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THE FITTING-SCHOOL 71

one a young lady from Massachusetts made
any serious attempt at a correct translation of the
short lesson for the day. The teacher was evi-
dently much embarrassed by the presence of the
visitor, and at a loss as to what should be done
with his pupils or their lesson. After considerable
floundering he seemed to gather his classical learn-
ing for a supreme effort. This resulted in his pro-
pounding with due solemnity the following ques-
tion : "Is the change from the stem math to the
stem manth a phonetic or a dynamic change ? "
The class stared, but remained silent ; the teacher
looked even more embarrassed than before ; the
Eastern professor broke into a cold sweat through
fear that the question might be referred to him
for he could not have answered it. The same
question was asked a second time with deliberate-
ness appropriate to so grave an inquiry ; the re-
sult was unchanged. Then, after another long
pause, this episode terminated with a solemn assev-
eration from the teacher : " It is uncertain." And
so the hour dragged on. In all probability, no
member of this class had been so trained as to
recognize infallibly the simplest grammatical con-
struction, or to translate at sight the simplest pas-
sages with a fair degree of accuracy.

Finally : we have no right to flatter ourselves
that there is anything peculiar in the quality of the
American boy which will enable him to dispense



72 THE HIGHER EDUCATION

with that long and patient training in prescribed
studies which does so much for the German
student in the secondary stage of his education.
Indeed, there is so much flexibility and versatility
in the present character of the American boy, and
so much lack of stable institutions which have to
do with education, that it is not possible to pro-
nounce with confidence upon the question what
his typical national characteristics will prove to
be. At present it may be said that if the average
pupil in this country is bright, enterprising, and
inquiring, and is ready with a commendable reli-
ance upon his own resources to skip from branch
to branch on the tree of learning, and to pluck at
an incredible variety of the flowers of knowledge
in a short space of time, we are not so sure that
he possesses certain other equally desirable qual-
ities. These are the staying qualities, the pati-
ence, endurance, and steady industry on which
scholarship depends.



EDUCATION, NEW AND OLD



EDUCATION, NEW AND OLD

THERE are few things more astonishing than the
rapidity and apparent ease with which periods of
conservative thinking and practice are sometimes
followed by great and even radical changes.
Opinions which have long been regarded as having
the necessary quality of rational principles are at
such times contested and discarded; practices
that have come to be associated with sacred ideas
of duty and of religion are deemed unreasonable
and are abandoned. Indeed, in this generation
and land of ours, such great and radical changes
have become so frequent as almost to fail of excit-
ing the astonishment they really merit. Moreover,
there are few subjects at least among those con-
cerning which the world has commonly been
supposed to have settled conclusions on the basis
of a sufficient experience that are just now in a
more precarious condition than that of education.
For tens of centuries the so-called civilized world
has discussed and practised touching the question
how best to train the young. For a less number
of centuries a considerable part of the civilized
world has been much at its ease in the gratifying



76 THE HIGHER EDUCATION

belief that it was answering the question wisely.
But now the New Education, as brought to our
notice afresh by Professor Palmer's article in the
November number of this Review, claims to have
made beyond doubt the discovery that the answer
hitherto practically given must be almost com-
pletely reversed. The language used by the article
alluded to is not a bit too strong to express the
completeness of the proposed reversal. The New
Education has avowedly thrown away an " estab-
lished principle ; " has organized a college " from
the top almost to the bottom on a wholly different
plan ; " has wrought " a revolution like that in the
England of Victoria."

