Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/330

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THE community of spirit that animates such occasions as this is an interest in the academic life—a conviction, studied or casual, sincere or perfunctory, that much of what makes life worthy has its source here. What more appropriate than to discuss the status quo, with a view to discover what forces are making for and what against the vital concerns of academic welfare?

Psychologically, I can not endorse the platitude that silence means consent. As I have tried to interpret this eloquent if enigmatic expression, it has appeared to mean complacency, even indifference; it means hesitation and timidity; it means expediency and temporizing; it means torpidity or denseness of understanding. Hence the way of the reformer is hard. It is upon that ill-paved road that I am to venture, and with no other warrant than a common interest, to invite companionship.

The general silence in the academic ranks is hardly a convincing proof that all's well; nor is the silence wholly unbroken. The literature of protest is growing; and the murmur of discontent may be plainly heard by the sympathetically attuned ear. To appreciate the atmospheric conditions that prevail in the academic grove and that at times impress and oppress the dwellers therein with the suspicion that they have inherited a vale of tears with a bad climate, requires some familiarity with the general features of the habitat. To begin with, the grove itself is no longer the peaceful retreat amid cloistered walls and quiet walks, to which the bookish fancy of the uninitiated and the impervious imagination of the reporter are so fondly attached. The trolley clangs by its portals; the noise and dust of the city pervade its corridors; the unhedged campus is criss-crossed by throngs of eager invaders seeking a short-cut to learning. The guileless, absent-minded, root-grubbing professor, absorbed in profitless didactics, survives only in those lingering echoes of receding ages—the comic papers. The American professor desires to live in the world and to assume responsibilities and privileges according to his capacity. He cherishes ideals not of scholarship alone, but of service—worthy, dignified, and by higher standards profoundly useful. Compositely

  1. An address at the Collegiate Conference in connection with the seventy-fifth anniversary of Oberlin College, June 24, 1908.