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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/128

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and taught in the preparatory schools and at Harvard College, and found that they had yielded to him none of the great and salutary results that are claimed for them. President Porter replies that we are not bound to accept the cause assigned for the alleged failure. He says: "Mr. Adams seems to forget that at least three solutions may be given for the apparent failure of his own college life, of which he has recognized but one: 1. The failure was only apparent, but not real, or not to the extent which he imagines. He derived more advantage than he is now aware of, even from the Greek. . . . 2. The curriculum may have been wisely selected, and the teaching may have been imperfect. . . . 3. The student may neglect and render futile the most wisely-selected curriculum, even when enforced by the most skillful and zealous teaching."

It is upon the first of these considerations that President Porter lays the greatest stress in his article. He does not urge the other alternatives either that the Harvard teaching was bad, or that Mr. Adams was idle or negligent, but he argues that Mr. Adams is mistaken in his assertion that he derived no important benefits from his classical studies. He says: "In judging of the effects of a course of studies, the sharp distinction should be made between the impressions which are actually received, and the reflective recognition of these impressions by the recipient and his own consequent estimate of them." And again: "It is certainly no new thing for children, even those of an older growth, to fail to appreciate the value of the training to which they owe all their success in life, and to esteem those features of it the least to which they owe the most."

We have here the old stock defense of the classical superstition. It is not a failure, because it exerts certain wonderful and mysterious influences of which the student may not be aware, but which are abundantly vindicated by time. That is, the student is not the proper judge of the effects upon his own mind of the leading studies to which he gives the best years of his life. But it is proper to ask, If those who have had experience of it "fail to appreciate the value of the training to which they owe all their success in life," who else has authority to speak in the matter? The argument cuts both ways. If Mr. Adams did not know when he declared that the study of Greek had in his case proved a failure, does President Porter know when he denies it? If the evidence of experience is not to be trusted, what evidence is to be taken? The case looks like one of dogmatic assumption against positive self-knowledge. If a college graduate, after long trial of his education in the arena of practical life, is incompetent to decide upon its adaptability and adequacy to his needs, then there are no valid grounds of judgment in the matter. But the idea is an outrage upon common sense, and we might be well surprised that it should be put forth by a distinguished college president if we did not know to what ridiculous shifts the classicists are driven in defense of their anomalous traditions. Sydney Smith long ago declared, in relation to the classical superstition, that it has been the practice of the universities "to take credit for all the mind they did not succeed in extinguishing." The practice lives on in the equally preposterous assumption that all the success a university man achieves in life is due to the Greek and Latin he learned or did not learn whether he knows it or not. That this nonsensical notion should be so all-prevalent, and still so influential with multitudes, only shows how completely even our higher education is still in the fetichistic stage.

What President Porter had before him to do was to break the force of Mr. Adams's testimony that his clas-