Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/201

This page has been validated.

way. Even Harvard and Yale, old and powerful as they are, feel the bad influence. Perhaps the Johns Hopkins University, protected by its great wealth, may escape from the evil tendency.

Not many years ago, partly in consequence of the growth of the natural and physical sciences, and partly because of a popular demand for an education not exclusively classical, a number of American colleges established scientific schools. Naturally, the larger universities led off in this movement, and the smaller soon followed; only the latter, as a rule, inaugurated not separate schools for science, but scientific courses, so called, parallel with the courses in classics. As might reasonably be expected, the attempts at first were crude; nobody knew exactly what was wanted; vagueness characterized the entire subject. The classicists rather distrusted the new policy; looked upon it as an effort to degrade true education; and generally gave it the cold shoulder. Still, they were obliged to concede something to the new education; and their concessions, wrung from them by popular pressure, were seriously affected by the competition for students of which I have already spoken. Even respectable Eastern colleges yielded ground, and established courses of study which were obviously meant to be easier than the older curriculum, in order that they might swell their numbers by attracting students too badly prepared, too stupid, or too indolent, to do the regular, traditional, solid work. In short, there sprang up by degrees, all over the country, courses of study requiring but little preparation on the part of the student to enter them, and not much exertion to remain and graduate afterward. They were, in many cases, mere waste-heaps, in which the college rubbish was allowed to gather, there to remain for four years fermenting before being finally cleared out of the way.

Along with the call for scientific studies came a demand for the higher education of women. Some distinctively female colleges were established, but in the majority of instances coeducation was tried. Again the spirit of false competition for students told against true learning. At first but few girls were well prepared for admission to college; and, consequently, immature students were accepted. They could not well carry on advanced studies; and so, to suit them, in many places special "courses for ladies" were organized; and these were in some instances identical with the courses in science. Thus two distinct movements, both good in themselves, were made to work together for evil. The old classical system of education was well established, was governed by the traditions handed down through centuries of experience, and was therefore able to hold its own. The competition for students, therefore, chiefly affected the new system, and in the direction of science it exerted its strongest degrading influence. The demand was for good scientific education on the one hand, and for the advancement of women on the other; the first result in many cases was the establishment of shams. That women should