Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/643

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

COERCION IN EDUCATION.

THE question of collegiate reform has again broken out in public discussion. Dr. McCosh has, written a letter to the Evening Post, protesting against certain contemplated changes in the management of the students in Harvard University. It is proposed to abolish the compulsory recitations, to allow the students greater freedom, but to hold them rigorously to the final examinations—a proceeding which Dr. McCosh thinks is not only in itself mistaken, but, by its adoption in so influential an institution as Harvard, would exert an injurious influence on other colleges of the country. The immediate question is that of college discipline. While there is a great stir in behalf of general compulsory education, Harvard proposes to relax its coercive practices. President Elliot, in his report to the Board of Overseers, suggests that the time has come for allowing more liberty to students, and, as their average age of admission to his institution is now above eighteen years, he thinks that the school-boy tactics might be dispensed with, and the students be treated more as responsible men, preparing for the work of life. Dr. McCosh holds, on the contrary, that the college is a place for discipline, which is to be acquired by the enforcement of external rules and the close supervision of the students by tutors, and the method of enforced recitations.

President Elliot assumes that the policy of European universities is more free than that of American colleges, and in this respect is worthy of our imitation. Dr. McCosh denies this. He says: "In all the good colleges of Great Britain and Ireland, the tendency of late years has been toward a weekly or daily supervision of studies. In Oxford and Cambridge, which have produced such ripe scholarship and high culture, the teaching is conducted, not by loose lectures of professors, but by numerous erudite tutors, who may not have more than half a dozen pupils present at a time, possibly not more than one, but who rigidly insist that the pupils be present and do their work." In regard to the German system, Dr. McCosh states that the Gymnasien and Realschule—the preparatory schools take charge of the pupils from the age of ten or twelve to eighteen, and carry their scholarship as far as the freshmen or sophomore classes in our American colleges. And he says that at these institutions "attendance is rigidly required, and the instruction is of a thoroughly drill-character. Every one ought to know that the foundation of German scholarship is laid, not in the universities, but in the Gymnasien. In the universities of Germany there is much to commend. Berlin, with its two hundred teachers, can furnish high instruction in every department of human learning. It is the very place for an American youth to go to, when, having taken his degree at home, he wishes to perfect himself in some special department of scholarship. At all the universities a few studious youth work with great assiduity and success. But a very large portion are not studious, and take a deeper interest in beer-drinking, Burschen, songs, and sword-duels, than in careful reading."

The question here raised is not to be settled by European precedents, because—first, as we see, the doctors disagree as to the facts; and, second, because it is a radical question affecting our whole educational system, and can only be settled by an appeal to first