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Charles William Eliot.

Present college questions; six papers read before the National Educational Association, at the sessions held in Boston, July 6 and 7, 1903 online

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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.



GIFT OF"



Class



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS



pip.- PRESENT
COLLEGE QUESTIONS

SIX PAPERS READ BEFORE THE NATIONAL
EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION, AT THE SES-
SIONS HELD IN BOSTON, JULY 6 AND 7, 1903

BY
CHARLES W. ELIOT

PRESIDENT OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY

ANDREW F. WEST

DEAN OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

WILLIAM R. HARPER

PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

NICHOLAS MURRAY BUTLER

PRESIDENT OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY




A R

'Or "HE

UNIVERSITY

OF

'LIFO_

NEW YORK

D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

1903



8



COPYRIGHT, 1903, BY
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY




CONTENTS



PAGE

PUBLISHERS' NOTE vii



I. A NEW DEFINITION OF THE CULTIVATED

MAN 1

PRESIDENT ELIOT, Harvard University.
Read Monday evening, July 6, 1903.

II. THE PRESENT PERIL TO LIBERAL EDUCA-
TION . 27

. DEAN WEST, Princeton University.
Read Monday evening, July 6, 1903.

III. THE LENGTH OF THE COLLEGE COURSE . 45
Q PRESIDENT ELIOT, Harvard University.
DEAN WEST, Princeton University.
PRESIDENT HARPER, University of Chicago.
PRESIDENT BUTLER, Columbia University.
Four papers read Tuesday morning, July
7, 1903.



PUBLISHERS' NOTE

THE six papers printed in this book were
received with extraordinary interest at the
time of their delivery last July before the
National Educational Association in Boston,
and still continue to be the subject of wide-
spread public comment. They form a closely
connected series of short discussions by rep-
resentative men of leading universities on
those questions of college education which
are now arousing the keenest discussion in
educational circles throughout the land. The
acute conflict between the rival ideals of
liberal education, the increasing demands of
the secondary and professional schools, and
the consequent problem of the survival of
the American college, are the grave questions
involved in the debate. To preserve in
accessible form these notable discussions of
the largest and most important educational
gathering ever held in America, the six
papers, by permission of their writers, are
issued in this volume for the first time in
collected form and in the order in which
they were delivered.

NOVEMBER, 1903.



A NEW DEFINITION OF THE
CULTIVATED MAN

BY

CHARLES W. ELIOT

PRESIDENT OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY



uf;iv - - : ;3iTY. j

or



A NEW DEFINITION OF THE
CULTIVATED MAN 1

To produce the cultivated man, or at least
the man capable of becoming cultivated in
after life, has long been supposed to be one
of the fundamental objects of systematic
and thorough education.* The ideal of gen-
eral cultivation has been one of the stand-
ards in education. It is often asked: Will
the education which a given institution is
supplying produce the cultivated man? Or,
can cultivation be the result of a given
course of study? In such questions there is
an implication that the education which does
not produce the cultivated man is a failure,
or has been misconceived or misdirected.
Now if cultivation were an unchanging
ideal, the steady use of the conception as
a permanent test of educational processes
might be justified; but if the cultivated
man of to-day is, or ought to be, a dis-

1 Read before the National Educational Association at its
Boston meeting, general session, Monday evening, July 6, 1903.

3



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

tinctly different creature from the culti-
vated man of a century ago, the ideal of
cultivation can not be appealed to as a
standard without preliminary explanations
and interpretations. It is the object of this
paper to show that the idea of cultivation
in the highly trained human being has
undergone substantial changes during the
nineteenth century.

' I ought to say at once that I propose to
use the term cultivated man in only its good
sense in Emerson's sense. In this paper
he is not to be a weak, critical, fastidious
creature, vain of a little exclusive informa-
tion or of an uncommon knack in Latin
verse or mathematical logic: he is to be a
man of quick perceptions, broad sympathies,
and wide affinities, responsive but independ-
ent, self-reliant but deferential, loving truth
and candor but also moderation and pro-
portion, courageous but gentle, not finished
but perfecting. All authorities agree that
true culture is not exclusive, sectarian, or
partisan, but the very opposite; that it is
not to be attained in solitude, but in society;
w and that the best atmosphere for culture is
that of a school, university, academy, or

4



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

church, where many pursue together the
ideals of truth, righteousness, and love.

