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The trend in higher education online

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zation of the work to meet the demands of so many
different minds; in its organization to make provision
for work in so many widely separated subjects; in
the treatment of the individual student; in the
relations which govern the work of instructors;
in the inter-relationship of different institutions — in
each and all of these particulars the probability of
great waste is certain. It is, of course, understood


that the same kind of waste may occur in less degree
in one institution, or in one class of institutions, or
in one section of the country, than in others. What
might seem to be waste under one set of circum-
stances would not prove upon investigation to be
such under another. Any statements, therefore,
which may be made within the scope of this paper
are of necessity general rather than particular. To
treat the subject with any adequacy would require
,a volume rather than a sixty-minute address.
^ It must, too, be clearly recognized in the beginning
that to point out the various ways in which waste
is going on is one thing, and that it is quite a differ-
ent thing to indicate the remedy for the evils of our
present system or lack of system. One may, indeed,
point out the waste and yet be entirely unable to sug-
gest remedies. It must, however, be said, on the other
hand, that one cannot point out or suggest remedies
until a fair accounting of the waste has been made.
It will therefore be seen that in this paper I am, in
the nature of the case, compelled to lay greater
emphasis upon the waste than upon any suggestions
as to remedies. I shall therefore satisfy myself by
appending at the end a list of brief suggestions
intended in some measure to meet the difficulties indi-
\^ , cated. First, then, I shall consider waste connected
with the work of preparation for higher education.

The problems of secondary education are more
numerous today than those of any other single
division of educational work. We, tonight, are


concerned only with those problems which are in-
volved in the direct preparation of the student for
college and university. The present usage is gen-
erally conceded to be defective in many important
particulars; but here again we are concerned only
with those which involve actual waste. I shall
restrict myself to the consideration of the waste
which arises from (i) a grave mistake made in the
character of much of the preparation furnished;
(2) an unfortunate division of the work of prepa-
ration; (3) the unnecessary length of time at present
required for preparation; and (4) the inexcusable
confusion which arises from the multiformity of
requirements for entrance and of methods of ad-
mission. 1

As to the first of these, a grave mistake made in
the character of much of the preparation furnished,
I must say at once that satisfactory results can be
gained in college and university only when proper
habits of mind have been formed in the student in j /
his preparatory work. The one habit upon which ^.^
more depends than upon all others is the habit of
y accuracy. It is, of course, true that some minds
are entirely incapable of acquiring this habit. It is,
nevertheless, a habit which may be gained to a
greater or less degree by careful cultivation; and
every mental effort, according to its character, will
lead to the development of accurate habits of thought,
or to the opposite. The boy in the training school
is compelled to learn accuracy or inaccuracy. The


Work will result in making his mental habits inaccu-
]^ate, unless they are so directed as to cultivate accu-

y racy. Language can not describe the incalculable
/waste involved in the cost to society in the case of
(every individual whose training fails to secure for
/him this accuracy. The whole future life of the

/ man is involved.

It is an apparent and a lamentable fact that our
preparatory education fails in this particular. In
certain respects I am confident that we excel the
Germans in the preKminary stages of educational
work, but in this respect we fall far short, not only
of the Germans, but of the Enghsh and the French
^ as well. It is, of course, difficult, and perhaps
impossible, to make a satisfactory comparison, but,
so far as my own observations go, this lack of accu-
racy is on the increase. The introduction of science
studies in the high schools and academies does not
seem to have produced any serious impression.
The fact, however, seems to be that the advantage
gained from the prosecution of science studies has
not counteracted the disadvantage which follows
from undertaking work in a greater number of

V subjects, jln secondary work, dissipation is the
forder oT^he day, and dissipation is only another

)j term for waste. The effort to give the student a
little knowledge of many subjects makes accuracy
impossible, and consequently renders inevitable a
great waste, and a kind of waste in the future efiforts
of the pupil which he will never fully comprehend.


Let us consider now the second topic, an unfor
tunate division of the work of preparation. In the
sharp Hne which has come to be drawn between the
work of the eighth grade of the elementary school
and the first year of the high school or academy a
great waste is involved. But a still greater waste is
involved in the division between the fourth year of
the high school or academy and the freshman year
of college. And it is to the latter that I refer. The^
work of the freshman and sophomore years in the
colleges of this country — and here again I include /
the institutions properly called universities — is but a /
continuation of the academy or high-school work. ( . ^
It is a continuation, not only of the subject-matter ' ^
studied, but of the methods employed. It is not
until the end of the sophomore year that university
methods of instruction may be employed to advan-
tage. It is not until the end of the sophomore year
that the average student has reached the age which
enables him to do work with satisfaction except in
accordance with academy methods. As it is now
arranged, however, this consecutive period of prep-
aration, covering five or six years, is broken into;
and what follows? The student finds himself
adrift. He has not reached the point where work
in any of his preparatory subjects is finished. This
work is continued now under new and strange / ^
conditions, with new and strange instructors. Not
infrequently the instructors under whom he is
placed in the freshman year at college, especially


in our larger institutions, are greatly inferior to
those with whom he has been associated, in the
academy, and in many cases the work of the fresh-

