Copyright
Alexander Meiklejohn.

The liberal college online

. (page 1 of 13)
Online LibraryAlexander MeiklejohnThe liberal college → online text (page 1 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


UP






f)e amber.st Books



THE LIBERAL COLLEGE






THE
LIBERAL COLLEGE



BY



ALEXANDER MEIKLEJOHN

PRESIDENT OF AMHERST COLLEGE




BOSTON
MARSHALL JONES COMPANY

1920



COPYRIGHT-IQ20-BY
MARSHALL JONES COMPANY



THE'PlIMPTON'PRESS'NORWOOD'MASS'U-S'A



To

E. F. AND N. A. L. V.



STATE TfA.-.l.fcRl' COIUEOC
CANTA BAF<3ARA. CALIFORNIA



PREFACE

THE title of this book was chosen by the managing
editor of the series to which it belongs. It is
appropriate, I think, that the title page of the
first of the Amherst Books should thus express the authority
of the Board and of the purpose by which the series is to
be dominated. Amherst College enters upon the publi-
cation of these books with very high hopes. It is willing
to set aside desires far more compelling than that of a
writer for his title, if thereby something may be attempted
in honor of the legend Terras Irradient.

The editor's justification of the title is that it indicates
accurately, as it does, the subject-matter of the book.
The writer, however, would have preferred another title.
He would have chosen the name "Making Minds," and that
largely because it invites misunderstanding. I am sure
the editor will reward the willing submission of the writer
by allowing him to use a few words in the Preface to indicate
the notion which he would have liked to express.

The book itself is a collection of papers and addresses
dealing with the liberal college. From cover to cover it
expresses the conviction that liberal study enriches and
strengthens the lives of individual men and of groups of
men. It is based upon the belief that for a man and for
his fellows it is well that he have a good mind, if possible
an excellent or even a distinguished mind.

But with respect to such a belief as this misunderstand-
ings flourish and abound. In general people have a peculiar
interest in the processes by which they themselves were
made. And the discussion of those processes and especially
the suggestion that they might have been better than they
were does not, for obvious reasons, conduce to calmness
of mood. Psychologically it is not hard to understand



viii PREFACE

why each man yearns to think his college best and hesi-
tates to agree that changes might make it better. For this
and for many other reasons men are not thinking thoughts
when they discuss the teaching process. They are rather
giving voice to affections, purposes, prejudices, desires;
and the terms which they employ vary in quite undis-
coverable ways with the emotional qualities which lie
behind them.

In such a field as this misunderstandings are sure to come.
With respect to them we may take either of two lines of
action. We may ignore them in the hope that they will
go away, or we may invite them to make themselves at
home with the hope that they will lose the hostile quality
of the alien. My own choice would be that of ready hos-
pitality. It is good to be as well and as quickly as possible
acquainted with the misunderstandings which may visit
you. Acquaintance tends toward understanding and for
misunderstandings there is no other cure.

If then the Editor will allow, I should like to present in
this short Preface three misunderstandings which regularly
call upon us. I should like also to devote the Introduction
to a genuine attempt at making their acquaintance.

If one says that the purpose of the liberal college is to
make minds, these misunderstandings or, shall I say,
objections immediately appear. Education, we shall be
told, should make not minds of men, but Men. And
again it will be said that it is nonsense to speak of making
minds or making men; such living things as these must
grow; they are not made. And finally we shall be told
that whether the process be one of minds or of men, be one
of growth or of manufacture, the college has little to do with
the achievement of the end; the college tends to take
itself too seriously; men learn to live by living and no k v
spending four short years cut off from life by college wah~
and college customs.

To consider these misunderstandings will be the chief
purpose of our Introduction.



CONTENTS

MAKING MINDS AN INTRODUCTION
PART I. THE DETERMINING PURPOSE

I. WHAT THE LIBERAL COLLEGE IS NOT
II. WHAT THE LIBERAL COLLEGE IS



III. WHAT THE COLLEGE PREPARES FOR ....

IV. MAKING THE MIND OF A NATION

PART II. THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE PROCESS ...

