Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/83

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79
UNIVERSITY STANDARDS

moral lapse in college do not count in later life—since these also are exercise and training in the rights and responsibilities of manhood and womanhood. "One way to deal with these strange, excited, inexperienced and intensely human things called freshmen/' says Dean Briggs, of Harvard, "is to let them flounder till they drown or swim; and this way has been advocated by men who have no sons of their own. It is delightfully simple, if we can only shut eye and ear and heart and conscience; and it has a kind of plausibility in the examples of men who through rough usage have achieved strong character. 'The objection,' as the master of a great school said the other day, 'is the waste; and,' he added, 'it is such an awful thing to waste human life!'"

A great mob of boys and girls are thronging the entrances of our colleges and universities. All need, most are entitled to, training; but not all are fitted and adapted to the college. Some ought to be in the shops and marts and homes acquiring discipline by contact with hard realities. Some are morally tainted and impervious to intellectual appeal. The mass is plastic and possible of development into capable, self-reliant citizenship. If the college can not find out these facts, who can? If the college can not rid itself of the unworthy, who is to do it? If the college can not make its standards dominate the college world, how can its work become effective? Up against these problems, the college must plead guilty to the charge of carelessness and ineffectiveness. In a situation where youths are on the way to manhood and womanhood, but not yet arrived, where standards are necessarily blurred and confused, the college has been more or less helpless, because it has not squarely faced the problems involved. It must be said again, the college can not go back into the old boarding-school chrysalis. Athletics, amusements, student activities, exercise of responsibility, were all welcomed into the college as aids to normal living, as making student life more wholesome. And so they were, and did. Paradoxical as it may seem, these are not yet widely enough diffused. We have come to our present plight because the college has had no consistent conception of its function in these matters. Harvard has retained the genial loafer for.the possible good that might come "from contact between his back and the bricks of the college." But what about the contagion of his presence in a place where sound standards have to struggle to keep even a foothold? Other institutions have sought to rigidly exclude those who did not measure up to a fixed standard, though by a rough surgery that has sometimes seemed to treat measles and appendicitis pretty much alike. "It is comparatively simple," says Mr. Flexner, "to extirpate those who appear to be the weaker brethren; but it is not a whit more intelligent than to pull every aching tooth." Yet the aching tooth needs attention, and it must come to pulling at last, if nothing else is done.