Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/287

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THE COLLEGE PROFESSOR

to be a thinking study of things. The fact is that it hardly occurs to the college professor to ask what he can do with the means at his disposal. The same man who, in his household budget, is careful to ask what he can afford, urges the demands of his department upon grounds of absolute necessity. A two-thousand dollar professor will insist unblushingly upon a two-hundred-thousand-dollar laboratory. And by dint of urging and begging he may get it. Of course he thinks that his salary will rise to correspond. He is then much chagrined to discover that what might have been added to his salary is needed for the maintenance of his laboratory; and the responsibility is laid upon "the administration."

All of this goes to show that, in spite of the theory of "missionary work," the activity of the college professor is not a purely altruistic response to a crying need. To this it may be replied that it is precisely in accordance with the missionary idea to endeavor to create the need. All very true, perhaps, but just this may be claimed for every line of business, for jewelry and millinery as well as for preaching. In fact, "missionary work" is one of the stock-features of the slang of advertising. The real question has to do with the nature and significance of the need you are endeavoring to create, whether it be a need for college life and academic degrees or for culture and serious thinking. Whichever it be, it would be profitable for the college professor to recognize that, like men in other trades and professions, what he is endeavoring to create is at any rate a need for himself. In other words, he, like other men, is aiming to develop a field for his own activity. Now he is none the less to be respected for this. Eather do I think, the more. Nor does this lessen the social value of his work. If his work have a genuine intellectual content, it is bound to be worth while, for others as well as for self. The point of criticism is not that the college professor works for himself, but that his self-seeking is so persistently unintelligent; not that his "missionary work" conceals ulterior personal motives, but that these motives are allowed to remain ulterior and to express themselves in ways so ineffectual and so little in accord with the dignity of his profession.

What the college professor needs, then (paradoxical though it seem), is a self-consciousness of his position. He should make it clear to himself that, whatever be the social significance of his aims, he is working at the same time, like other men, for the satisfaction of personal ends, among which is included a satisfactory provision for his living. He should then take upon himself the responsibility of doing openly, deliberately and intelligently what he is now doing covertly and blindly, without cooperation or organization. To this he commits himself by his present attitude. Upon him, then, should rest the responsibility, both of formulating his case and of using the means at his disposal