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The trend in higher education online

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his work along these higher lines, while the professor
has learned long since that, whatever progress he
may have made, he is still only on the border lines
of knowledge in his department. The college
professor who has not the student spirit should


not continue his college work, and, if he have the
student spirit, then he is a fellow-student with all
who have that spirit. The idea involved in the
arbitrary exercise of authority as an officer is utterly
opposed to the student spirit. It is an attitude of
mind with which the student spirit is entirely
inconsistent; and so, today, the true and efficient
college instructor is only an older fellow-student
in a guild made up of members all of whom, if they
so deserve, retain their membership — are truly
fellow-students. If he is more than this, he is not
this; if he is less than this, he is nothing,
i The college professor today is not an officer in
loco parentis. It is an old and a widely prevailing
opinion which in opposition to this statement
would make the college instructor parent for the
time being of those with whom he is to associate.
This idea is, of course, closely related to that which
has just been mentioned. Parents who have
occupied the first sixteen or eighteen years of the
life of the prospective pupil in such a manner as
to convince that pupil that parental disciphne is
something to be dreaded and to be avoided, some-
thing mischievous and productive of every evil,
are only too glad to turn their sons and daughters
over to the college, with the understanding that
the college shall now assume parental authority.
Such parents, in transferring this dignified and
wide-reaching function, have transferred, in these
cases, something that has long since been emptied


of its dignity and its worth. If parental authority
has been rightly exercised, the young man or young
woman at the age of ei^teen ought to be free,
within the limitations of conventional life, to do what
seems proper, in so far as it does not conflict with
the general sentiment of the particular community
to which they have now given adherence. If the
parental authority has not been exercised properly ,
during those eighteen years, the young man or
young woman will not be found ready to submit to
artificial authority of an institutional character even
for a moment.

No, the college instructor is not a parent, nor
does he have the authority of a parent. Parents
in these days are themselves wise enough to know
that at the college age the time has come when the
young man or young woman will not brook objec-
tive or institutional authority. The influence of the i
parent has its basis in affection; and the professor, I
if he would exert a strong influence, must convince
the student that he is serving the student's interests.
The instructor is, therefore, an older brother in the
student's family. Here again his advantage is only
that which comes from age and experience. As
in any given family there are those who stand more
closely associated — brothers, for instance, in some
cases stand in closer, in others a less close, relation-
ship — so the ideal community is a fraternity in which
older and younger come together and influence each
other in different degree.


For my own part, I can conceive that the influ-
ence of the younger members in this fraternity is as
great in many instances upon the older as is that
of the older upon the young. This influence will
be very strong, and will be entirely different from
any arbitrary exercise of authority. For the college
community is a real democracy. All men even in a
democracy, are not equal although all deserve equal
privileges. In the college community those have
larger influence who, by reason of age and wisdom
and training, have larger opportunity to aid those,
who as yet have not attained to the same high level.

If the foregoing conceptions are in any measure
correct, it follows that the closeness of the relation-
ship which we are considering will depend upon the
extent to which in any given case the pupil and the
instructor have common interests ; and those who have
common interests, whether of an objective or of a sub-
jective character, will alone derive strong advantage
from this relationship. It is just here that the prin-
ciple of election plays its part. The opportunity to
elect certain subjects for study is one which permits
the pupil to assume the relation of fellowship with
an instructor whose highest interests connect them-
selves with those subjects. A pupil cannot be a
fellow-student with a professor, if pupil and professor
do not have a fellow-feeling toward the subject
studied. On the other hand, fellowship and friend-
ship can hardly be avoided in the case of pupil and
instructor whose hearts are drawn in the same direc-


tion, whose minds are led to deal continuously with
the same thought, and whose Hves are thus brought
intimately together. Fellow-studentship between in-
structor and pupil is therefore dependent upon the
opportunity to elect; and if it has existed in earlier
times without this opportunity, it has been, in many
cases, an accident.

