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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/582

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

scientific habits of mind applied to some narrow field; without it, there is not the slightest guarantee that the trained man will be a better citizen, though he may be a better physician or lawyer or engineer, than the comparatively uneducated artisan. Indeed the artisan, because of his wider human contact, may easily have the advantage. That the specialist is in constant danger, through over-estimating the sufficiency of the scientific intelligence, of losing his sense of democratic proportion and so becoming a member of a narrow caste, is shown in the actual tendency in academic circles. On the whole, the university reveals a tone of aristocracy which is constantly passing over into snobbishness. It inclines to the principle of the closed shop, where a small group of men with peculiar interests look down with more or less imperfectly concealed disdain upon the uninitiated. If one is convinced that in this direction social salvation lies, very well. But if he still inclines to the older ideals of democracy, it will seem to him a risk. And the nearest salvation lies in the creation of a more massive body of enlightened good judgment, which shall bridge the chasm between ignorance and special ability, and obviate the excuse which the pretentious claims of the few profess to find in the incapacity of the masses.

Now in the American college we have an institution which seems admirably fitted to perform just this service if it sets about it in the right way. So regarded, its function would be not to cater to the specially gifted class, but to provide a means by which the great mass of ordinarily intelligent men and women can, if they have the will, absorb a measure of disinterested culture, and so broaden their vision of men and things that, leading the lives of ordinary citizens, they may furnish a saner, less hide-bound, more dependable quality of citizenship, such as is needed to temper the ambitions and the self-sufficiency of the powerful and able few, and to afford a medium through which more humane and gracious political manners may leaven the majority. It seems verv questionable whether the extension of the high school could accomplish just this task, certainly as the high school exists to-day. For the earlier work of the high school necessarily presupposes a lack of maturity which determines its methods as not the same that the college requires; and constituted as the pedagogue is and probably always will be, it is too much to expect that a teacher will be able to adapt himself successfully to two quite different tasks.

I look, therefore, to see the college more and more, if it recognizes its responsibility to democracy, make its main end not scholarship in the technical sense, but breadth, poise, vision. Furthermore, it must aim to extend its opportunities to just as many as possible, instead of serving as a selective agency to sift out those of special promise in things of the mind. I do not mean by this that to every one alike a college course is beneficial. Doubtless there are many now in college who would