Charles William Eliot.

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American universities to the latter with
interesting modifications. It is directly appli-
cable to the study of constitutional law, and
in large measure to the study of diplomacy,
because collections of original documents can
be made for the study of these subjects which
are analogous to the case-books used in the
study of legal subjects. In economics also
the method is applicable, with only slight
modifications. Thus, the century-long warfare
between capital and labor can be profitably
studied from a collection of reports on the
most important lockouts and strikes of the
period, condensed and summarized if need be.
The successive gains made by the trade
unions, the good and evil they have done,
the defences set up by capital, and the inven-


tions made by capital to meet the new condi-
tions of the labor market, can all be brought
home to the student vividly and impressively
through the reports of the actual conflicts,
without the use of any treatise, or history, or
of any theoretical statement of doctrine on
the subject.

One of the most interesting applications of
the case method in other departments occurs
in clinical medicine, a department where the
ordinary method has been to show the stu-
dents, gathered about the patient, how the
history of the case has been obtained by the
physician and the nurse, how the symptoms
have been studied and recorded, and how the
just diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis are
to be arrived at. This lesson is given on or
near the patient in a hospital, dispensary, or
out-patient department. To supplement this
instruction given over sick or injured per-
sons, a case-book has been contrived in which
a large number of cases are described, with
all the records used by the physician making
a hospital visit, and with the results of thor-


ough examination of the patient. From this
printed report of the case, the student is ex-
pected to make his own diagnosis, to prescribe
the proper treatment, and to make the prog-
nosis. It is evident that this method can be
profitably used with regard to a great variety
of diseases and injuries; so that the stu-
dent shall find in such a case-book means of
reviewing his knowledge, and of testing his
capacity to deal with actual cases. This is a
combination of the case-book in the law with
a book of problems in geometry, or physics,
or economic geology.

Useful modifications of the case-book are
the source-books which are now found useful
in university departments of history, philoso-
phy, and public finance. These books are of
course various in character according to their
subjects ; but the fundamental idea is that of
Professor Langdell's book of cases. They are
intended to put at the disposition of the stu-
dent documents which have proved to be of
fundamental importance, summaries of life-
careers which were extraordinarily influential,


or extracts from great authors which contain
the substance of their teachings, or the seeds
of later growths. Books of this nature can be
profitably used either to supplement lectures,
that is, as parts of prescribed reading, or to
supply the themes of oral discussions which
replace lectures.

Finally, university examinations have been
greatly improved and systematized within the
last fifty years, and have become a highly pro-
fitable part of university discipline. American
experience on this subject is brief compared
with English. The first written examinations
ever held in Harvard University were intro-
duced there in the year 1857 by two young
tutors in mathematics. The written examina-
tion has since been studied from every possible
point of view, and adopted in all departments
of university work. They are much more than
means of grading students and compelling
the indifferent or careless student to do some
work; they constitute a valuable means of
training, inasmuch as they prepare young
men to meet the similar crises which they


constantly encounter in after-life, particularly
in the professions, both learned and scien-
tific, in the public service, and in business

The professional man is constantly brought
to tests much severer than any university
examination can ever be. The lawyer must
prepare himself, often under great difficul-
ties, to plead his case on a given day. The
physician may find himself called at any mo-
ment to a sick or injured person, whose real
condition he must discover as soon as pos-
sible, and must treat forthwith. He must also
decide what to say to the patient, and to the
patient's friends and relatives. He needs to
have at his fingers' ends all the knowledge
and skill applicable to the case in hand, and
he needs it on a sudden. The architect finds
it to his interest to present within a few weeks
a design for a kind of structure which is not
familiar to him, or which must be adapted to
new conditions of construction and use. He
must quickly summon all his forces, and work
at high speed to produce within a few weeks


an attractive competitive design. In all intel-
lectual callings there are periods of intense
labor to prepare for a crisis. For all such
work the university examinations provide ap-
propriate and invaluable training. On this
account the disappearance of promotion and
graduation examinations from many schools
both elementary and secondary is greatly
to be deplored; the more so because college
and university examinations are sure to be
lowered in standard when the students who
enter the colleges and universities have had
no experience in examinations prior to be-
coming members of their college or university
on certificates from the secondary schools.
A generation is growing up in many parts of
the country which has successfully avoided
examinations, having acquired the belief that
examinations are an evil, instead of a profit-
able means of sound training.

