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gone over the greatest number of pages in text-books. It means those who are best equipped to go on with college work, and my contention is that we could produce better results, we could equip students better for college, if a smaller quantity of work were demanded, so that that smaller quantity could be done to relieve it? We are agreed as to the evils of the
This, then, is the situation. Is there anything that can be done to relieve it? We are agreed as to the evils of the existing condition of affairs. Is there any practicable remedy on which we can unite? There is one remedy, and but one. That is to face the situation squarely, and to change the conditions.
I make three proposals, two, at least, of which are feasible. In the first place, let us call a halt in the increase which has been going on steadily for so many years. Forty years ago the requirements at Yale amounted to just 9 points, counted on the Columbia scale. They have been practically doubled in quantity, and what is true of Yale is true of the country at large. Not only have new subjects been added, but the amount of work called for in almost every study has been increased, and this has been going on right up to the present time. In fact, the increase has been especially marked in the last ten years. Two years ago, at the Boston meeting of the National Educational Association, President Eliot and President Harper, speaking on the shortening of the college course, gave utterance to substantially the same opinion. They said that with the improvement of the secondary schools, it has been possible for these schools to take on themselves much of the work formerly done in the colleges; that it was reasonable to expect that the work of the schools would be still further improved, so that in the near future still more of the work of freshman year could be unloaded on them. These men are high authorities, they do not speak idly, and their words carry weight; but calmly, deliberately, and with all the emphasis at my command, I register an unqualified protest. The work of the schools has improved, and we shall undoubtedly be able to improve it still more in the future, but we protest against making that an excuse for piling still more of a load on the beast that is already staggering under its burden. With better work in the elementary schools, and with the improvement of our own courses that may be confidently expected, we shall gain time, but we plead to be allowed to use this time for improving the quality of what we are already doing, and not to have new tasks piled upon us. We make this plea, not mainly that our labors may be lightened, nor chiefly that the work of our pupils may be made easier. We make the plea in the name and for the sake of sound education. We make it because we believe that, if a smaller quantity is demanded of us, we can secure better results, we can send into college more thoughtful students, better trained, better developed, less “ crammed,” better fitted for the work that is before them there.
In the second place I propose that the colleges boldly cut off some of the recent additions to individual subjects. I should be the last man to advocate such a scheme, if I felt that it involved in any degree a lowering of standard. Until very recently there has been no general standard of quality for college entrance. The statement in the college catalog has been one thing, and that which has been actually accepted has sometimes been quite another. Some colleges have maintained a high standard of quality, while others have fallen far short of it. The establishment and success of the College Entrance Examination Board is bringing about a different state of affairs. The great work that the Board is doing for education is in the setting of a definite standard of attainment in the different secondary school subjects, and this standard, it is agreed, is higher than that generally enforced hitherto by the individual colleges. Now this raising of the standard increases the difficulty of meeting the requirements, and the increase in quality added to the increase in quantity is making the present crisis still more critical. We do not complain of the demand for higher quality; we welcome it. I want to point out, however, that the improved quality makes it possible to reduce the quantity demanded without any lowering of standard. If time is limited—and time is limited in our schools—the student who covers algebra thoroly, thru quadratics, or even to quadratics, will be better grounded in the subject than the one who in the same time has gone thru logarithms, and the principle applies equally to other subjects. It is not for any one man to say just what should be cut out, tho each of us undoubtedly has his opinion. Personally, I should advocate a reduction of the requirement in Latin and Greek composition; I should not be deeply grieved by the sacrifice of some of the topics now called for in algebra; I should hail with unfeigned joy the placing in an appendix of 50 or 60 of the 70 or 80 interesting but non-essential propositions that now adorn our geometries; I could stand the shock of seeing physics become more descriptive and less mathematical; and I could even bear with equanimity the transfer of Charlemagne back to the Middle Ages, where he used to be before the time of the Committee of Seven, and the restriction of ancient history to the days of antiquity. I am not now, however, concerned with specific details. My present plea is for the principle. If that is once recognized, the details can be settled by conference and consultation.
In this connection two recent instances of the reduction of college requirements are worthy of note. For some years the college examinations in English have troubled us because of their insistence on a knowledge of details of the assigned books, requiring an amount of time and attention not justified by the results. Last winter the Conference on Uniform Entrance Requirements in English modified the requirement by allowing considerable choice in the books to be read and studied. Not only does this allow the selection of books adapted to the peculiar needs and powers of the class, but, since it is impossible to frame an examination testing minute knowledge of so many books, it makes it necessary that the examinations shall pay less attention to knowledge of details, and lay more stress on general understanding and power of expression. This means fewer details to be held in mind, and less memorizing, but no reduction in the quality of the English demanded. The second instance is that of Yale College, which this year takes Ovid from its list of requirements, compensating for this by giving a more thoro and comprehensive examination in Latin grammar. This appears to be a
reduction of quantity, but a demand for improved quality. Both these steps are significant. They are steps in the right direction, and are worthy of imitation in other lines and in other quarters.
The third proposal I make with some diffidence, for it is more radical, and is much more doubtful of accomplishment. It is that one or more of our leading colleges should squarely face the situation and reduce the requirements to 15 or even 14 points. Such a thing would be a step backward if it meant a lowering of standard, but it would not mean a lowering of standard if it were properly safeguarded. With the reduction in quantity should come an absolute insistence on a high standard of attainment in the subjects that remained. The number of conditions with which a student might enter should be reduced, the standard of examinations should be honestly maintained, and September examinations should be fully equal to those set in June. The practice of "cramming up” in the summer should be effectually discouraged, and, above all, the work in the college should be so organized that an incompetent or improperly prepared student could not carry it successfully. Perhaps such a consummation is not to be hoped for, but I firmly believe that if this plan could be adopted our colleges would secure better prepared students than they are getting to-day.
I have made three definite proposals: to check all further increase of requirements, to reduce somewhat the quantity required in the individual subjects, and to reduce the number of subjects now called for. The third is perhaps too much to expect, but the first and second are both practical and feasible. The time is ripe for such a movement. It is in the air, and if we can but make a united and determined stand, there is every reason to hope for success.
In one sense it is a conflict—the colleges on the one hand asking for all that they can get, and the schools on the other protesting that the demands are too great. But in a deeper and truer sense there is no conflict, for we are both seeking the same end, both striving for the same ideal. Education should be one continuous process from the first day of school life to the awarding of the last degree. There is now a break between school and college, and the bridging of this gap is a problem that concerns both alike. It is not a question of the school or the college winning a victory. The schools are not striving to wrest something from the other side. We firmly believe that if college entrance requirements were reduced in quantity, we should be able to send into college students better equipped, physically and mentally, to do the work that awaits them there, and because we believe this we make our proposal with hope and with confidence.