I. THE COLLEGE AS CRITIC ........

II. THE FREEDOM OF THE COLLEGE
III. STUDENT ACTIVITIES IN THE COLLEGE ...

PART III. DISCUSSIONS IN EDUCATIONAL THEORY . .

I. LOGIC IN THE COLLEGE CURRICULUM
II. IS MENTAL TRAINING A MYTH ? .

PART IV. THE CURRICULUM

I. A COURSE FOR FRESHMEN

II. A CURRICULUM FOR A LIBERAL COLLEGE . .
III. A REORGANIZATION OF THE COLLEGE CURRICULUM

A FINAL WORD



THE LIBERAL COLLEGE



THE LIBERAL COLLEGE



MAKING MINDS AN INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTIONS are of necessity rather formal affairs
with some regard for rules and proprieties. Now there
is one rule with respect to the meeting of arguments
which may at least be mentioned as our misunderstanding
friends draw near. It is this, a number of different
arguments may not properly oppose another argument
if they are opposed to each other. They have no right to
ask a common enemy to kill them off if they have within
themselves the possibility of mutual extermination. In
a word, arguments must settle their own differences before
they attempt to settle a common foe. One need not press
the point; it is sufficient to know that whether pressed or
not the principle is at work in the inevitable logic of the
situation.

I

The objection that the college should make Men rather
than Minds is the most aggressive and headstrong of our
opponents. Boys should be prepared for life, it says,
not for the reading of books or the spinning of theories.
Education should be practical; by it bodies should be
strengthened, friendships shnnljhe established, manners
should be acquired T spirits should be purified, apprecia-
tions 'sKould be enrirhed and dirprted^he will should be
fortified and inspired and subjugated, all the powers of body,
mind and soul should be so trained and correlated that from
them shall be made such a man as a man should be.

This argument is hard to meet because it very discourte-

3



4 THE LIBERAL COLLEGE

ously gives us at once the feeling of being not merely in
the wrong but quite disgracefully so. Without intending
it we seem to have said that bodies should not be strong
and that wills might just as well be weak, and that ap-
preciations are of no importance, and that the spirit of man
is a matter of no concern to us. Why do we seem to have
said this? It is because the phrase, "Not minds but Men"
seems to demand as its opposite "Not men but Minds.
But we had no intention of saying this. We did not ad-
vocate the making of minds for the sake of opposing the
making of men. We had rather supposed that the making
of minds was just a part of the making of men. In fact,
when we said "Making Minds" we meant "Making the
minds of Men." Let us then protest at once that we are
not hostile to the making of men; we are rather modestly
engaged in it and are meanwhile keeping an eye on the
third approaching objection which is waiting to jump at
us for taking too seriously our part in the process.

This demand that a teacher of physics, for example,
should make not minds but men is of the same general
value as would be the assertion that a farmer should grow
not wheat but men. What is the good of food stuffs,
one asks; are they not for the feeding, the nourishing of
men? And if they are, then why does not the farmer
proceed directly to the end, why waste his time in seed and
soil and all that care called agriculture; why not make men
at once; why throw one's hours away on crops? It is a
sordid soul that values crops above the men for whom
the crops exist.

One can imagine a farmer somewhat bewildered by such
an attack as this. And many a teacher is bewildered too.
Are men more important than food ? Yes, food is for men.
Are men more important than minds? Yes, minds are
for men. Does it then follow that the farmer should grow
men in his wheat fields, or that teachers of physics should
construct men in the laboratory rather than make pupils
wise in the realm of physics?



MAKING MINDS 5

The trouble with the argument is that it is so true that
it cannot help becoming false if one dwells upon it. It is
the lazy fallacy which confuses ends and means. It is a
favorite fallacy of practical men in fields with which their
practice has not made them familiar. It is the fallacy of
those who say "Give us results" and who have no time to
inquire what results are wanted nor how they may be
gotten. It is also the fallacy of the sentimentalists who
opine that telling a boy to be a man will make him one
or that willing to be a man is all that one needs in the way
of training and study.

