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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/201

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AMERICA'S INTELLECTUAL PRODUCT

in particular? What influence do these exert on the ideals of the people? What is the intellectual or spiritual product of these numerous and well-endowed institutions, and what aspects of them are most prominent in the eye of the public? At the very outset of this inquiry it is somewhat depressing to note the divergence of opinion among experts as to what education is, and what it is for. Those who have attended meetings of college presidents or educational conventions can but have been impressed with the diametrically opposite views expressed. To be sure, there are a certain number of pet phrases and theories which we often hear repeated, and one sometimes thinks, in reading the proceedings of "Educators" in session, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." Education must be for life, we hear. Undoubtedly, but what is life? Does it consist in eating three meals a day, sleeping at night, and the next day the same? We hear of education for citizenship. But is it so hard to be a good citizen that these elaborate and costly institutions are necessary to bring it about? I recently heard a gentleman remark with an air of finality, "Of course ninety per cent. of what a young man gets in college comes from the association with other young men." If this is true, it seems to me that there is something wrong with our institutions, and that the same result could be obtained in a far cheaper manner. This view takes little account of the influence on the young of strong and mature men, veterans in the conflict of life, and of the passing on of the garnered experience of the race. The maintenance of faculties, at least on their present scale, would seem to be quite unnecessary from this point of view. Under the old college régime, the students had far more time and opportunity for association with each other than at present. Have we, therefore, advanced in the wrong direction? Considering the prevalence of such views, it seems to me to be worth while to emphasize the fact that a college or university is, in the first place, a nursery of learning; I mean a place where knowledge is not only inculcated, but is produced. It would seem absurd to put forward this view, were it not so often lost sight of. The late Sir Walter Besant, in an article in the Harvard Graduates' Magazine, remarked upon the fact that at the commencement exercises that he had attended in this country, he heard much of the public services rendered by the graduates, and of their distinguished contributions to citizenship, but he had heard little of the distinguished scholars that the institution had produced, and that it would appear that that was a matter that was not considered of great importance. At similar occasions at Oxford or Cambridge, he stated, much was made of contributions to the world's thought made during the year by the university's sons, in which achievements the alma mater took great pride. I believe the same fact has also been noticed by others who attend academic occasions. In this respect the colleges do not differ