A peculiar form of examination which has
been developed in some university departments
deserves mention. When an examination is to
be held on a half-year's course in the differen-


tial calculus, for example, instead of preparing
a question-paper containing eight or ten ques-
tions, the instructor responsible for the course
prepares a set of forty or fifty questions which
really cover the field of instruction in that
course, so that any one who could answer all
the questions would demonstrate that he had
possessed himself of the substance of the in-
struction given during the half-year. This long
paper is given to the students three or four
weeks before the date of the examination. On
the examination day the class is told to answer
six or eight of the questions on the list. This
method is analogous to the use of a full syl-
labus to define to a class at the beginning the
professor's conception of the subjects he shall
cover during the entire course which they
are entering on. In any university there will
be some departments in which this mode of
examination can be occasionally adopted to

The highest instruction given in the Ameri-
can universities is given in those intimate
meetings of small groups of advanced students


with their teachers, which are variously called
seminaries, conferences, or research courses.
The manner of conducting these meetings
varies considerably in different departments.
In the mathematical, scientific, historical, and
philosophical departments the main object is
often to give students opportunities of making
acquaintance at first hand with original au-
thorities, and to teach them by great examples
the methods of research. The work is then
apt to consist of reading typical texts and
documents, and the records of epoch-making
experiments or inquiries, of short studies on
special topics of ancient or modern inquiry,
and of comments, discussions, and criticisms
by the members of the class. One field of
study may be chosen by the teacher for the
whole group, or a special topic may be assigned
to each individual student. While the main
purpose of such work is to gain familiarity
with the processes of investigation and with
the weighing of evidence, the incidental know-
ledge acquired is an important part of the
total result. In seminaries or conferences on


natural history subjects, the critical exami-
nation of specimens may find a place, and
particularly the study of materials which the
students have collected in the field. In eco-
nomics the instructors undertake the guidance
of students in independent investigations of
financial, industrial, and transportation prob-
lems ; and the seminary gives opportunity for
the presentation and discussion of the results
of the students' researches. In languages and
literature the seminary courses generally have
two purposes in view. First, to make a thor-
ough study of selected works with special ref-
erence to text criticism, etymology, and the
history of grammatical forms. Secondly, to
acquaint the student with the methods of lin-
guistic and literary research by means of lim-
ited original investigations carried on by him
under the supervision of the teacher.

The members of any seminary may follow
special lines of inquiry, pursue their own work,
and confer individually at stated times with
the instructors under whose guidance they are
conducting their researches ; but the seminary


or conference also gives opportunity to the
instructor to present results of his own work
to the advanced students in his subject. A
teacher who is developing a given subject for
his own purposes may often get valuable aid
from his seminary students, partly in collect-
ing materials, partly in verifying facts or cita-
tions, and partly through student discussion
and criticism of his own processes and state-

In some departments, meetings, called con-
ferences, of all the instructors and advanced
students are held statedly to promote inde-
pendent research and close intercourse be-
tween instructors and students, and to hear
and discuss papers prepared by the student
members. This conference method of instruc-
tion has been usually developed in the gradu-
ate schools of arts and sciences ; but it is now
used in various university departments, under-
graduate as well as graduate. It is the climax
of university teaching.

One excellent result of the changes in uni-
versity teaching during the past fifty years is


that the amount of direct intercourse between
teacher and student has greatly increased, so
that the personal influence of teacher on stu-
dent has been much enhanced.



THE American colleges and universities, with
a few exceptions in peculiar communities, con-
tain representatives of all grades of American
society, namely, some small number of rich
men's sons, a much larger number of young
men whose families can help but little, or not
at all, towards their education, and a strong
majority of students whose families are neither
rich nor poor. In any college or university
the rich class will be represented to a higher
percentage than in society at large; because
most men who succeed greatly in business, or in
the professions, endeavor to get their sons into
college, knowing that the only way to maintain
through several generations a good family
position once won is through superior educa-
tion. In the large proportion of poor young
men in any college there will be a consid-


erable number of youths who have distanced
the mass of their contemporaries and associ-
ates because of some unusual mental gift, or
of some bodily excellence which has enabled
them to bear an unusual amouDt of work, as,
for example, the work of earning their living
while pursuing strenuous studies. There will
naturally be a larger percentage of idlers
among the rich students than in either of the
other groups, because the rich lack the motive
of impending need; but nevertheless, many
of the richer students will be found in the
upper quarter of their respective classes. In
Harvard College, for example, there are both
honorary and stipend scholarships, an honor-
ary scholarship being conferred on every stu-
dent, having no need of pecuniary aid, who
stands as high as, or higher than, the lowest
scholar in his class who receives a stipend
scholarship. Now, in almost all the classes in
Harvard College there are as many honorary
scholarship-holders as there are stipend schol-
arship-holders; indeed, there are often more
honorary than stipend scholarship-holders. The


poor students are as a rule steady workers.
They bring that quality with them to college ;
for without it they could not have reached the
college. In the great majority of students who
are neither rich nor poor, every variety of dis-
position and capacity appears ; and it is they
who in the long run determine the social
quality of a college, for their manners and cus-
toms and their common sentiments naturally
prevail, although modified somewhat by the
manners and sentiments of the richer students
on the one hand and of the poorer on the