It would be an error to suppose, however, that
even so revolutionary a change in education should
be denied fair consideration, on the ground that
what seems to contradict a well-nigh universal
experience cannot, of course, be wise and true. If
the New Education should finally come to have
matters according to its liking in all our educa-
tional institutions, such a change of custom would
not be wholly without a parallel in the history of
the subject. It would perhaps not be greater than
the change which took place in the culture of
Greek youth when the Sophists captivated them
all by adding rhetoric and dialectic to the ancient
disciplines of music, mathematics, and gymnastics.
Nor can it be wholly forgotten that the ancient



EDUCATION, NEW AND OLD 77

classics only a few centuries since turned out much
of the theology and metaphysics from the univer-
sities of Europe, in order to make a place for
themselves as the new learning of the day. The
truth is, that poetry, mathematics, and philosophy
are about the only branches of human knowledge
that have everywhere and in all times been re-
garded as studies indispensable to what the civilized
world has agreed to call culture. Yet these are
perhaps the studies which are at present least
prized of all by that class of youth who are fired
with the ambition to choose wholly for themselves
a training suited to the so-called " practical life "
of business, politics, journalism, etc.

Accordingly, we are not among those who, when
startling new views are proposed in opposition to
ancient convictions and customs, refuse to tolerate
the possibility of such views being largely or
mainly trustworthy. But, on the other hand, the
advocates of the New Education can scarcely expect,
in the exercise of fairness and good judgment, that
a scheme which they admit to be no less than
" revolutionary " should be hastily caught at for its
novelty by thoughtful educators. Professor Palm-
er's description of the Harvard method calls upon
us all to discard many cherished convictions ; we
may justly expect it to enforce its call with many
and valid reasons. It asks for a large faith ; we
may ask of it some assured pledge that the faith



78 THE HIGHER EDUCATION

will not be misplaced. It seems to me, then, that
little fault could be found with any educator of
youth, whose mind worked in a moderately conserv-
ative fashion, if he should decline to estimate
highly the detailed facts which make up the very
limited experience of the New Education. In
other words, I do not think that the trial of the
Harvard method is yet old enough to be critically
weighed and pronounced upon. It is true that the
elective system was adopted there, to a certain
small extent, as long ago as 1825. But until 1879
"some prescribed study remained" for juniors;
till 1884 for sophomores. During only a single year
have freshmen in Harvard College chosen a major-
ity of their own studies. But it is precisely to
making all of the last two years of the college
course elective, and to giving any considerable
play to the elective system in the earlier years,
that the opponents of the Harvard method have
most decided objections. For it by no means
follows that, because some choice of his own studies
is good for the young man of twenty-one or twenty-
two years, therefore the entire control of his
studies should be committed to the boy from eigh-
teen to twenty. As to whether it is wise that
freshmen and sophomores should be placed com-
pletely under the elective system, Harvard itself
has, then, barely two years of experience ; and for
the upper classes only a few years more. No



EDUCATION, NEW AND OLD 79

graduates of the New Education have yet gone out
into the world. But it will surely take more than
one whole generation to prove what the real and
final outcome of so profound changes in education
is to be. Is it ungenerous toward progress when
we declare that the experience of a single educa-
tional institution for scarcely a moiety of its four
years' course whatever that experience may have
been is a very inadequate proof of the desirable-
ness of a " revolution " in education ? We cannot
sample the orchard by chewing the blossoms of a
single tree.

Let it not be supposed, however, that there is
reason to shrink from the detailed examination of
the statistics with which Professor Palmer has
argued the cause of the New Education. For one,
I heartily thank him for them. They are so clearly
and fairly presented, and so courteously urged,
that nothing more in that direction can be for the
present demanded. I am especially glad to have
the affair of passing his article in critical review
take so tangible a shape. It gives me a coveted
opportunity to bring forward corresponding statis-
tics which have not been formed under the influ-
ence of the Harvard method. It thus becomes a
task definitely set me by the editors of the " An-
dover Review" to compare one college with an-
other. I need not apologize, to remove any of that
odium which almost inevitably attaches itself to



80 THE HIGHER EDUCATION

such work of comparison. The question of fact is
raised by the previous article commending the so-
called New Education : How does it work ? What
better way to answer the question thus raised than
to compare the tabulated results (so far as such
results can be tabulated) of the new method with
those reached by a somewhat different method ?
I select Yale to compare with Harvard, as a matter
of course, for I am a teacher at Yale, and can most
easily obtain trustworthy statistics concerning edu-
cational affairs in my own college. Moreover,
there is a certain fitness in comparing these two
great institutions. Harvard is avowedly the only
thorough representative of what Professor Palmer
calls the New Education ; Yale is certainly the
leading representative of those more conservative
tendencies in education to which what is called
" new " is understood to be opposed. I shall,
therefore, follow his argument from experience,
point by point, showing how the results of experi-
ence here compare with those obtained at Harvard
under its new method.

