24 APRIL 1915, Page 35


COLLEGE LIFE: ITS CONDITIONS AND PROBLEMS.° THE title of this volume, which is published in New York, suggests that it is an original work on College life in America; but the reader will discover, not without surprise, that it is intended "for the use of undergraduates in College composi- tion classes," and consists of a number of selections from "the writings of College Presidents and other educators " ; while the would-be critic, already somewhat confused by such a medley, is farther alarmed by an introduction which instructs how "to compose an. English theme" in that "methodical" fashion which a schoolmaster once offered to teach Charles Lamb. The real interest, however, of the book lies, we think, chiefly outside its technical object, For while, by suggesting, at the end of each extract, a number of points which he might consider not only in the light of what he has just read, but also of his own experience, it provides a young man with appropriate material for an essay, it does him the further and far higher service of almost compelling him to think what his own aim and business as a student ought properly to be. And that, at least in England, is a subject to which, by a grave defect in our system of education, an under- graduate for the most part pays no attention whatever. To the younger and more practical Universities he goes as a rule to engage in some special study ; to Oxford and Cambridge often for a like reason, still oftener for causes in which study has no part ; but he will rarely be able to explain what is the proper and peculiar work of a University, or why it bears a name which, when it has not, in the form " 'Varsity," become a mere shibboleth, would seem to indicate an organization adapted for larger ends than to foster some highly specialized excellence either in study or in sport. And it is because this volume does bring together a number of views on a subject of wide general concern that it deserves fuller consideration than we could here give it as a text-book.

For in America a "College "—the word almost corresponds to our " University "—is still something so novel that its nature and purpose are objects, as it were, of a fresh and eager curiosity. Only one here and there dates back "more than thirty years," and whereas at Oxford or Cambridge great offices are often so venerable in their antiquity that they seem part and parcel of the universal order, and to imagine a Whewell, for instance, doubting his own place in the scheme of Nature would be impossible, in America, on the other hand, we find a man so eminent as Dr. Harper, a former President of Chicago, questioning for what end, not only Professors, but even he himself exists. He is not content merely to be "President," but seeks to understand what a President should be ; and it will startle old-fashioned dons to learn that "the true College President is net ' a boss' ; he is a fellow-student and a brother "—an "elder brother," no doubt, but still one whose duty it is to be "in dose relationship with every member of the family." And what he would have himself be, he would have others be also. The Professor is reminded that " he is not an officer," that he must exercise not authority but " influence," and that he can only do this by showing a con- stant enthusiasm, not only as a teacher, but, above all, as a fellow-learner. Aut Discs out Discede is to be the rule for all alike, since a University, as a seat of learning, has room for none but learners, and every member of a "College" enrols himself in what ought to be a true " Guild " (coltegium) of fellow-workers in the cause of learning, or even, as Dr. Harper puts it, "a democracy of students.",

Nor can it be doubted that, though such phrases as "a Guild of learners " and " a democracy of students " may seem strange to those accustomed to regard undergraduates as persona in statu pupillari, needing even the charge of " bull-dogs," they none the lees point, at least in one respect, to something which

• Collpo Life: its Conditions and Problmna. By Mantioe Cisrland Fulton. London: Yasmtliss mules. Ds. ed, seta might wisely be aimed at. For whatever English Universities may do to foster learning, they certainly do little to foster that sense of corporate life without which no society whatever can achieve its full ends. Whereas in our Public Schools this feeling of " membership," as St. Paul would have called it, of taking a part, however small, in the activities of the whole body, has always been an invigorating influence, in the common life of the University an undergraduate has neither share nor concern. He may, if he choose—and many hard-working men do ao- lead the life of a recluse, while at most he is only brought, into close relations with some small group or coterie devoted , to some special interest. He leads his life as individual bias may direct, and quits the University with almost no knowledge of its general work or purpose, whereas in America at least en attempt is made to secure "student co-opera- tion" in promoting the welfare of the whole community, An American undergraduate has everywhere a " Fraternity ready to receive him, and these bodies seem not only to have a social purpose, but also actively to assist " the academic authorities," ‘• and, at their "Inter-Fraternity Conferences," to take into con- , sideration large questions dealing with University life, while it is said that in certain Colleges " there exists a co-operative system by which the students have a definite and extensive part in , College discipline." Unfortunately, however, these tentative efforts towards something of a true corporate life have to struggle against a meaner, but more prevailing, form of public , spirit. For that which really knits all " boys " in a College. , into one is not a common zeal for its welfare as a seat or learning, beta common passion for the triumph of the College team. "The high-kicker, the pitcher and the shortstop. then. , center rush and the quarter-back," these are they " to whom all bow, and for whom all things exist." That is how on President writes, while another tells how "30,000 people" often attend an inter-collegiate contest, bow the position of . a College depends largely on athletic success, so that " if a boy, exhibits any unusual ability as an athlete half-a-dozen Colleges will be after him," even tempting him with " sinecure positions which carry with them substantial gains," and how enthusiasm . for the College often has for its only purpose to produce what is really a professional team, willing to secure success even by professional and "crooked" methods. But here too, as every.: where, it is just "that which is best" which seems liable to the "worst corruption," and although in youthful institutions the corporate zeal of young lads may take strange forms, yet the zeal itself is a sign of vigour and of health. It needs guidance but not repression, for it is in truth the most vital- force in a community; and though in England a Vice.' Chancellor might have phrased it otherwise, there is real stuff, and substance in the advice given by an American Presideatt to a slack and cynical undergraduate: "Learn your College song. Practise at night upon your College yell. It will do• you good. . . . To 'root' in perfect time at the call of the- • yell-leader is a College education in itself."