But now we must stop calling names and meet our guest
with proper decorum and respect. He comes suspecting that
we are hostile to him, that we oppose minds to his men.
We must try to make him see that this supposed hostility
is an illusion, a misunderstanding. How shall we do it?

First let us assure him that we know the limitations of
the mind and of its training. All the values of life, all
the things worth while in life are found in the feelings,
the emotions, the sentiments of men. And further, all the
ways of realizing these values lie in the realm of will, of
action. The mind, in the narrow sense, neither feels nor
acts, neither is value nor makes value. But on the other
hand the mind is the informing of the feelings and the
directing of the actions. It is the guide which makes feel-
ings delicate and true, which makes actions precise and suc-
cessful. The mind is not all of life but it is the intelligence
which directs life to the achievement of its ends. This is
what we mean when we say that intelligence is power not
that it acts, but that it makes action successful. It is the
eye which sees the rapier's mark but not the hand which
it directs to grasp and thrust the weapon to the spot.

A second observation follows closely upon the first. We
see that four short years of teaching minds is only a little
part of human education. All that men are and do must
be developed and trained. And in the doing of this all
human institutions, all human experiences have a part.




6 THE LIBERAL COLLEGE

The home, the church, the school, playnries, friends,
climate, food, health, employers, servants, social relations
of every sort, all these are making men, making a man
for seventy years, making him until his day is done. Amidst
all this the special training of the college course is rather
a little thing. At any rate it is a very special thing, as
special and peculiar a thing as books are in the material
world, those collections of paper pages with ink-marks
on them, as special as words are among the actions of men
and nature, those sounds made by the human throat and
lips. In terms of quantity the college course is not a major
part of education. We count it some forty hours a week
for thirty to forty weeks in each of the four years from
seventeen or eighteen years of age to twenty-one or twenty-
two. Not all of one's education is acquired in these hours.

And now since we are speaking in the spirit of friendship
rather than of controversy, we must tell our inquiring guest
what we actually do along this line of his suggestion. There
are three aspects of our attitude of which he should approve.

First, we count upon the wider education which precedes
the college training and upon that which follows it. The
college experience we recognize as an episode, one of peculiar
value, and yet as following from earlier experience and as
leading into later living. In general we must send young
men back again into the society from which they came,
not as they were but better trained in mind for that society
than any other kind of living would have made them.

Second, we recognize that during these four years, the
life of the individual student and the social life of the com-
munity must be maintained, must be kept vigorous, fine,
and high in quality. A college must be a good place in
which to live as well as a good place in which to study.
For this reason we have our chapel and church, our fra-
ternity houses and dormitories, our athletic games and
other student activities, our friendships of pupils and
teachers each with his fellows and each with the members
of the other group. Taking them all in all. I doubt if



MAKING MINDS 7

there are better communities in all our social scheme than
are our colleges.

And finally let us make one genuine concession in the
hope of friendly understanding. Let us admit that when
we speak of Making Minds the meaning which we give
to Mind is a very broad one. Judge us by our deeds and
you will see. Our course of study includes the careful
training of the body for three of the four years of residence,
our teaching of music, of drama and of literature seeks
to inspire as well as to inform the appreciations; (to many
of us it seems that other arts should make this contribution
greater than it is); the college discipline or lack of it in-
tends to bring the will to fairness and to strength of char-
acter; but more than all things else the teacher, teaching
his subject, captures his student for the kind of life he
thinks worth while; to go to college is to live in fellowship
with students and teachers; it is their personalities which
give its liberal meaning to the phrase "Making Minds.

ii

Our second guest comes with the objection that "Mak-
ing" is not a term to apply to minds; "Minds," he says,
"are not made; they grow." What shall we answer?
There is no genuine difference here. Or rather, if there
is a difference, our critic is right. Only in a certain peculiar
sense may we speak of making minds. They are not made,
as if they were constructed, but they are made to grow
made, by proper cultivation, to grow properly.

