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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/581

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FUNCTION OF THE AMERICAN COLLEGE

since the discovery and promoting of peculiar intellectual excellence is perhaps the most obvious statement of the end of higher education, we find a strong disposition of late among those who care for the theory of education, and like logical neatness, to look forward to the day when the college as an institution shall have been shorn of its present importance. The tendency is rather strongly in favor of cutting off the college proper at both ends—assigning the last two years to the university as a preparation for technical professional work, and either adding the first two to the high school, or leaving it a torso which would seem bound to approximate to the type of the academy.

A defense of the college as a peculiar institution will need to recognize first, I think, two sets of distinctions. One is the distinction between professional or scientific efficiency in specialized tasks, and an intellectual leadership in the sense in which this affects directly the general life and ideals of the nation. Now that the university is the instrument for developing the first or specialized intellectual capacity, of course goes without saying. But that this is identical with the second sort of eminence and leadership, pertinent to the political problems of democracy, is not in the least self-evident. At present I simply call attention to the distinction, and to the fact that if we think fit to introduce at all the social need into the argument for education, we should not identify this with the sort of scientific leadership which the university does confessedly aim to develop.

But now my argument for the college would be, that while the purpose which gives it a right to continued existence alongside the university is distinctly its social rather than its professional, or, in the narrow sense, scholarship, value, it is not primarily social leadership that it should aim directly to provide for. The second distinction is that between the comparatively small body of notably able men who will always have to direct the course of society and interpret for it its ideals, and the larger body of enlightened opinion which is needed to direct this in turn and keep it from substituting a caste ideal for the people's will. And it is in the creation of this last that I should find the special purpose of the college to lie.

That the tendency of the university ideal to emphasize too exclusively the importance of special ability constitutes a possible social danger is, I believe, coming to be felt. An emphasis on ability turns almost inevitably under modern educational conditions in the direction of specialized ability. The exaltation of the university ideal is therefore coming to mean a sacrifice of breadth and perspective to the demands of technical proficiency. This may mean, if it goes farther, that our most highly educated classes no longer will possess the qualifications that are needed for sound human political judgment in a democracy. A catholicity of interest and sympathy is required here rather than