Before bringing forward statistics, and thus put-
ting myself into the attitude of an antagonist or
carping critic toward Professor Palmer, I crave the
opportunity of expressing my sympathy and agree-
ment with him on several important points. It is
true that the world of science and learning has
changed and enlarged with wonderful rapidity of



EDUCATION, NEW AND OLD 81

late. It is, of course, also true that both the mat-
ter and the method of education must change ac-
cordingly. The literary communication of nations
is now such that no man can be the most success-
ful student of any subject who is not able to use at
least two or three of those languages in which the
results of modern researches are chiefly recorded.
The ancient classics can never again hold the same
relatively great or exclusive place in the study of
language, or as mental discipline. The new
science, psychological and political, no less than
physical, will certainly have its rights regarded.
The subject-matter of education must change. It
is also true that methods of education must change.
The modern teacher stands in a different relation
to his pupils from that held by the teacher of by-
gone days. He has a larger work than that of
giving out tasks ; he must rely on something more
in his hearers than their reverence for his ex-ojficio
dignity and their readiness to accept his ipse dixit.
He must also stand in relations towards his pupils
that are different from those which formerly ob-
tained with respect to their discipline in manners
and morals.

But it is simple matter of fact that all our most
respectable educational institutions are recogniz-
ing the facts and truths to which I have just al-
luded, and are recognizing them in practical ways.
Surely no most excessive admirer of Harvard and

6



82 THE HIGHER EDUCATION

its methods would think of denying that other col-
leges also have made a large place for the new
sciences, are using improved ways of instruction
with fresh enthusiasm on the part of both teachers
and pupils, and have their eyes and hearts open to
all that is going on in the wide world of science
and learning. No one acquainted with Yale at
present, as compared with Yale fifty or even
twenty-five years since, could for a moment doubt
that much of its education is worthy of being called
" new"

With the ethical spirit of Professor Palmer's ar-
ticle I am also in the fullest accord ; he meets a
hearty response from the Yale method when he
proposes to measure the success of education by
standards that are strong and high in an ethical
way. I, too, understand the end of education to
be not merely information in certain subjects
few or many of scientific or historical research,
but, also and chiefly, control of the faculties, and
vigorous, reasonable, symmetrical use of them for
the attainment of worthy ideals. And if he will
show me that the so-called New Education really
does " uplift character as no other training can, and
through influence on character ennoble all methods
of teaching and discipline," I will not wait to be
his ardent convert. It is precisely because of my
fears that it will not accomplish this in the majority
of cases that I am reluctant to accept the methods



EDUCATION, NEW AND OLD 83

it proposes. But Professor Palmer advances the
statistical proofs that in very truth the method has
already wrought to this desirable and noble end at
Harvard. We are brought around, then, to his sta-
tistics in our effort to come into the fullest possible
sympathy of view with his opinions. Do the sta-
tistics show, or even tend to show, the superiority
of the method of education in force at Harvard, as
compared with that still employed at Yale ? I am
prepared to affirm that they do not. I am prepared
to affirm that, in all the matters which can fairly
be said to be direct desirable results of the methods
of teaching employed by the two institutions, the
figures speak rather against than for the New Edu-
cation. The various items of proof will be arranged
for consideration in the order which seems most
convenient, but all the points made by Professor
Palmer will be covered before leaving the subject.