But if we have perhaps something to learn from the import. arm attached in America to fostering a Renee of the value of corporate College life, we have certainly much to learn from, the views there held as to what is the true educational object of that life, and no one can justly neglect the striking article on " The Purpose of the College " which bears the signatiire of "Woodrow Wilson" and rightly holds the first piaci, In this volume. It is an article which commands attention nob ' only from the personality of the writer—the first embodiment in history of the "philosopher made ruler" whom Plato .• dreamed of—but also for its intrinsic merit and its remarltL able divergence of judgment from that commonly held among ourselves. For whereas with us all undergraduates am encouraged to become s:ecialista, the ideal set before them in America is wholly different. A " College " is to be a plies not for professional training—that is reserved foe the poet- graduate or "University " course—but for providing a liberal education, and that not so much in the way of supplying

positive knowledge, for "no one," writes President Wilson in a somewhat curious phrase, "has ,wer dreamed of imparting 'learning ' to undergraduates," but by a process of "mental discipline," which shall result in "a general awakening and release of the faculties." Every student, in fact, is to obtain,' ' at least "by sample," some acquaintance "with philosophy,- . with some one of the great sciences, with some cmo.of .the great languages . . . with history, and with 'politiste"-foeMI • • only can he claim" valid naturalization as a citizen ta4--

world of thought." And a like view is supported in detail by Professor A. Meiklejohn in an able essay, which is said to be "recognized as a classic statement," and more generally by C. E. Eliot, the distinguished "President Emeritus" of Harvard ; nor, although one writer, quoting

Goethe's well-known words, " it grosses will muss sled LestIu•aWkeW loinnen," asserts "early specialization" to be necessary for success, can it be doubted that American opinion strongly supports the view that those who are to be the future leaders of the race, "the master-adventurers in the field of modern opportunity," need, above all, a certain fulness and amplitude of equipment. But to furnish such a sufficient outfit is a matter that demands time, and, " hustlers " though they are said to be, yet in the education of their best youth Americans refuse to be over-hasty. They are willing to sub- ordinate "the immediate to the remote aim," and to reject "quick results" provided they can ultimately secure "the best results," whereas in England we seem to do exactly the reverse.

We clamour for results, for some definite achievement, and the attainment of some particular end. Though all students of education agree that its proper object is to produce, not a one-sided loan, but a man who, in the old Greek phrase, is "four-square," and ready to face, not one single set of circum- stances, but whatever may eventually confront him, the Uni- versities resolutely set themselves to discountenance general training. The amount of general knowledge they require has become in some instances almost a vanishing quantity, and their whole system of honours and rewards tends directly to promote a close and premature specialization. The youth who to-day would win academic distinction must assuredly choose "the strait gate" and walk along "the narrow way," while even at school every lad of promise is tempted by the lure of a scholarship to devote to a single study powers which Nature had designed for larger and more generous development. And although there are minds which, like sturdy plants, refuge to be dwarfed and stunted, however you cabin and confine them, yet perhaps we should hear less than we do of high University honours often seeming to result in such scanty fruitage if we studied more carefully the "aim and purpose" of College training as it presents itself to some of the ablest thinkers and writers in the New World.