The objection to external or mechanical descriptions of
education is a thoroughly valid one. No interpretation
of teaching is more fallacious than that which regards the
teacher as giving learning or knowledge or wisdom to
the pupil, putting this desirable attribute into him. The
teacher may feel wisdom going out of him in the teaching
process, but, strictly speaking, he cannot be sure that the
pupil is taking it in. The relation of teacher and pupil
is always a somewhat mystical one. Learning is chiefly



8 THE LIBERAL COLLEGE

by imitation or by contagion. If a teacher is working
and is influential, pupils will learn to work; if a teacher is
trying to make others work, pupils will learn to do that too;
if a teacher loves wisdom wisely, pupils will love it as well.

And yet we must not let the principle of growth run
riot. A college is not a hot-house in which the whole
being with all its powers is to be forced into early flowering.
College teachers are men of special powers; they are quite
different in type from other men; they have very different
and very special lessons to impart. It is essential that
they do their special work because they can do it and others
cannot, and most of all because the opportunity for it is
very brief. The mere establishing of an "atmosphere"
for student growth is not enough. The "aromatic" theory
of education is almost as bad and certainly far more un-
wholesome than the mechanical one. A college is a place
where something is to happen and to happen definitely
because certain men know what they intend, and are de-
termined that what they intend shall be accomplished.

In this connection it may be noted that with respect
to the relation of learning to liTe there are three types of
able teachers. Of these three types, two should be kept
away from a college by every device which the art of man
can imagine. The third should be sought after as men of
old sought after the philosopher's stone or the secret of
perpetual youth, though one would hope with somewhat
more success.

First there are men who are strong among their fellows
but whose strength comes from sources other than abstract
knowledge. They are men who have built up power by
experience in practical affairs, by sentiment, by will, or in
any other way than by the use of books and other instru-
ments of study.

Second, there are men well versed in books, learned in
scholarship of certain sorts, masters of some special aspects
of a field of knowledge, who are yet negligible as men among
their fellows; no one feels them to be important.



MAKING MINDS 9

Both these types of men the college should avoid when
choosing teachers avoid them as a merchant would
shun the advertising of a competitor's wares. The college
is engaged in making men stronger and finer by means of
learning. It must not then take as its agents men who
achieve strength primarily in other ways, nor men who
have failed to achieve it in this way. As against these
the college teacher of the third type is a man who is power-
ful among his fellows but whose power springs from the
studying which he has done, from the learning which he
loves and is. If teachers are of this type we may let young
people grow in their presence with the assurance that they
will grow properly in the special way in which a college
seeks to make a student grow.

in

Our third objection has already had its say. In fact
we have been speaking for it or it for us as we have sought
to come to understanding with its fellows.

The college training is a limited, special thing. It
is not all of education, it is not even all the education
which one receives during the four years of its duration.
And yet it counts counts heavily in making men, in
making groups of men. Out of the quiet little places where
men and boys assemble for study of human life and of the
world out of those places has shone forth a light which
has illumined human life, which has made clearer the world
in which we live. These colleges are neither big nor strong
nor independent in external ways. They are like nervous
centres in an organism, not very large in bulk, not self-
sufficient, not adequate for action in the world of things
and facts. And yet they are in charge of action, decide
what it shall be, and see that it is done. Men everywhere
are making human life, are making mankind to be a
stronger, finer thing than it has been. And in the doing
of that task, they choose to set aside some quiet groups
for Making Minds. Those groups are Liberal Colleges.



PART I
THE DETERMINING PURPOSE

THESE four papers are four different attempts to
express the notion which underlies liberal college
teaching.

The first paper, "What the College is Not," was given
at the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of Alle-
gheny College on June 23, 1915. It was the closing paper
of a long series dealing with the work of the American
College. It is a study of the purpose of the college as re-
vealed in the minds of its founders. It challenges the
statement that the old college, having as a major aim the
educating of ministers, was therefore professional in intent.
It asks what kind of education was regarded as good for the
ministers of older days and may be equally good for those
of a later time.