When a college or university is started early
in a new or pioneer community, its students
may for a time reproduce the homogeneous-
ness of the surrounding community as regards
occupation, education, and habitual family
life; but even a single generation may suffice
to introduce into that college the heteroge-
neousness above described.

It is of course highly desirable that stu-
dents of all sorts mix together freely, and
come to understand each other during the


period of college life. What are the means of
promoting this desirable mixing? In the first
place, college halls of chambers, in which stu-
dents can live in large bodies under healthy
conditions and in close association. It is more
desirable that each dormitory contain rooms
of different sorts at different prices, than that
one dormitory should have rooms at high
rents, and another rooms at low rents; and
it is also much more desirable that each dor-
mitory should contain students of different
ages than that Seniors should be massed in
one dormitory, and Freshmen in another. The
managers of dormitories should always seek
to promote the association of students of dif-
ferent college standing, and of different scales
of expenditure. A good invention in college
halls of chambers is the common-room, a large
apartment or suite of rooms on the lower floor,
pleasantly furnished as a common meeting-
place for the occupants of the hall.

Under a general regime of liberty for the
student, it will ordinarily be found impossible
to prevent groupings of students according to


their scales of expenditure ; but this tendency
should be resisted, so far as it is possible to
do so, by the renting arrangements of col-
lege dormitories. It is of course impossible to
prevent private investors offering students
desirable suites of rooms at high prices, and
thereby segregating the richer ; although such
buildings may always be kept under the su-
pervision of college officers resident therein,
and in the last resort may be made bad in-
vestments by means of restrictive college reg-

It used to be thought among the governors
of some of the newer American universities
that students' halls of chambers were natural
centres of disorder and turbulence, and there-
fore were undesirable possessions; but this
view has now been generally abandoned, partly
because some colleges with dormitories have
proved to be habitually quieter and more or-
derly than some colleges without dormitories,
and partly because experience has shown that
well-managed dormitories make college life
more enjoyable and more profitable. Moreover,


it has now been generally recognized that
wherever women go to college, well-constructed
halls of chambers are well-nigh indispensable
for them.

Another means of promoting the desirable
association of students whose families live on
different scales is the provision of large din-
ing-halls which can be carried on in a coop-
erative fashion by associations of students.
In this way a thousand or more students can
habitually eat together, at a moderate general
charge, each individual having the liberty of
adding to the common diet special articles
which he orders and pays for individually.
In such halls some tables may be set apart
for groups of acquaintances, while others are
used as in a restaurant. Both dormitories and
dining-halls, if well managed, will keep down
the average price of board and lodging in the
town where the college or university is situ-
ated, and thereby tend to promote the growth
of the college, and to maintain its democratic

The mixing of all sorts of students may


further be promoted by providing large club-
houses for the use of the whole body of stu-
dents. A club which contains no more than
five hundred members is highly useful in this
respect ; but a club like the Harvard Union,
which contains fifteen hundred active mem-
bers, is of course much better; indeed, such
a club is a very efficient means of promoting
an advantageous breadth and variety of ac-
quaintance among students. Inasmuch as such
a club must inevitably have a low annual fee,
it cannot be supported without endowment,
such as the gift of its building, or the pro-
vision of a fund the income of which helps to
pay the running expenses.

In any old and large university there will
be found numerous associations of students
whose membership is determined by some com-
mon taste or capacity, such, for instance, as
musical associations, dramatic clubs, and so-
cieties which meet statedly to discuss a sub-
ject of common interest, like the natural
history societies, and the clubs containing the
students who are interested in philosophy,


economics, history, government, law, or medi-
cine. These groups are made up without the
slightest reference to the social standing or
mode of life of their members, membership
being conditioned solely on capacity and de-
sire to contribute to the object of the associa-
tion. These associations often establish among
their members lifelong intimacies based on
intellectual affinities.

