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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/435

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HIGH-GRADE MEN: IN COLLEGE AND OUT.

HIGH-GRADE MEN: IN COLLEGE AND OUT.
By Professor EDWIN G. DEXTER,

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS.

THE American college graduate has often been called upon to face the accusation of impracticability. From time to time men of wide influence and broad experience have censured not only his ideals, but his fitness for participation in those affairs which count for most in a modern civilization. The burden of their complaint is that he is a dreamer of dreams, not a doer of deeds, and that there is little place for him in the strenuous competition of the life of to-day. Such accusations are gradually becoming less and less frequent. Enough has been written upon the subject to prove the general falsity of the position, and no further defense is needed of college men as a class. It can not, however, be denied that as individuals college graduates meet, with very different degrees of perfection, the demands of life. Some take first rank in their chosen callings; others see their efforts crowned only with moderate success, while another, and we believe a smaller class, make partial or total shipwreck of their hopes. But this differentiation and stratification which is so noticeable in the struggle for honors in the various competitions of business and professional life was equally true for them during their undergraduate courses. In the student body of every institution of learning we find the high-grade men, the moderate successes, from the standpoint of college education, and the rear guard. A question of no little importance, and one with which the present paper deals is this: Is the high-grade man of his college days high-grade still when put to the severer tests of active life? Is the level to which he rose or sank in competition for college honors his level for life, or is there a general shifting of strata for the changed conditions? The answer to these questions is of broad educational significance. It has to do with ideals: those of the college and of life. The high-grade man in college has realized most nearly the ideal of his alma mater. He is its best product according to its criterion of success and is given its highest stamp of approval. If he fails in life, it means that judged by another criterion—that of society in its broadest sense—he is not a success; that the two criteria are different, based upon different ideals, and, as a corollary, since life is the final test, that the college ideal is not a practical one and that the aim of higher academic education is false. If, however, he holds first place in life, as he did in the preparation for it, we must conclude that the two ideals, that of the college and