W^man year is an utter waste. It is here that the
smaller college with its preparatory department has
the great advantage of the university, which scorns
the attachment of such an institution. Everything
may be said in favor of intermigration in the case
of students who have reached an age of maturity,
and are prepared for university work. Nothing
can be said for the change of a student from one
institution to another, or from one group of instruc-
tors to another, in the earlier periods of his prepara-
tion. And yet this is the very thing which happens

. in the case of almost every student who enters college.

<4 A greater waste can hardly be imagined — ^waste
of time, waste of energy, and, worse than this, waste
of interest. Nature has marked out the great
divisions of educational work, and the laws of
nature may not be violated without entailing great

V waste. The only redeeming element in the situa-

^^ ' tion is found in the fact that by the present methods

of preHminary education so much time is exhausted

.,-^ that many of the students who enter college have

/ reached an age when even in the freshman and

I sophomore years they are capable of doing work of a
higher order. But this, when it occurs, is at the
cost of professional training, in later years of Ufe
or at the cost of years which should have been used
in a different way.


The third point at which there is waste in the
work of preparation is the unnecessary length bf
time at present required. The average student
should be ready to undertake university work — thal|t
is, study in Unes elected by the student himself,
and undertaken in accordance with university
rather than college methods of instruction — at the
age of nineteen or twenty. In order that this may \
be possible, the work of the freshman and sophomore \
years should be done at the age of seventeen and !
eighteen. This would make it necessary for the
four years of academy or high-school work to be /
undertaken at the age of thirteen. It is a fact that ly
in many of our academies and high schools the age i
of entrance is for most students seventeen, eighteen, \
or nineteen; in other words, the student is three or \
four years behindhand. If now the student were
better prepared to do his higher work, by having
delayed his entrance to the academy or high school
until this age, no question might be raised ; but the
facts do not show this. The dissipation of energy
andjheloss„of accuracy. in the introduction

"of so many subjects into the curriculum are accom-
"panied by a loss of time which involves consequences
r^Hylerrible in their nature. This waste belongs, /L^^
of course, in part to the period of the elementary
school. The sin involved in this waste is, however, y
due in part to the methods and curriculum of the
academy. It is entirely within the bounds of modera- "^ "^
tion to say that, for lack of better correlation of



work, and because of unnecessary repetition and
duplication, and also because of the custom of holding
students in classes regardless, in large measure, of
their individual capacities, the average boy who
reaches the junior year in college has wasted at
least two or three years of his life.

Under proper arrangements, the present freshman
would be a junior. He is old enough; the only difiS-
culty is that he has been compelled to waste these
years at one stage or another of his preparatory
/ work. One of the sad consequences of the present
situation is the fact that 80 per cent, or more of those
who enter schools of law or medicine, as well as of
I engineering, go directly from the high school to the
\ professional school, unable to spare the time needed
\ for the general culture of college work, unable even
I to secure the final stages of preparatory education
\ included in the work of the first two years of the
college course. The man who finishes his high-
school course at twenty-one or twenty-two, or even
nineteen, has not the courage to undertake four
more years of work preliminary to that of his profes-
sion. The time now required to prepare the average
boy for college must be reduced at least two years,
and with proper arrangements this reduction may
be secured.

And, finally, in the work of preparation there is
the inexcusable confusion arising from the multi-
formity of requirements for entrance and of methods
of admission. The waste involved in making the


step from secondary work to that of college work,
both for the student and for the college, is something
which has recently become to some extent appre-
ciated. ; College and university education in the
western states has been greatly helped by the sys-
tem which has been organized between the state
universities and the high schools of the several states;
but this is only a partial remedy, and is a remedy
only for a particular state university, and for those
students who go to that institution. With four or
five hundred colleges, most of which have their y\
individual requirements for admission; with tens of
thousands of high schools and academies, most of
which prepare students for several different colleges,
the faculty of the preparatory school and the student
seeking admission have difficulties which in many
cases are insurmountable. It is difficult to under-
stand why so great an impediment should be placed V
in the way of those desiring a higher education;
why they should be so greatly discouraged in their
efforts to obtain a higher education; and this, espe-
cially, not at the end of a distinct period of training,
but in the very middle of such a period. The actual
time spent by the faculties of colleges and training
schools, the actual cost of worry and anxiety to
students and officers of instruction, involves a tre-
mendous waste for which there is no excuse ; a waste
due to the fact of the utter lack of system in the
educational work of our country; a waste due to
the injurious independence of our separate institu- \l


