In any event the mode of comparison is absurd. It can be used, it has been used to prove that college training is without advantage, for down to twenty years ago, the vast majority of prominent men had never attended college. The remarkable increase in college students has come within three decades: recent graduates still labor under the burden of contemporary criticism.
But a more serious matter remains. The use of the term "small college" is a mere play on words for the clamorous small colleges of to-day are in no sense the successors of the small colleges of long ago. Dartmouth, Amherst and Williams in New England, Union in New York and Jefferson in Pennsylvania are often held before the admiring listener as prototypes of the small college; yet each of them had graduated classes of 40, 60 or even more in years prior to the civil war. There were other, smaller colleges with 100 or less students which equalled the larger in grade; but the 100 or less students included only those studying the regular course, the list did not include children in elementary work. All those older colleges had a narrow curriculum, but it was definite; the faculties were small, but they were competent to do the required work. It is certain that the modest ante-bellum colleges in some cases showed great results—but only where proper material was provided. There were many little colleges whose faculties were as earnest and as faithful as the best, yet one finds among their graduates very few who became even modestly prominent in any calling or profession; the reason being that they had not a strong type of people as constituency. Not the size of the college, but the type of students was responsible for the result. Colleges situated amid sturdy communities have long lists of men eminent in every kind of work. The men were there before they went to college; the elements of success were innate; no training, no education can impart them. Dartmouth and Jefferson, large for those days. Center of Kentucky and Bowdoin of Maine, small colleges of those days, are typical. The reader will think at once of others, similar in type.
As has been said, a very great proportion of the present-day schools, glorying in the title of small colleges, have little resemblance to those of earlier days. True, they are burdened with unremittent financial stringency and the requirements are modest—but with these the likeness ends. The curriculum in the old colleges was narrow, but it was compulsory, and its definite aim was to prepare men for undertaking professional study. Too many of the newer colleges, while pretending to be legitimate successors of the older, offer a curriculum of amazing range, music, art, pedagogy, semi-professional studies and elective courses in college work. In looking over the announcements, one is apt at times to imagine that at last he has found the ideal institution