Here some one may think this process of
cultivation is evidently a long, slow, artifi-
cial process. I prefer the genius, the man
of native power or skill, the man whose
judgment is sound and influence strong,
though he can not read or write the born
inventor, orator, or poet. So do we all.
Men have always reverenced prodigious in-
born gifts, and always will. Indeed, bar-
barous men always say of the possessors of
such gifts these are not men; they are
gods. i But we teachers, who carry on a
system of popular education, which is by
far the most complex and valuable inven-
tion of the nineteenth century, know that
we have to do, not with the highly gifted
units, but with the millions who are more
or less capable of being cultivated by the
long, patient, artificial training called edu-
cation. For us and our system the genius
is no standard, but the cultivated man is.
To his stature we and many of our pupils
may in time attain.

There are two principal differences be-
tween the present ideal and that which pre-

5



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

vailed at the beginning of the nineteenth
century. All thinkers agree that the hori-
zon of the human intellect has widened
wonderfully during the past hundred years,
and that the scientific method of inquiry,
which was known to but very few when the
nineteenth century began, has been the
means of that widening. This method has
become indispensable in all fields of inquiry,
including psychology, philanthropy, and re-
ligion, and, therefore, intimate acquaintance
with it 'has become an indispensable element
in culture. As Matthew Arnold pointed out
more than a generation ago, educated man-
kind is governed by two passions one the
passion for pure knowledge, the other the
passion for being of service or doing good.
Now, the passion for pure knowledge is
only to be gratified through the scientific
method of inquiry. In Arnold's phrases,
the first step for every aspirant to culture
is to endeavor to see things as they are, or
" to learn, in short, the Will of God." The
second step is to make that Will prevail,
each in his own sphere of action and influ-
ence. This recognition of science as pure
knowledge, and of the scientific method as

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PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

the universal method of inquiry, is the great
addition made by the nineteenth century to
the idea of culture. I need not say that
within that century what we call science,
pure and applied, has transformed the world
as the scene of the human drama; and that
it is this transformation which has com-
pelled the recognition of natural science as
a fundamental necessity in liberal education.
The most convinced exponents and advo-
cates of humanism now recognize that sci-
ence is the " paramount force of the modern
as distinguished from the antique and the
medieval spirit " (John Addington Sy-
monds " Culture ") and that "an inter-
penetration of humanism with science and
of science with humanism is the condition of
the highest culture."

A second modification of the earlier idea
of cultivation was advocated by Ralph
Waldo Emerson more than two generations
ago. He taught that the acquisition of
some form of manual skill and the practise
of some form of manual labor were essen-
tial elements of culture. This idea has more
and more become accepted in the systematic
education of youth; and if we include ath-

7



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

letic sports among the desirable forms of
manual skill and labor, we may say that
during the last thirty years this element of
excellence of body in the ideal of education
has had a rapid, even an exaggerated, de-
velopment. The idea of some sort of bodily
excellence was, to be sure, not absent in the
old conception of the cultivated man. The
gentleman could ride well, dance gracefully,
and fence with skill; but the modern con-
ception of bodily skill as an element in
cultivation is more comprehensive, and in-
cludes that habitual contact with the exter-
nal world which Emerson deemed essential
to real culture. * We have lately become
convinced that accurate work with carpen-
ters' tools, or lathe, or hammer and anvil, or
violin, or piano, or pencil, or crayon, or
camel's-hair brush, trains well the same
nerves and ganglia with which we do what
is ordinarily called thinking. We have also
become convinced that some intimate, sym-
pathetic acquaintance with the natural ob-
jects of the earth and sky adds greatly to
the happiness of life, and that this acquaint-
ance should be begun in childhood and be
developed all through adolescence and ma-