The absence, or inadequate supply, of dor-
mitories in some American colleges and uni-
versities has given opportunity for the intro-
duction and successful development of the
fraternity system. The fraternities, with their
large and comfortable houses, and their inter-
esting secrecies, good libraries, and pleasant
relations with graduate members, organize a
part of the students of a college or university
into a number of fixed groups, the new mem-
bers of each group being ordinarily selected
within a few weeks of the advent of a Fresh-
man class, if, indeed, not earlier pledged. In
a small college the fraternities may each year
divide among themselves almost the entire


body of newcomers, leaving but a small rem-
nant invited into no fraternity, who are
usually regarded as unfortunates. The fra-
ternity groups thus hastily formed persist
throughout the whole college course, and, in-
deed, last in some measure throughout life ;
so that when a graduate returns at Commence-
ment time, he revisits his fraternity quite as
much as his college.

In large universities, where fraternity influ-
ence is comparatively feeble, other means have
been found of gratifying the desire to meet
frequently, or even live with, a small group
of congenial individuals, whose habits of ex-
penditure are approximately on a level. The
small clubs, so called, gratify this propensity.
Twenty to forty men associate themselves to-
gether, and maintain a house, or some rooms,
to which they habitually resort for social in-
tercourse. These clubs, like the fraternities,
are often helped pecuniarily by former mem-
bers, who remember gratefully the pleasure
their club gave them in their own college
days. These clubs are ordinarily conducted


with much privacy; so that some of them
may occasionally become centres of luxurious,
or even vicious, living, without this perver-
sion coming to the knowledge either of the
college authorities, or of the main body of
the students. Such lapses are, however, only
occasional, and are usually corrected either
by graduate members, or by new members who
replace the men who have led the club astray.
The small social clubs generally illustrate the
principle that " birds of a feather flock to-
gether," a principle which obtains in all
human as well as bird society, and which demo-
cracy cannot eradicate, and need not wish to.
Sororities have, in general, the same merits
and advantages as fraternities, but being of
more recent origin and serving the sex which
does not, as a rule, make and accumulate
money, they have difficulty in procuring en-
dowment or adequate revenues. They add to
the social enjoyments of their members, and
give them a sense of mutual support and of
good fellowship. They are especially useful
in co-educational institutions which do not


possess an adequate number of dormitories
for women.

The fraternities and sororities and the social
clubs in American colleges and universities,
being small, exclusive, and secretive groups,
seem inconsistent with democratic principles in
general, and particularly with the liberal spirit
of a society of scholars. The fact is, however,
that the natural human being wants and needs
for social purposes some group or groups larger
and more various than the family, but much
smaller and less various than the entire com-
munity, or even than the entire membership
of a society of scholars. For social purposes
democracy is too near an approach to infinity.
The limited human being, even when fairly
educated, craves a limited group of congenial
associates having some common interest, which,
for the purposes of a social bond, may as well
be narrow as broad.

Fraternities and clubs alike can be utilized
by sympathetic and respected college officers
in confidential ways to support good order,
to root out evil practices, and to control and


reform young men who have shown danger-
ous tendencies. Public misconduct on the part
of any of its members is held to discredit a fra-
ternity or club ; so that the officers and past
members of any respectable fraternity or club
will labor diligently with erring members, and
at the instance of college officers will take a
great deal of trouble to protect a weak brother
against himself, and to prevent him from in-
juring the reputation of the society to which
he belongs. Fraternity or club companions can
often exert more influence and a more constant
influence on young men who are going wrong
than any college officers can exert directly. It
is essential to this good influence that it be
private and unofficial so far as the college is

The phrase college spirit undoubtedly de-
scribes a real thing, but this spirit is, on the
whole, much the same in all the American
colleges and universities which are old enough
to have traditions and inheritances, variety of
spirit existing in them only in comparatively
small proportion. Nevertheless, slight differ-


ences in tone or atmosphere may produce
striking effects on the prevailing quality of
the graduates of different colleges, and these
effects are often traceable to differences in
social organization, the complex result of
traditions, manners and customs, and trans-
mitted opinions and sentiments. Even real
differences of policy may mean only choices
of different means towards a common end.
Thus, a real difference among colleges is the
difference in the degree of freedom permit-
ted to the individual, and in the importance
attached to the development of individual
mental and moral power. Some institutions
think first of developing individual initiative
through freedom of the will, and through
offering to each individual all the best means
of developing his own personal faculty ; but
they prefer this course because they believe
that is the way to promote freedom, efficiency,
and happiness for the mass of mankind. By

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Online LibraryCharles William EliotUniversity administration → online text (page 10 of 13)