tions — ^an independence which partakes largely of
selfishness, and which, indeed, at best is a mistaken
selfishness ; a waste which deterred many from doing
what otherwise it might have been possible for
them to do; a waste which has involved the expendi-
ture of money greatly needed by the institution in
other directions. In these four ways there is a
waste of effort which in each case could be greatly
reduced, if those who suffer it were to co-operate
J We have considered briefly four points of wast-

age in the work of preparation ; let us now study the
possibilities of waste in connection with what might
be called the external machinery of higher education.
This machinery is sometimes mistaken for edu-
cation itself. Consider, for example, the veneration
and inviolabiHty which attach to the traditional four
years of college life. If a man should take the
course in three, it would be said that he had hurried ;
if he should spend five, it would mean, of course,
that he had not been diHgent. A college course, to
be such, must be four years, no more, no less; and,
indeed, if once the four years are spent, it matters
little what has been accompHshed. Have we ever
considered the waste which the worship of this
fetish costs? In every hundred avejage men or
women there are from twenty to twenty-five who
can do all that is* expected of them in three or three
and one-half years; there is about the same number
who require five years to do the same work with any


sort of satisfaction. It is simply absurd to measure ''^^
the work of men by a measure of time; to hold back
one-fourth, when they might be doing work which
would be of greater advantage; to compel another
fourth to do their work shabbily. Here is a double
waste, for which there is no corresponding gain.
The beginnings of the breaking down of this archaic
system are seen on every hand. It is doomed, but
it dies hard; and meanwhile the waste continues.

Closely associated with this evil of the four-
year fetish is the division of the college year into
two periods: nine months for work, and three
for vacation. The waste here is very great, and
shows itself in many obvious ways. The student is
compelled to do his college work in certain months
of the year, although these may not be either the H,
most advantageous or the most convenient for him.
In these days when so many men must earn their
way through college the possibihty of securing work
forms an important factor. Again, the student is
compelled to do work during the whole of the nine
months, or lose an entire year. For reasons of
health, or for other reasons, it may be greatly to
his advantage to do work during six months of the
year. But such an arrangement is impossible
without the waste of a year. And, worst of all, he
is compelled to give up his work during three
months. Whatever his age or circumstances, he
must turn aside from his college work during one-
fourth of the year. If he is an earnest student, he


may, to be sure, find profitable employment during
three months in reading or in some dilettante work;
but if he is a scientific man, the laboratory is closed
upon him; and in many cases even the library refuses
him admission. Then there is that large class of
persons who could and would do college work
during their vacation period. These are denied
the opportunity.

During these months of vacation a large portion
of the student body finds itself without guidance of
any kind, and, the time being comparatively so
short, without a fixed purpose. The time is largely^
thrown away; but, more than this, the time fre-
quently is spent~in a way tblhjure habits already
formed. DemoraUzation follows, and it is a very
common experience to discover that a month or
two months in the autumn pass before the. student
has resumed the habits of work put aside during
the summer. And meanwhile the college and„unt._
versity property^ fncluding libraries and laboratories
— a property aggregating hundreds of millions of
dollars — lies idle, rendering no service of any kind,
during one-fourth of the time. This is surely a
stupendous waste.

It is probable that the time of the summer vaca-
tion is largely wasted by from 60 to 70 per cent, of
the teachers in our colleges and universities. It
cannot be maintained that the work of the average
college instructor is more arduous than that of the
ordinary physician, lawyer, or minister. Men in


these professions do not take fourteen or fifteen
weeks of rest; they are satisfied in most cases with
four weeks. The work of the college officer does
not impose upon him the heavy strain which falls
upon men in the many lines of business activity.
They are fortunate when they are able to secure
two or three weeks of rest. The fact is the long
summer vacation is in the case of teachers intended,
not for rest, but for work, and yet it may fairly be
said that the percentage I have named utterly waste
it, so far as any tangible results are concerned.
Shall the instructor, then, be required to teach
throughout the year? By no means; but let every
teacher feel that he is guilty of wasting valuable
time, and still more valuable opportunity, if during
every such period he does not make a substantial
advance in connection with his work — an advance
marked by definite steps of progress; for otherwise ^
this is one of the greatest sources of waste in the
entire field of higher education.