Among the various proofs of experience that the
New Education is successful we find the enlarge-
ment and improvement of the prevalent student
idea of a " gentleman." Students are proverbially
influenced by consideration for " good form." It
is no longer " good form " at Harvard to haze fresh-
men, smash windows, disturb lecture-rooms, etc.
Such things as these are largely, if not wholly, at
an end. Now the growth away from barbarous and
rowdyish customs has characterized all the colleges
of the land, some of them to a greater, some to



84 THE HIGHER EDUCATION

a less degree. A marked improvement in these
regards has gone on at Yale, until the more offen-
sive forms of such misbehavior are matters of
tradition and of the past. It could be shown by
all the testimony possible to obtain on such a point
that both the major and the minor morals of the
students have steadily improved for the last twenty-
five or more years. The relations between the
Faculty and the students, instead of the old feeling
of antagonism or division of interest, are cordial
and tending to more and more of friendliness and
co-operative work. This is perfectly well under-
stood by the students themselves ; it is remarked
upon in their conversation and in the papers which
they publish. But I should not for a moment sup-
pose that the same kind of improvement had not
taken place at least to some considerable degree
in other institutions of learning ; nor should I
venture to attribute it largely to any peculiar
method of education, either as partly elective or as
largely prescribed. Such improvement is chiefly
the result of the steady change in our civilization
which has been going on, of better manners every-
where, of the gradual decay of barbarous and med-
iaeval antagonisms, of the spread of kindliness and
intelligence. It is also due, in special, to the fact
that teachers and parents take a different attitude
toward the young under their charge, and that the
young themselves have a wider outlook on life. It



EDUCATION, NEW AND OLD 85

is also due to the fact that college Faculties have
relaxed in many of their old severities and petty
exactions, and have taken the young men whether
by some scheme devised or by the common consent
of all hearts and wills more into their confidence.
It is also due to the influence of well-regulated
athletic sports, which provide an outlet for the ex-
penditure of that surplus vitality in which youth
rejoices. The New Education has no monopoly in
these improvements. Nor do I believe that it can
show any advantage in these matters as compared
with that blending of things new and old which is
prevalent at Yale.

It is also claimed that the New Education has the
stamp of approval in the special amount of popular
favor which it has secured. It is shown that the
period during which the new method has been on trial
has been one of " unexampled prosperity " for Har-
vard, its representative. Rich men have signified
their acceptance of it by generous gifts. Parents
and sons have ratified the system, as may be seen by
the increase of numbers which has taken place un-
der its working. There can be no doubt that the last
fifteen years exhibit a splendid record of growth at
Harvard, both in numbers and in resources. But
it will scarcely be claimed by Professor Palmer that
all the generous gifts it has received have been de-
signed to set the seal of approval from their donors
upon its peculiar methods. Other sums of money,



86 THE HIGHER EDUCATION

even larger, have been given to found and rear in-
stitutions by rich men who had no ideas, either new
or old, which they desired to perpetuate in a pecu-
liar college system. Other colleges which have not
adopted the Harvard system except so far as
some elective courses in a college curriculum may
be said to be an adoption of the system have
also received bountiful gifts. During the last four-
teen years the amount of gifts made to the univer-
sity of Yale, either already delivered over or in the
process of delivery by executors, exceeds $2,066,000 ;
of this sum $928,400 stands upon the treasurer's
books as cash paid in to the treasury since 1871 ;
the remainder has gone into the " plant " of the
university. During the same time the sum of more
than $460,000 additional has been secured by be-
quest, to be paid into its treasury on the termina-
tion of certain lives. Meanwhile, its library has
increased by 83,000 volumes. This more than two
and a half millions may not, indeed, equal the sum
given to Harvard during the same period. But it
bears comparison with that sum so well as to raise
the inquiry whether the prestige of the New Educa-
tion with the long purses of the country is beyond
question.

