THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
|CLASSICS AND THE COLLEGE COURSE|
By Professor JOHN J. STEVENSON
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
TWO or three years ago, the acting president of a state university praised the small college for exalting the humanities, for making "study of the great classics compulsory but attractive. It has always found more power for both head and heart in the noble lines of the Iliad and in the majestic music of the Æneid than in study of the nervous system of the frog or the life history of the Harpiphorus maculatus, interesting and important as those are."
Somewhat later, a man of great eminence announced that "we have turned away young men and some young women from the great classical ideals of self-sacrifice in fields where they could do the most unselfish work."
Still later, laments have become more numerous and have increased in pungency. It has been discovered that the study of Greek and Latin no longer holds preeminence in colleges and universities, whereas in women's colleges the "humanities are still honored." A distinguished writer of elegant literature has remarked that "our women really have some use for the education of a gentleman, but our men have none."
The acting president, no doubt, pleased his hearers, but there must have been among them some who were surprised to learn that compulsory study of the great classics had been made attractive. The speaker's remarks were elliptical or the compositor dropped the words "to some," which ought to have completed the sentence. The excellent results of this attractive study have not always been apparent. Even fifty years ago, when Harvard and Yale had fewer students than are claimed by some "small" colleges of this day, it was matter of common report that few graduates could read their diplomas and that Latin text-books had been thrust out of theological seminaries, because the niceties of syntax and not the niceties of ancient heresies engrossed the students' attention. If the noble lines of the Iliad and the majestic music of the Æneid have exerted material influence upon the head and heart of youths in American colleges during the last half century, they must have done so through the "Bohn," that essential portion of the average man's equipment.
One, considering the claims made by defenders of classical courses, might imagine that in Greece and Rome there existed the ideal condition, that social and political life were lofty, in contrast throughout