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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/572

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

a "master," and has ruled his subjects by arbitrary coercion. The rod—the instrument of most degrading punishment—has ever been the symbol of educational control; and, although it begins to be widely seen that it does not represent the better method, thousands of schools are still fighting to maintain it. The schools reflect the general condition of thought, and, if the state is stringently coercive and the people tolerate it, the schools will imitate the policy. Besides, men love the exercise of power, and teachers are no exceptions to this dangerous propensity. External compulsion, moreover, is the simpler and easier way of governing, and, in fact, is all that is left to the teacher without resources. The resort to the rod and kindred measures stamps the teacher with incapacity for his vocation—that is, with an ability to govern by the best methods. Everybody knows that the rod plays no such important part in the work of education as it formerly played. Its sphere has been encroached upon by superior influences. Its stanchest defenders only claim to use it but "sparingly," and the best teachers reject it openly and entirely.

The old system is thus partially outgrown and much discredited; but there has as yet been but little intelligent and adequate effort to organize the method of self-government in its place. The more offensive forms of coercion are abated; but school-government still mainly rests upon external authority, though brought to bear in milder ways. There seems to be still but little recognition of the principle that the essential and supreme work of education is to form character by the cultivation of self-control, which implies liberty and responsibility. And this is not to be learned by precept, but by practice. Self-government, like music, can only be acquired by exercise, and to gain this the school itself must be worked by this method. Students must be thrown back upon themselves, and habituated to responsible self-direction.

As this is the highest result of education, so it is undoubtedly the most difficult of attainment. The grosser forms of punishment may be quite dispensed with, and still the school-goverment may be that of external caretaking and paternal regulation. The model college president has been the man who could know or divine everything that is going on among the students, and circumvent and disconcert them in all their little irregularities. Under this system it has ever been the ambition of the students to beat the faculty, and it naturally engenders a state of antagonism between the students and the governing authorities. Such a system by its very nature must fail to develop the most valuable traits of manhood.

From this general point of view we have taken much interest in the reform of collegiate government which has been attempted during the past year at Amherst. It is reported that President Seelye submitted a new plan to the faculty, that it was adopted, and that the results thus far have been in a high degree satisfactory.

The method consists in placing the student and the college upon an equal footing, and bringing them into relation by a mutual voluntary engagement. A correspondent of the "New York Evening Post" says:

Every student upon entering college signs an agreement to observe its laws. This agreement is held to be a contract. If it is broken there is an end of the contract, and the contracting parties are as they were before it was formed. The student is no longer a member of the college, and the college owes nothing further to him. . . . The ground taken by the Amherst College government is that the faculty are the helpers of the younger men who want an education. The manhood of the students is recognized, and they are trusted to govern themselves without the interference of the faculty, save when the rupture of the contract compels the separation of a student from college.