A third source of waste in the educational ma-
chinery of colleges and universities lies in the dis-
sipation and distraction made possible, and indeed
rendered inevitable, by the lack of care shown to
secure concentration of work on the part of both
student and instructor. The student is permitted,
and indeed required, to distribute his energy and
time, during a given period, over five or six or
seven, and perhaps even a greater number, of dif-
ferent subjects. This is fatal to earnestness, to


thoroughness, and, in a word, to success The
waste incurred in keeping so many subjects in hand
at the same time is so great as to prove almost
ruinous. The greatest advantage of the old-
fashioned curriculum, with its three subjects, was
that under it the student was able to do honest,
serious work, and to keep up habits of accuracy
and thoroughness. How can men make progress
or sustain interest, or be profited by attending the
one- and two-hour courses a week, which now oc-
cupy so large a place in college curricula? How
can a man with seven or eight subjects find op-
portunity to do careful and scholarly work in any
one of them? Hundreds of students, on the point
of finishing their college work, have expressed -to
me their utter astonishment that a pohcy which
forces the student to do superficial work should
be continued by so many of our institutions; for
under such circumstances study becomes a mere dis-
sipation. No student can profitably conduct more
than three lines of study at the same time, even when
these lines run close together. It is not unreason-
able to suppose that men who are endeavoring to
carry from four to eight different studies waste half
their efforts.

The same waste is incurred when by the regula-
tions of the curriculum the instructor is required to
carry more than two, or at the most three, courses
during a particular period, even within the Umits
of a single department. It is sheer waste, so far as


actual and final results go, to try to carry several
subjects; and especially when this becomes possible
by giving only one or two hours of instruction a
week in each subject. In no profession does a
man have greater command of his time than in that
of the college instructor. In no profession does the
true man find greater opportunity for the improve-
ment of time; in no profession does the faithless
man find greater opportunity for the waste of time.
Some waste it consciously; many more unconsciously.
The waste is so great as sometimes to bring sad
reproach upon the profession; and in most cases it
may be traced to the dissipation which inevitably
follows the scattering of effort.

We have seen how waste occurs in the prepara-
tion for higher education, and in the machinery of
the higher education; now we must direct. our atten-
tion to the opportunities for waste in "the internal
adjustment of the students' work. We shall con-
sider three special sources of such waste: failure to
recognize and to apply the principle of individualism ;
the use of ill- adapted methods in dealing with col-
lege students; and the lack of proper and effective
correlation in the different subjects offered for study.

J^nstitutions of higher learning are accustomed
to accord a common treatment to all the students
within their walls. I mean by this that students
are treated as members of a group or company, not
as individuals. No matter how different their
temperaments, how varied their tastes, or how


peculiar their physical condition, they are treated
in mass. The class idea is the supreme one; the
individual is lost sight of. If we could imagine a
physician treating any fifty or one hundred cases
which came to him at one time, in the same way,
we would have an analogy for the treatment now
accorded the classes of fifty or more students who
enter college at the same time. The truth is that
the physical constitutions of fifty patients cannot
possibly differ one from the other more decidedly
than the mental constitutions of the same number,
and to prescribe the same intellectual work for a
class of fifty or more, without even a consideration
of their mental constitution, is as absurd as to pre-
scribe the same food for fifty or more patients in a
hospital. There should be a diagnosis of each stu-
dent, in ofd5rfO"discover his capacities, his tastes,
his tendencies, his weaknesses, and his defects;

and upon the basis of sudi a diagnosis his

course of study should be arranged. Every detail
should be adjusted to his individual necessities.
Every student should be treated as if he were the
only student in the institution; as if the institution
had been created to meet his case. The cost of
such a policy, it may be suggested, would be very
great. True, but the waste avoided would more
than counterbalance the cost.

At all events, what every institution should do
is to provide from the very beginning of its curricu-
lum for all the great groups of study which are likely


to be demanded. The majority of colleges make
no adequate provision for those whose tastes lie in
the direction of science. Some of the largest insti-
tutions have only the old-fashioned arts group
(including Greek) and the science group. These
two are not sufficient; the number may be, and
should be, increased, for at least five or six such
groups are demanded. Harvard has probably gone
too far in this matter of election; but this was only
the natural reaction from the older narrow policy,
and if the group system had been in vogue, the ex-
treme elective system would not have come into
existence. Under the old system this waste is the
greatest argument that can be urged against the
small colleges; and in most of them this waste still
goes on.

To the point where this waste bears directly upon
the student, reference has already been made. It
is the requiring in the same period of time from all
the students of a group the same amount of work.
The evil here is apparent. Every opportunity should

Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperThe trend in higher education → online text (page 6 of 24)