The principle of election, then, has made student-
fellowship between officer and pupil possible; nay
more, it has made any other relationship impossible.
But this, it may be said, does not apply to those sub-
jects in the first year of college work which all students
take in common; for example, Latin, English,
mathematics. Here an important difference exists
between the larger and the smaller college. In the
latter the old regime still continues. The freshmen
and the sophomore do not think of student- fellowship
with instructors. It is only when one has come to be
a junior or a senior that he may, under ordinary
circumstances, be said to enter into any kind of
relationship with instructors; and this is because in
most instances in the smaller institution all students
must go to one man for work in Latin, to another
for work in English, and to another for work in
mathematics. Even though there be two or three,
the student has no choice; because, there being but
a single class of a certain stage of advancement,
some one instructor of the department takes the
more advanced students, another those less advanced ;
and this arrangement leaves the student himself no


choice. In the larger institutions it is possible —
although it must be admitted the possibility is not
often realized — to apply the principle of election to
the instructor rather than to the subject of instruc-
tion. And here a new principle comes into opera-
tion. The pupil may select one of two or three, or
even more, instructors who are offering the same
course of instruction at the same time.

There is, indeed, much to be said in favor of the
distribution of students in sections made up of those
of equal intellectual strength, Section A including
those who rank highest, the other sections also being
organized on the basis of scholarship. There are
advantages in this system; but there are advantages
also in the system which will allow each student to
select that one of the two or more instructors offer-
ing the same subject at the same time who shall
seem to be a man between whom and the pupil a
closer personal relationship may exist. One instruc-
tor may prove to be sympathetic and helpful to pupils
of a certain temperament and attitude of mind.
This same instructor may utterly fail to be of assist-
ance to another group of students equally strong;
while a second instructor may succeed with the
second group and fail with the first. Few men
occupy the professorial chair in our colleges who can
touch closely even a majority of the students in
their classes. This is in many cases, as has been
said, a matter of natural temperament. The nerv-
ous and vigorous instructor will accomplish most


for students of one temperament, while students of
another temperament will receive injury from his
instruction. The sober, quiet, and unobtrusive
personality of another instructor will, on the other
hand, find response in the minds and hearts of stu-
dents whom the first instructor could not touch.

From this point of view care should be taken that
the instructors in a given department of study should
be men or women of entirely different types, in
order that, being thus different, they may bring
themselves into relationship with different types of
pupils. In the liberty accorded the pupil to select
the departments in which he will study, and in the
liberty which he may enjoy to make choice between
different instructors offering the same grade of work
at the same time, there will be found the basis, and
the only basis, for fellow-studentship and for frater-
nal comradeship; and these together constitute the
ideal relationship that should exist between the
instructor and his pupil.

I regret that the limit of time has not permitted
me to enlarge upon the thought I have in mind.
But now, in bearing greetings from the university
which I have the honor to represent to our col-
league who today assumes the responsibiHties of
this high office, it will not be inappropriate to make
brief appHcation of these propositions to him and
to his office.

If the college instructor be a student, if he is a
fellow-student, one of the members of a community


of students, the president of the college must in a
peculiar sense be such a student. There is no place
in the college community for a man, whether he be
pupil or instructor or president, who is not a student,
who himself is not engaged in the search for truth,
or for the best methods of propagating truth already
known. I do not mean that he must be a formal
teacher; for this there may not be good opportunity.
But the college community cannot have as its most
honored member one who is not a student in one or
another of the great departments of hfe — one who
has not the student mind, the student attitude of
mind, the student sympathy, or the student ambition.
If the college community is a family of brothers,
in which the instructor is an older member guiding
as best he can those who have more recently entered
the family, it follows that the president is the elder
brother, the oldest of the family, that one on whom
special responsibihties rest — responsibihties which
shall be discharged only as they conserve the inter-
ests of the family, as they include the work and the
growth of even the youngest member of the family.
The relationship between him and the instructor
is that of brothers closely related in age. His rela-
tionship to the pupils is that of a brother somewhat
separated, perhaps, in years, but, for that very
reason, in whose heart there will be found greater
tenderness and care for those who are the new-
comers in the family. The president will be the
most honored student of the student community.


He is the oldest brother of the family, and as such
his interests will be broader than those of any other
student. Personally he may have made choice of
some special subject, but officially he will feel the
same interest in every department, and will labor
with his fellow-9tudents who represent those depart-
ments, for their upbuilding. Breadth of interest
will be his strongest characteristic. As a member
and a brother in the family, he will exercise the
largest sympathy with the other brothers of the
family, old and young. His personal relationship
will be close; with each brother of the family who
has occasion to rejoice he will rejoice; with each
member of the family who has occasion to weep he
will weep. As a true brother he will point out to
each member of the family, young and old, what in
his opinion is wrong; and he will make effort to
suggest how improvement may be secured. He
will exercise, if need be, that candor and that
straightforward bluntness which a brother may
exercise toward a brother. His attitude will not be
that of a superior person endowed for the time
being with special power. The true college president
is not a "boss;" he is a fellow-student and a brother.