8



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

turity. A brook, a hedgerow, or a garden
is an inexhaustible teacher of wonder, rev-
erence, and love. The scientists insist to-
day on nature-study for children; but we
teachers ought long ago to have learned
from the poets the value of this element in
education. They are the best advocates of
nature-study. If any here are not convinced
of its worth, let them go to Theocritus,
Virgil, Wordsworth, Tennyson, or Lowell
for the needed demonstration. Let them
observe, too, that a great need of modern
industrial society is intellectual pleasures, or
pleasures which, like music, combine delight-
ful sensations with the gratifications of
observation, association, memory, and sym-
pathy. The idea of culture has always
included a quick and wide sympathy with
men; it should hereafter include sympathy
with Nature, and particularly with its liv-
ing forms a sympathy based on some ac-
curate observation of Nature. (The book- ' \ /L'
worm, the-mask, the isolated student, has *



never been the type of the cultivated
Society has seemed the natural setting for
the cultivated person, man or woman; but
the present conception of real culture con-

2 9



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

tains not only a large development of this
social element, but also an extension of in-
terest and reverence to the animate creation
and to those immense forces that set the
earthly stage for man and all related beings.

Let us now proceed to examine some of
the changes in the idea of culture, or in the
available means of culture, which the last
hundred years have brought about.

1. The moral sense of the modern world
makes character a more important element
'than it used to be in the ideal of a cultivated
man. Now character is formed, as Goethe
said, in the " stream of the world " not in
stillness or isolation, but in the quick-flow-
ing tides of the busy world, the world of
nature and the world of mankind. At the
end of the nineteenth century the world was
wonderfully different from the world at
the beginning of that eventful period; and,
moreover, men's means of making acquaint-
ance with the world were vastly more ample
than they were a hundred years earlier. To
the old idea of culture some knowledge of
history was indispensable. Now history is
a representation of the stream of the world,
or of some little portion of that stream, one

10



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

hundred, five hundred, two thousand years
ago. Acquaintance with some part of the
present stream ought to be more formative
of character, and more instructive as regards
external nature and the nature of man, than
any partial survey of the stream that was
flowing centuries ago. We have, then,
through the present means of reporting
the stream of the world from day to day,
material for culture such as no preceding
generation of men has possessed. The cul-
tivated man or woman must use the means
which steam and electricity have provided
for reporting the play of physical forces and
of human volitions which make the world
of to-day; for the world of to-day supplies
in its immense variety a picture of all stages
of human progress, from the Stone Age,
through savagery, barbarism, and medieval-
ism, to what we now call civilization. The
rising generation should think hard and feel
keenly, just where the men and women who
constitute the actual human world are think-
ing and feeling most to-day. The pano-
rama of to-day's events is not an accurate
or complete picture, for history will supply
posterity with much evidence which is hid-
11



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

den from the eyes of contemporaries; but it
is nevertheless an invaluable and a new
means of developing good judgment, good
feeling, and the passion for social service,
or, in other words, of securing cultivation.
But some one will say the stream of the
world is foul. True in part. The stream
is, what it has been, a mixture of foulness
and purity, of meanness and majesty; but
it has nourished individual virtue and race
civilization. Literature and history are a
similar mixture, and yet are the traditional
means of culture. Are not the Greek trag-
edies means of culture? Yet they are full
of incest, murder, and human sacrifices to
lustful and revengeful gods.

2. A cultivated man should express him-
self by tongue or pen with some accuracy
and elegance; therefore linguistic training
has had great importance in the idea of
cultivation. The conditions of the educated
world have, however, changed so profoundly
since the revival of learning in Italy that
our inherited ideas concerning training in
language and literature have required large
modifications. In the year 1400 it might
have been said with truth that there was but

