Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/35

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
31
THE COLLEGE OF THE WEST.

things as they are. The teacher himself is a part of that contact. He has set the problems, arranged the experiments. The teacher of science does not speak ex cathedrâ. He must come down from his chair. He must be among the things of which he speaks and to the student he must be part of them and the student knows him as he knows them—from personal contact. The strength of the colleges of England has lain not in the narrow courses of study, not in the exclusive pursuit of Latin, Greek and mathematics, but in the spirit of good fellowship which these institutions have fostered. The life of the student is a man to man life. The element of personality has been used to the utmost and with results which need not be disparaged even by those most impressed with the narrowness of the training these colleges offer. The aim of Oxford and Cambridge has been personal culture. The classical tripos of Greek, Latin and mathematics has been only a means to this end. Any other studies, Anglo-Saxon, botany and medieval history, let us say, would do as well if equally removed from the current of human activity and brought as close to living personality. Mere training of the mind was no essential part of the process. To withdraw for a space in the presence of good men and gracious thoughts is an ideal cherished in English culture. 'Sometimes to bask and ripen,' Lowell tells us, 'is, methinks, the students' wiser business.' For the maturing scholar this may be true, but as a practical matter it is surely a universal experience that to the college student 'to bask and ripen' means a period of plain idleness, and idleness soon turns to dissipation and vice. It is better for the student that demands on him be somewhat strenuous. His life is made more effective if he has once learned the value of time and the necessity of doing things when they should be done. A man who has not learned the worth of time before he is twenty-one, seldom accomplishes much afterward. As the university ideal of England is one of personal culture, that of Germany is one of personal knowledge. In the one case, thoroughness is the essential; in the other, personality. An educated German may lack culture—of this there are many conspicuous examples, just as in England a cultured gentleman may lack exactness of knowledge on all points. In America a new ideal is arising as a result of the creative needs of our strenuous and complex times. We value education for what can be made of it. Our idea is personal effectiveness. We care less and less for surface culture, less and less for mere erudition. We ask of each man not what he knows, but what can he do with his knowledge. This ideal of education has its dangers. It may lead us to sacrifice permanent values for temporary success. It may tend to tolerate boorishness and shallowness, if they present the appearance of temporary achievement. Eternal vigilance is the price of scholarship as well as of liberty and other good things.