never to go into the ministry," said a distinguished clergyman of a youth helped through college by a scholarship of three hundred dollars a year because of his ministerial purpose. "Why not?” I asked. “Isn't he a good fel