Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/345

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341
SPECIALIST BLIGHT ON AMERICAN EDUCATION

which dries up the soul, with real wisdom, which expands man into almost the very image of the All-Wise. Yet this hall-mark of erudition is to-day practically essential as a key to a faculty position; and it is so, not because there seems any valid educational reason for it, but largely because it is required in Germany and looks well in the prospectus. As a result, hundreds of young fellows are starving themselves and impoverishing their parents in order to secure this decoration. To get it they are pursuing so-called special investigations, by counting the number of adverbial clauses in Shakespeare, or by sending out questionnaires regarding the proportion of children who twiddle their thumbs. Having scraped together this fatuous information, they are spending much time and money in having it printed, in order that another doctorial dissertation may be added to the dustiest shelves of the college library. And these most precious years of a man's life, these years in which the youth ought to be learning how to broaden his mind and capacities, how to deal with men, how to handle his faculties, his tongue and himself — these the poor fellow is selling for this mess of pottage with which to feed the trustees of some lesser or greater university.

Having been admitted to the teaching staff of the university, the fledgling Ph.D., if he is to hold his place, must produce something, and that quickly. But since his days, as a subordinate teacher, are mainly taken up in such intellect-killing work as correcting thousands of themes or counting the apparatus in the laboratory, how is he to get that breadth, experience and wisdom which alone can make what he is expected to produce of any value to the world? Half-starved physically and wholly starved intellectually and socially, his only alternative is to specialize still more, digging, like a woodpecker, into some wormhole of erudition in the hope of extracting from it a maggot large enough to placate the learned university public accustomed thus to be fed by young doctors of philosophy. This digging is politely called research; but it is the sorriest counterfeit of the genuine thing, being but perfunctory and profitless grubbing. True research must be founded upon wide scholarship, upon profound knowledge of men, and upon extensive acquaintance with the world of letters and of things. To compel such callow men as these to specialize is to condemn them to intellectual suicide and, in so doing, to kill true scholarship.

In this hard-hearted world it would not very much matter that these poor aspirants should waste their intellectual powers in this way, did it affect only them and their long-suffering wives. But it is these men, as a rule, who become professors and heads of departments, it is they who determine the atmosphere and the trend of the colleges, it is this type of specialist who is setting the standards of learning and of scholarship for America. As a result we have our college popula-