United States, and the whole number of secondary schools, public and private, was only 1,400. In 1907 the number had risen to 10,238, an increase of over 700 per cent. And the modern high-school course comprehends a broader training than was given by the college of fifty years ago! Everything would seem to be prepared for college work of the highest efficiency.
By common admission, quite the contrary is the case. Different colleges are differently affected, but the same virus has found its way to all. "The college has lost its definiteness of aim," says ex-President Woodrow Wilson. "There is-no question," affirms Mr. Flexner, "that the college is under fire. . . . The college faces the new and unforeseen problems rather helplessly. It is bewildered. . . . Unless I greatly err, the college has already lost a trick or two." "Notwithstanding the enormous improvement and growth in machinery, plant and facilities of our colleges," declares Mr. Birdseye, "their methods and systems are archaic and the average of their product—from the point of good workmanship—has decidedly deteriorated." "The important thing "—I quote from Flexner's "American College"—"is to realize that the American college is deficient, and unnecessarily deficient, alike in earnestness and in pedagogical intelligence; that in consequence our college students are, and for the most part, emerge, flighty, superficial, and immature, lacking, as a class, concentration, seriousness and thoroughness. . . . A youth may win his degree on a showing that would in an office cost him his desk." There is "on the one side a formidable array of scholars and scientists, libraries, laboratories, publications; on the other, a large miscellaneous student body, marked by an immense sociability on a commonplace basis and wide-spread absorption in trivial and boyish interests. How are we to account for the disparity? Clearly the college fails to enlist a respectable portion of the youth's total energy in intellectual effort; either its sincerity or its pedagogical intelligence is discredited by the occupations and diversions which it finds not incompatible with its standards and expectations." "So far as the colleges are concerned," says Professor Münsterberg, "one imperative change stands in the center of every platform: scholarship must receive a more dignified standing in the eyes of the undergraduates. . . . So long as the best human material in our colleges considers it as more or less below its level to exert effort on its studies; so long as it gladly leaves the high marks to the second-rate grinds, and considers it the part of a real gentleman to spend four years with work done well enough not to be dismissed, and poorly enough never to excel, there is something vitally wrong in the academic atmosphere." President Lowell, in a recent address before the University Convocation at Albany, said: "It requires little familiarity with students to recognize that they not only regard the athlete or the