12



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

one language of scholars, the Latin, and
but two great literatures, the Hebrew and,
the Greek. Since that time, however, other
great literatures have arisen, the Italian,
Spanish, French, German, and above all
the English, which has become incompar-
ably the most extensive and various and
the noblest of literatures. Under these cir-
cumstances it is impossible to maintain that
a knowledge of any particular literature is
indispensable to culture. Yet we can not >
but feel that the cultivated man ought to '
possess a considerable acquaintance with the
literature of some great language, and the!
power to use the native language in a pure
and interesting way. Thus, we are not sure
that Robert Burns could be properly de-
scribed as a cultivated man, moving poet
though he was. We do not think of Abra-
ham Lincoln as a cultivated man, master of
English speech and writing though he was.
These men do not correspond to the type
represented by the word cultivated, but be-
long in the class of geniuses. When we ask
ourselves why a knowledge of literature
seems indispensable to the ordinary idea of
cultivation, we find no answer except this:
13



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

that in literature are portrayed all human
passions, desires, and aspirations, and that
acquaintance with these human feelings, and
with the means of portraying them, seems to
us essential to culture. These human quali-
ties and powers are also the commonest
ground of interesting human intercourse,
and therefore literary knowledge exalts the
quality and enhances the enjoyment of hu-
man intercourse. It is in conversation that
cultivation tells as much as anywhere, and
this rapid exchange of thoughts is by far
the commonest manifestation of its power.
Combine the knowledge of literature with
knowledge of the " stream of the world "
and you have united two large sources of
the influence of the cultivated person. The
linguistic and literary element in cultivation
therefore abides, but has become vastly
broader than formerly so broad, indeed,
that selection among its various fields is
forced upon every educated youth.

3. The next great element in cultivation
to which I ask your attention is acquaint-
ance with some parts of the store of knowl-
edge which humanity in its progress from
barbarism has acquired and laid up. This
14



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

is the prodigious store of recorded, ration-
alized, and systematized discoveries, experi-
ences, and ideas. This is the store which we
teachers try to pass on to the rising genera-
tion. The capacity to assimilate this store
and improve it in each successive generation
is the distinction of the human race over
other animals. It is too vast for any man
to master, though he had a hundred lives
instead of one; and its growth in the nine-
teenth century was greater than in all the
thirty preceding centuries put together. In
the eighteenth century a diligent student
with strong memory and quick powers of
apprehension need not have despaired of
mastering a large fraction of this store of
knowledge. Long before the end of the
nineteenth century such a task had become
impossible. Culture, therefore, can no
longer imply a knowledge of everything p
not even a little knowledge of everything.
It must be content with general knowledge i
of some things, and a real mastery of some
small portion of the human store. Here is
a profound modification of the idea of cul-
tivation, which the nineteenth century has
brought about. What portion or portions
15



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

of the infinite human store are most proper
to the cultivated man? The answer must
be, those which enable him, with his indi-
vidual personal qualities, to deal best and
sympathize most with Nature and with
other human beings. It is here that the pas-
sion for service must fuse with the passion
for knowledge. It is natural to imagine
that the young man who has acquainted
himself with economics, the science of gov-
ernment, sociology, and the history of civ-
ilization in its motives, objects, and methods
has a better chance of fusing the passion for
knowledge with the passion for doing good
than the man whose passion for pure knowl-
edge leads him to the study of chemical or
physical phenomena, or of the habits and
climatic distribution of plants or animals.
Yet, so intricate are the relations of human
beings to the animate and inanimate creation
that it is impossible to foresee with what
realms of nature intense human interests
may prove to be identified. Thus the gen-
eration now on the stage has suddenly
learned that some of the most sensitive and
exquisite human interests, such as health or
disease and life or death for those we love,
16



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

are bound up with the life histories of para-
sites on the blood-corpuscles or of certain
varieties of mosquitoes and ticks. When
the spectra of the sun, stars, and other lights
began to be studied, there was not the slight-
est anticipation that a cure for one of the
most horrible diseases to which mankind is
liable might be found in the X-rays. While,
then, we can still see that certain subjects
afford more obvious or frequent access to
means of doing good and to fortunate inter-
course with our fellows than other subjects,
we have learned from nineteenth-century

experience that there is no field of real

knowledge which may not suddenly prove
contributory in a high degree to human hap-
piness and the progress of civilization, and !
therefore acceptable as a worthy element in
the truest culture,