In view of the time allotted, I shall limit my
statement to the presentation of some considerations
which, to my mind, are distinctly opposed to the
proposition to make three instead of four years the
normal period of residence for the college course.

Some students are, unquestionably, able to com-
plete the course in three years. About the same
number should perhaps, to do the work equally
well, take five years. The question before us, how-
ever, is not one that relates to a small proportion
of the students who enter college — the very bright-
est or the very dullest. It is a question which has
to do with the normal college course — that is, the
course of study intended for the average students

It is easy to point out the origin of the difficulty
which confronts us and has given rise to the propo-
, » sition itself. It is a survival of the old idea which
^^ made the college curriculum something rigid, some-
thing into conformity with which every student
must be brought, rather than something which
should be made to conform to each individual stu-
dent. It is not inconsistent with this suggestion

^ Read before the National Educational Association (Depart-
ment of Higher Education) at Boston, July 7, 1903.





that the first discussion of the question took place
in an atmosphere friendly to the elective policy as
distinguished from the poHcy of a fixed curriculum.
Adaptation to the needs of the individual along
certain lines did not in this case, however, carry
with it flexibihty and adaptation in other hnes. It
is not an adaptation of the college course to the A /^ 'K;
needs of individual men to propose that the course
shall be a three-year one. An adaptation would
permit four years for those who need four years,
five for those who need five years, and three for /
those who are able to do the work in three years.

The proposition for a three-year course is based \
upon the supposition that the entire work of the
college course is really university work. This is a
mistaken supposition. The work of the freshman
and sophomore years is ordinarily of the same scope
and character as that of the preceding years in the
academy or high school. To cut off a full year
means either the crowding of this higher preparatory
or college work of the freshman and sophomore
years, or the shortening of the real university work
done in the junior and senior years of the college
course. The adoption of either alternative will
occasion a serious loss to the student. The aver-
age man is not prepared to take up university work
until he has reached the end of the sophomore year.
No greater mistake is being made in the field of
higher education than the confusion which is com-
ing to exist between college and university methods



of work. The adoption of a three-year college
term will only add to a confusion already great.

Furthermore, the proposition rests upon an incor-
rect idea as to the age at which students should
begin work. The average age of students entering
college today is about the same as it was twenty-
five or fifty years ago. The average age of students
leaving college today is about the same as it was
twenty-five or fifty years ago. The serious difficulty
lies in the fact that the demands of professional edu-
cation are greater today than they were twenty-five
or fifty years ago, and that, instead of courses of
professional study which extend over two years, we
are confronted with courses of professional study
which extend over three or four years. It is a point
of special interest, however, that, although the
requirements for entrance to college are so much
greater than they were formerly, the student masters
these requirements and enters virtually at the same
age. In other words, better educational facilities
have made it possible to graduate the young man at
the same age, but with nearly two years of additional
equipment. With all this gain, however, it is ap-
parent to any student of the situation that even yet
there is great waste, and that a better arrangement of
the curriculum in the earlier stages of educational
work will make it possible for one or two additional
years to be gained. From the multiplication of high
schools and their greater efficiency, and from the
consequent improvement in the grammar schools,


much may be expected. It is reasonable to suppose
that a practical limit has been reached so far as\
concerns the requirements for admission to college.
With this limit fixed, it is not unreasonable to expect
that on the basis of the present requirements a boy-
may reach college one or two years earher within
the next decade. This will counterbalance the
increase of time required in the professional schools
referred to above. It is therefore unnecessary to
shorten the college course merely to provide for an
extension of the professional course.

Then, there is another wrong idea upon which
the proposition is based — a wrong idea of the high"
school. This institution is no longer a school pre-
paratory for college. In its most fully developed
form it covers at least one-half the ground of the
college of fifty years ago. It is a real college; at
all events, it provides the earlier part of a college
course. Its work may not be separated from that
of the freshman and sophomore years either in
method or scope. Indeed, many high schools are
actually moving forward to include in their curricu-
lum the work of the freshman and sophomore years.
And in these schools the entire college course, as it
was known fifty years ago, besides the additional
work in science which at that time was unknown,
is included. This development of the high school
has a significant bearing upon the question before
us. How is this new college, the product of our
own generation, to be brought into relationship


with the old college which has come down to us
from our ancestors ? The correct appreciation of
the modern high school and its proper adjustment
to the situation as a whole makes strongly against
the proposed three-year course.

