Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/75

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UNIVERSITY STANDARDS

are supposed to be seriously at work is so low a standard in quality endured." In his report of the same year Dean Ferry, of Williams, says: "The spirit of the college is excellent in all respects save that of lack of seriousness toward the work of the class room. Could the undergraduate be made to believe that it is worth while to devote serious and uninterrupted effort to the study of the matter set before him in his college courses, the atmosphere of the college would leave little to be desired."

Mr. Birdseye counted twenty-seven distinct interests and occupations which engage the student in a modern university, outside of the work for which the university exists. "The teachers in our colleges," says Woodrow Wilson, "are men of learning and conceive it their duty to impart learning; but their pupils do not desire it; and the parents of their pupils do not desire it for them. . . . Many of the parents of our modern undergraduates will frankly tell you that what they want for their sons is not so much what they will get in the class room as something else, which they are at a loss to define, which they will get from the associations of college life." Speaking of amusements and athletic activities, he says: "Athletics has no competitor except these amusements and petty engrossments; they have no serious competitor except athletics. The scholar is not in the game. He keeps modestly to his class room and his study and must be looked up and asked questions if you would know what he is thinking about. . . . He deplores athletics and all the other absorbing and non-academic pursuits which he sees drawing the attention of his pupils. . . but he will not enter into competition with them."

In looking about for a scapegoat our critics have found the elective system the most handy. Those who hark back to the old humanistic college, like Princeton's ex-president, and those who recognize that the old has gone forever, like Mr. Flexner, seem to unite on this point. The elective system does well enough for the seriously minded. What does it do for his brother, of opposite inclination? asks Mr. Flexner. "It simply furnishes him an abundant opportunity to exercise a low ingenuity in picking his way to a degree with the least exertion, the least inconvenience in the way of hours, the least shock to the prejudices which function for him in place of ideas, tastes and convictions. He comes out at the spout as he went in at the hopper—except for the additional moral havoc wrought by four years of 'beating the game.'" Woodrow Wilson finds the evil of the elective system, not so much in the easy escape of the loafer as in the heterogeneity introduced, the dilution of the college atmosphere with professional and vocational aims. "It is notorious," he says, "how deep and how narrow the absorptions of the professional school are. . . . The work to be done in them is as exact, as definite, as exclusive as that of the office and the