The second paper, "What the College is," was given as
an inaugural address of the President of Amherst College,
October 16, 1912. It is a consideration of the purpose of
the college as perceived by the college teacher. It seeks,
therefore, to define the college endeavor as it is construed
and felt by the teachers and scholars who, in the deepest
sense, are the college.

The third paper, "What does the College Prepare for,"
is a popular talk which has been given many times to differ-
ent audiences and perhaps, alas, more than once to the
same audience. It is intended primarily to state the
purpose of the college to persons who are not familiar with
college teaching, or who, having had such familiarity, have
lost it. It is a controversial paper making its points, or
trying to make them, over-sharply as one is tempted to do

ii



12 THE LIBERAL COLLEGE

when speaking to audiences at whom one has- only a single
chance, or with whose point of view one is radically out of
touch.

The fourth paper, "Making the Mind of a Nation," is
an extract from a speech delivered at an Amherst Alumni
banquet in Boston, February 4, 1916. It tries to indicate to
the graduates of a college what part they have to play in
building up the life of a nation. It demands that we
achieve for the nation as a whole the same intellectual
integrity and coherence which every good teacher seeks to
fix upon the spirit of the individual student.



WHAT THE LIBERAL COLLEGE IS NOT

I MUST begin this paper by asking a question a ques-
tion addressed to the audience. The answer is a matter of
vital concern to me. I wish to ask you whether from one
statement which I shall give another logically follows. If
we say that everything that could be said about the Ameri-
can college has been said, does it follow that there is noth-
ing more to say ? My own opinion is that it does not follow
at all and I appeal to the science of logic for justification.
That science tells us that whatever has been said in one
way can be said again in another, and that perhaps just
such translation into other forms is the chief task of what we
call thinking. And especially logic tells us that whatever
has been said in affirmative terms may often, to great ad-
vantage, be expressed in negative terms.

If it is truly said that "John is in Boston," it is also safe
to remark that "John is not in New York," and this latter
statement may be of much greater importance to some of
John's friends. There is, of course, a difficulty, namely,
that it is hard to exhaust the content of the negative judg-
ment. When once you start on this process the trouble is
not to find something to say but to tell where to stop in
the illimitable expanse which lies before you. It is well
enough to say that John is not in New York, but if you
proceed to tell all the places in which John is not, consider-
able time must be allowed for the operation. While, there-
fore, I insist that this logical principle be accepted in order
that I may have a subject to talk about, I beg the audience
not to be terrified by its possibilities. For general purposes,
logical principles must be applied sparingly and with dis-

13



i 4 THE LIBERAL COLLEGE

cretion. It is quite possible to have too much of a good
thing.

But the one point on which I do insist is that in spite of
all the wisdom of these ten wise men who have preceded me
there is still something left to consider. They have told
you what the college is. I may try to tell you what it is
not. They have told you what the college has, what it
does, what it has accomplished, what it dreams, what it
will be in the days to come. Somewhere within the field
of what it has not, what it does not do, what it has not done,
what it does not dream, what it will not be somewhere
within this field, for which one might claim infinite time,
there lies the subject of this paper.

If, then, we were with any fullness to define the function
of the college in negative terms it would be necessary to
show and to explain that the college is not a high school,
not a professional school, not a university, nor any part
thereof. But everyone knows that there are many kinds
of high school, many types of professional school, many
separate schools within a university. If we should discuss
each one of these separation et seriatim, showing that
the college is not any one of them, is different from them
all, I fear that the consequence for you would be much
weariness of the flesh and great vexation of the spirit.
But again the kindly science of logic will hurry to our
rescue. That science has another valuable principle, viz.,
that there is no sense in denying a statement unless someone
has asserted it. What assertions, then, of the identity
of the college with other institutions are just now being
made with sufficient insistence to demand our attention?
There are teachers who seem to find little difference between
the college and the high school, but their lack of perception
is not very important. We are just emerging from a period
in which the college has been regarded as a part of the
university and has been identified with the whole in essential
attitude and spirit. But the day of that confusion is
rapidly closing. The one confusion which does today


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryAlexander MeiklejohnThe liberal college → online text (page 1 of 13)