Another objection to the three-year pohcy is that
its adoption by the larger institutions would be
followed immediately by an increase of require-
ments for admission to the first year of college work.
How this increase would work may be seen in the
history of the college of the Johns Hopkins Univer-
sity, in which the requirements for admission to the
first of the three years practically include the work
of the ordinary freshman year. While high schools
as such show a tendency to increase the scope of
their work, and while this tendency is certainly to
be encouraged, such increase should be accepted as a
substitute for the work of the college, but not as an
additional requirement for admission to the college.
Our present difficulties have their origin partly in
the fact that from time to time we have increased
the requirements for admission to college, until, as
has already been pointed out, a fairly good college
course of instruction is now obtained before the so-
called college work begins. This is an evil which
should be corrected, and its correction lies in the
direction of reducing the requirements for admission
rather than in increasing them. The evil would
be intensified by the adoption of the three-year


f UN!

Again, the proposition is based upon the sup-
position that the essential thing is the time require-
ment. Starting with the tradition that the college
course must be four years for all men of whatever
grade, it proceeds upon the assumption that, for
various reasons, this period, now the same for all
students, must continue to be the same for all stu-
dents; namely, the three-year period. No idea has
exerted a more injurious influence in the history of
the college work than that the period of four years,
however employed, if spent in college residence,
guaranteed a college education. It is questionable
whether the time limit in the undergraduate course
is any more important a factor than the time limit
in the work for the doctor's degree. This fondness
for a time limit, which is the fundamental basis of
the three-year proposition, is a survival of the old
class system which disappeared long ago in the
larger institutions, and is beginning to show deca-
dence even in the smaller institutions.

The proposition should likewise be opposed
because of its deleterious influence upon the smaller
colleges. The American college is the glory of
American spiritual life, and its existence must not
be endangered. Granting that the larger institu-
tions could adopt without injury the three-year plan,
it would be impossible for the smaller colleges so
to do. Two things would follow: the decadence of
the better colleges of this class, and the adoption of
the policy by colleges only slightly above the grade


of high schools. And when it came to be seen that
the college system is adjusted in its entirety with a
view to its relationship to the professional schools,
and that it is only a second college course following
a first college course already received in the high
school, the tendency would be for students to go
directly from the high school to the university — a
tendency to be discouraged as urgently as possible.
Moreover, the colleges of lower grade would at once
reduce their period to one of three years, even though
their curriculum were greatly inferior to that of the
larger institutions. In other words, the step pro-
posed, in spite of protestations to the contrary,
means, in the end, a lowering of requirements
throughout the field of higher education.

For a boy who enters college at the right age,
sixteen or seventeen, less than four years is too
short a time. The adoption of the three-year
course will, however, compel every boy to limit
his college course to three years. This is a serious
difficulty. On the present basis he may take one,
two, three, or four years, according to circum-
stances. On the new plan he would be limited to
three years, so far as college work is concerned.
With the immense increase in attendance at college
which has come within the last decade on the
four-year basis, why should we dehberately plan
to reduce the time to three years? Surely in the
years to come a preparation will be needed as full
and long as was needed in the years that are past.


The one place in which it is unnecessary and unde-
sirable to cut down the time of those who are willing
and able to take four years is in the college period.
Let the time be shortened in the earlier years,
but at this stage of preparation, with the great
number of subjects which may profitably be consid-
ered, let us have all the time possible.

The suggestion of the three-year course, further-
more, ignores the culture value of the subjects in
the first year of professional work. For my own
part, from the point of view of citizenship and general
culture, I can conceive no work more valuable to a
young man or woman than the first year in the
curriculum of the law, the medical, or the divinity
school, or in the school of education. In any one
of these groups the student is brought into contact
with living questions. The fact that the method in
professional schools is different from that in the
college is, in the majority of cases, a distinct advan-
tage, and in no case an injury, since it serves as a
corrective of a tendency toward dilettantism unques-
tionably encouraged by the more lax methods of
the later years of college work. If any one question
has been settled in the • educational discussion of
the last quarter of a century, it is that a Hne is no
longer to be drawn between this class of subjects
and that, on the ground that one group, and not
the other, may be regarded as culture-producing.
The opportunity to elect subjects of this character
in the last year of the college course does not injure


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Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperThe trend in higher education → online text (page 21 of 24)