4. The only other element in cultivation
which time will permit me to treat is the A
training of the constructive imagination.
The imagination is the greatest of human .
powers, no matter in what field it works
in art or literature, in mechanical invention,
in science, government, commerce, or relig-
ion; and the training of the imagination is, j
17 \ }



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

therefore, far the most important part of
education. I use the term constructive im-
agination because that implies the creation
or building of a new thing. The sculptor,
for example, imagines or conceives the per-
fect form of a child ten years of age ; he has
never seen such a thing, for a child perfect
in form is never produced; he has only seen
in different children the elements of perfec-
tion, here one element and there another.
In his imagination he combines these ele-
ments of the perfect form, which he has
only seen separated, and from this picture
in his mind he carves the stone, and in the
execution invariably loses his ideal that is,
falls short of it or fails to express it. Sir
Joshua Reynolds points out that the painter
can picture only what he has somewhere
seen; but that the more he has seen and
noted the surer he is to be original in his
painting, because his imaginary combina-
tions will be original. Constructive imagi-
nation is the great power of the poet as well
as of the artist; and the nineteenth century
has convinced us that it is also the great
power of the man of science, the investi-
gator, and the natural philosopher. What
18



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

gives every great naturalist or physicist his
epoch-making results is precisely the im-
aginative power by which he deduces from
the masses of fact the guiding hypothesis
or principle.

The educated world needs to recognize /
the new varieties of constructive imagina- >
tion. Dante gave painful years to picturing
on many pages of his immortal Comedy of
Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise the most
horrible monsters and tortures and the most
loathsome and noisome abominations that
his fervid imagination could concoct out of
his own bitter experiences and the manners
and customs of his cruel times. Sir Charles
Lyell spent many laborious years in search-
ing for and putting together the scattered
evidences that the geologic processes by
which the crust of the earth has been made
ready for the use of man have been, in the
main, not catastrophic, but gradual and
gentle, and that the forces which have been
in action through past ages are, for the
most part, similar to those we may see to-
day eroding hills, cutting canons, making
placers, marshes, and meadows, and form-
ing prairies and ocean floors. He first
19



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

imagined, and then demonstrated, that the
geologic agencies are not explosive and
cataclysmal, but steady and patient. These
two kinds of imagination Dante's and
Lyell's are not comparable, but both are
manifestations of great human power.
Zola, in La Bete Humaine, contrives that
ten persons, all connected with the railroad
from Paris to Havre, shall be either mur-
derers or murdered, or both, within eighteen
months ; and he adds two railroad slaughters
criminally procured. The conditions of
time and place are ingeniously imagined,
and no detail is omitted which can heighten
the effect of this homicidal fiction. Con-
trast this kind of constructive imagination
with the kind which conceived the great
wells sunk in the solid rock below Niagara
that contain the turbines that drive the
dynamos that generate the electric force
that turns thousands of wheels and lights
thousands of lamps over hundreds of square
miles of adjoining territory; or with the
kind which conceives the sending of human
thoughts across three thousand miles of
stormy sea instantaneously on nothing more
substantial than ethereal waves. There is no
20



PRESENT COLLEGE QUESTIONS

crime, cruelty, or lust about these last two
sorts of imagining. No lurid fire of hell or
human passion illumines their scenes. They
are calm, accurate, just, and responsible,
and nothing but beneficence and increased
human well-being results from them. There
is going to be room in the hearts of twen-
tieth-century men for a high admiration of
these kinds of imagination, as well as for
that of the poet, artist, or dramatist.

Another kind of imagination deserves a
moment's consideration the receptive im-
agination which entertains and holds fast
the visions which genius creates or the
analogies of nature suggest. A young
woman is absorbed for hours in conning the
squalid scenes and situations through which
Thackeray portrays the malign motives and
unclean soul of Becky Sharp. Another
young woman watches for days the pair-
ing, nesting, brooding, and foraging of
two robins that have established home and
family in the notch of a maple near her
window. She notes the unselfish labors of
the father and mother for each other and
for their little ones, and weaves into the


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Online LibraryCharles William EliotPresent college questions; six papers read before the National Educational Association, at the sessions held in Boston, July 6 and 7, 1903 → online text (page 1 of 5)