Page images

The student body of the college is a charge which receives a great amount of attention. These young people will ultimately become citizens of our country. The nature of their citizenship, whether good or bad, will depend largely on the soul or the environment of the college or university. The college student has much to learn from the college environment; he must learn that a lie is a lie whether it is told by the president, a professor, or the student. He has the right to expect from the college the guarantee that the professors are gentlemen and he should receive treatment as a gentleman. The five per cent. of questionable characters among students should not control the soul of the institution. The ninety-five per cent. of the student body have rights which should be pro tected. Under the usual circumstances the five per cent. element, having little responsibility, controls the student ideal in many ways, by reason of the laws which are in the domain of the psychology of the crowd, the lower element being always the controlling one.

The responsibility of the faculty does not end in the classroom. There should great attention be given to the condition of the college environment as it affects student life. The faculty's efforts are in many cases adjustable along the lines of least resistance when it should be otherwise. This responsibility on the part of the college authorities, in behalf of their students, is appreciated by President Hadley in the following statement :18 “ These collegiate authorities who deem their responsibility to be ended when they have provided books and apparatus, lectures and classes, take a fatally incomplete view of their duties. Upon them rests the further responsibility to do what they can to preserve the tradition and sentiments in a place of which they themselves are the permanent population, amid shifting generations of students. Upon them rests the responsibility for the preservation of standards of public order in the community about them; for the maintenance, as far as lies in their power, of athletic purity and fairness in the dealings of each university with its rivals; for the fullest development of those religious sentiments of reverence and self-devotion without which churches are powerless, and creeds are but empty forms."

18 The education of the American citizen, p. 170.

IIIThe problem and its future

In presenting certain conditions occurring in secondary and higher education which indicate that the conditions are more favorable for the unfit than for those who should be in control because of their fitness, it has been my object to call attention in no uncertain language to these tendencies which are of no small danger to the future growth of the nation. When a number of men are grouped together, whether it be as a board of trustees or other public representatives, we expect that the greatest thoughts and therefore the highest actions can only be produced by concentrated effort, trusting that in numbers there is an increase in thinking capacity and effective action and that the larger the group the greater their power. But it must be kept in view that as soon as we group together a number of individuals for the consideration of any problem, the result will in all probability be the lowest that any of the group is capable of and not the highest. As it is said, 19 “This very fact, that crowds possesses in common ordinary qualities, explains why they can never accomplish acts demanding a high degree of intelligence. The decisions affecting matters of general interest come to us by an assembly of men of distinction, but specialists in different walks of life are not sensibly superior to the decisions that would be adopted by a gathering of imbeciles. The truth is, they can only bring to bear in common on the work in hand those mediocre qualities which are the birthright of every average individual. In crowds it is stupidity and not mother-wit that is accumulated.”

It is the action of the small group of men who are ever ready to make a sacrifice for the welfare of the good and true which is really the cause of advancement in knowledge. The vast majority which is constantly held before us as the controlling element is largely the tool of the praisemonger and not the supporter of what is best for the country. It has been stated that we advance by the sacrifice of the best and leave the unfit to continue the great work of building the nation in peace and war. The majority is a wonderful being in the imagination of the person who has an object to accomplish and who wishes it to be represented by himself. What is the majority? If it is a crowd simply, it is not controlled by the highest ideals by any means; as Goethe tells us, “ There is nothing more odious than the majority; it consists of a few powerful men to lead the way; of accommodating rascals and submissive weaklings; and of a mass of men who trot after them, without in the least knowing their own mind.”

19 Le Bon, The crowd, p. 8.

The first lesson that the individual must learn is the nature of the laws which control the majority and the dangers which may result where the so-called majority seeks control. The appreciation of the man who dares to do right because it is right is the second great lesson to be kept in view. The man who has the courage to make a sacrifice for education should receive every support from the citizens of the community. The problem is not solved when a good man is sacrificed because he is the fittest. Simply the statement on the part of those who should take an active part in his defence “ every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost," does not satisfy nature's penalty. It is simply an expression which indicates that the moral condition of the community is low and it is not an excuse for inactivity in public affairs. Is it not to this condition that Lowell calls attention?

Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand, Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land ? Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet 'tis Truth alone is strong, And, albeit she wanders outcast now, I see around her throng Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong. “ Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust, Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and 'tis prosperous to be just ; Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside, Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified, And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.” As these problems are presented the pessimistic view is not to be taken, for the diseased pessimism is too often the opportunity for the medical quack. Optimism, on the contrary, may be blind and in this condition it is the special field for the fakir or bunco steerer. There is a condition which is ever mindful of present needs and has a hopeful future. There is in this condition a constant realization that responsibility is everywhere needed in order that upward growth may continue.

We are reminded of Jonathan Edwards and his great work for our country. His influence on education is something for which to be thankful. It is seldom that the descendants of one man can exert as great influence as those of Edwards have upon Yale University. Timothy Dwight, a grandson, President of Yale from 1795-1817; President Woolsey, a greatgrandson, 1846-1871; President Dwight, a great-great-grandson, 1886-1899; a total of sixty-three years of service to Yale within a little over a century. Is it not wonderful? There is another picture, that of one who fell by the wayside-we know him as Aaron Burr-the grandson of Edwards, and we might question, Why was this possible? Burr in many of his efforts showed great ability, yet there is to the student a flaw somewhere within the life. It is stated that in the early life of Burr Judge Reeve wrote, “My wife's brother Aaron is a youth of extraordinary powers of mind. He will accomplish great things if he lives and if he shall not prove that he has the fatal defect of some of his lamented father's maternal ancestors of being unable to see wrong in anything which he desires to do. This is a source of much anxiety to his sister, whose affection for him is intense, and indeed, his for her seems to be equally so. It is impossible to avoid loving him. May God grant that our foreboding prove false, for he is capable of doing great and good things.”

This inability to see wrong in anything that we may desire to do is one of the reasons that we have with us in many cases the survival of the unfit in education.

In our country our people have high ideals, and unfortunately the responsibility ceases here and too little effort is made to make these ideals effective. We are constantly looking to the future with optimistic foresight, while the inattention of the present leaves us a pessimistic hindsight. We are told by one 20 who looks into the future, that in speaking of the citizen of the future republic, “ Birth gives only the beginning, the raw material, of a civilized man. The perfect civilized man is not only strong and sound of body, but a very elaborate fabric of mind. He is a fabric of moral suggestions that become mental habits, a magazine of more or less systematized ideas, a scheme of knowledge and training and an æsthetic culture. He is the child not only of parents but of a home and an education. He has to be carefully guarded from physical and moral contagions. A reasonable probability of insuring home and education and protection, without any parasitic dependence on people outside of the kin of the child, will be a necessary condition to a moral birth under such general principles as we have supposed."

30 Wells, Anticipations, p. 333.

To develop from the present conditions to those of the future dreamed of by the optimist, is a task for human effort. Can education along the lines of least resistance reach these conditions ? Will it not lead to a life similar in nature and finally reach a hereafter along the same lines of least resistance? It may seem to us that many people can do this and have much that fortune refuses to the more worthy. The idler who does nothing to-day which can be postponed to the future exists. He is happy, to all appearances, as he kills time amid the frivolities of life. The thief appears to have made a discovery when responsibility becomes a myth to him and he takes as his own the possessions of others. These are living along the lines of least resistance, but we are not proud of the results. The great achievements are not along the lines of least resistance but they come step by step, honestly and carefully taken. Can the goal be reached by the self-satisfaction which is the result of the efforts of the praisemonger, who lauds from the housetop what is to be accomplished, and thru columns of the, telling with exaggerated statements what is to be done, yet hedging and never speaking a word of what has been accomplished? Can the gulf between the present and the future be bridged by building great buildings, supplying great laboratories, and elaborate libraries? Will these evidences of wealth, exhibited to the wondering public, telling only of the great cost but nothing said of what has been ac

« PreviousContinue »