The increase of students is a more direct and
appreciable argument. It certainly does go for
something in showing how the popular favor is
setting, at least for the immediate time. I can



EDUCATION, NEW AND OLD 87

readily see how young men of eighteen, if left to
themselves, would incline to give the authority of
their presence to the methods of the New Educa-
tion. Still, it is by no means certain that the
large accessions to Harvard for the past twenty-
five years signify all that they might seem to at
first sight. During the same period other institu-
tions, not adopting its method, have likewise had
remarkable growth; on other grounds than its
adoption Yale has constantly grown in numbers
during this period. Its growth as estimated by
the average number of undergraduates, exclusive
of special students (which I suppose Professor
Palmer also excluded from his estimate), has been
as follows: 1861-65, 533; 1866-70, 610; 1871-
75, 704; 1876-80, 745; 1880-84, 792. It should
also be said that probably no other college has
rejected so large a per cent, of candidates for ad-
mission, or sent away so many for failing to keep
up to its standard of scholarship.

Even the most recent statistics throw still more
doubt upon the argument from the number of
students. It is found, by counting the under-
graduates in the last Harvard catalogue, that 591
of the 1061, or more than 55 per cent., are from
the State in which the college is situated. Only
247, or less than 32 per cent., of the undergradu-
ates of Yale are from Connecticut. Not only rela-
tively but absolutely, more men come to the latter



88 THE HIGHER EDUCATION

than to the former institution from outside of the
State in which it is situated. If, then, Massa-
chusetts may be said to sanction the New Educa-
tion, as yet the country at large cannot be said to
have done so. It is not yet cosmopolitan.

But we shall better appreciate the statistical
argument for and against the New Education if we
compare figures concerning matters that may more
fairly be held to indicate its direct results ; and
among them, first, the amount of regular attention
given by the students to the college exercises, to
lectures and recitations. Professor Palmer thinks
it creditable to the method he advocates that, by
actual count, under a wholly voluntary and wholly
elective system, the last senior class at Harvard
" had cared to stay away " only two exercises per
week out of twelve, that is, rather more than
sixteen per cent, of the whole. Now the point of
fidelity and regularity is of such supreme impor-
tance in the life of the student that I have taken
especial pains to secure its statistics here ; the
reader is requested thoughtfully to compare them
with the statement of Professor Palmer. At Yale
this term, for the seven weeks for which the record
is complete, the average per cent, of absence in the
class of '89 has been 3.7 per cent. ; that is, the
average freshman of the Academical Department
has been present 15.4 out of a possible 16 of his
weekly recitations. This record includes absences



EDUCATION, NEW AND OLD 89

from all causes whatever ; it includes 48 absences
due to the illness of one man for three weeks, and
several other cases of absence due to illness of the
student or of his friends. The record of the
sophomore class for the same period is even
slightly better ; for the average sophomore has
attended 14.5 exercises per week out of a possible
15 required. The absences of this class have been
only slightly more than three and a third per cent.
It should further be mentioned that under the
rules all tardiness at a recitation beyond five
minutes and all egresses are counted as absences.
Moreover, if the student chooses to be present
without responsibility for being questioned, he has
the privilege of doing so at the expense of one of
his " allowed " absences. In the aggregate a con-
siderable number avail themselves of this privilege.
For an example of diligent attention to the busi-
ness of learning, I think it would be hard to find
anything superior to the following: On a recent
week (in November) there were only eight absences
in a division of 34 men, and three of these were so-
called " cuts," when the student was present but
not reciting. That is to say, the real absences
were for that one division during the period of a
week only a trifle over one per cent. It should be
remembered, also, that no excuses are now given
for sports, attentions to friends, minor ailments,
etc. ; and yet the average Yale freshman or sopho-



90 THE HIGHER EDUCATION

more does not avail himself of more than about
three fourths of the six absences allowed him dur-
ing a term to cover all such cases. Nor should it
be inferred that the regularity of these seven weeks
is special to any large extent, as being due to
causes prevalent during the earlier part of the fall
term of 1885. It is likely that the record for the
entire term would make even a better showing ; the
spendthrifts who incur most absences on the whole,
as a rule, use up their " cuts " early in the term.
The officer in charge of the records assures me
that, on looking over them cursorily, he concludes


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Online LibraryGeorge Trumbull LaddEssays on the higher education → online text (page 5 of 9)