Professor Mitchell, "to object that the college exists primarily for the production of scholarship and the training of scholars. . . . That has happened in collegiate education which is not unknown in commercial industry: the by-products have been discovered to possess unsuspected values, and in the wide-spread popular demand for them a profound change has been wrought in the college clientèle and in the needs which the colleges are called upon to meet. By a very slight and entirely logical extension of the system of free election we could let each take, for an appropriate fee, whatever he might desire of the goods the college had to offer." This deduction Professor Mitchell rejects because "on every side the system of free election has failed and broken into chaos precisely because the college is not a commercial enterprise." "Yet it is equally futile and ridiculous to attempt to make scholars of those who have no scholarly aptitude or ambition." Both kinds, however, may find their satisfaction in the same college, though not, he thinks, in the same classes. For the one class Columbia will provide scholarly training; for the other, something different. In Mr. Dooley's college, when the applicant for admission arrives, "th' prisidint takes him into a Turkish room, gives him a cigareet, an' says: 'Me dear boy, what special branch iv learnin' wud ye like to have studied f'r ye be our compitint professors?'" The Columbia president will not do this; but Columbia's enforced regimen for by-product majors will at least eschew the "futile and ridiculous" attempt to impose scholarship upon them.
I am frank to say that if the analyses represent the case at all fairly, the remedies seem inadequate. The elective system, for example, is a manifestation on the academic side of a transformation which has covered the whole range of college activity. Many causes have contributed to this result. The quickening principle was the German university ideal carried over to the American college by pioneers in that great procession of American youth who have sought the stimulus of German scholarship. Coincident with this has been the development of secondary education and the postponement of the period of college training. When the entering age was pushed up from twelve and thirteen to sixteen, eighteen, and even higher, a change in discipline was necessary. The multiplication of subjects of study made some sort of selection inevitable. If Harvard were to schedule but seventeen courses the elective system could be abandoned—for seventeen courses constitute a four years' program; whereas, if all the courses now offered were prescribed for graduation it would take the student more than seventy years to earn his degree. Of sheer necessity some freedom of choice must be conceded; and the invitation to the student to share in the selective process has been the most clarifying principle in modern higher education. The system has grown because it has worked. The