Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/56

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52
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
UNIVERSITY REFORMS
By STEWART PATON, M.D.
PRINCETON, N. J.

AT present there is a wide-spread popular interest in all questions relating to the subject of educational reform, and it may be said with truth of the public, "Thou criest after knowledge and liftest up thy voice for understanding." The discussion is general and not limited to any one locality, nor confined to any particular social class. Over their cups of afternoon tea Mrs. Jones discusses with Mrs. Brown the respective merits of different educational systems, and at the club many an old graduate is up in arms at the mere suggestion that the boys at college are now made to spend too much time over their books! College presidents in their public utterances are decidedly optimistic in regard to the prospective value of this or that proposed change in the curriculum as hastening the day when the colts driven to water will drink eagerly from the fount of knowledge. It is fortunate that the note of optimism has been so loudly sounded by prominent educators, for only those who set out with hope may keep the road across the plain in which lies many a miry "slough of despond."

The task of a university president is no sinecure. The public, which includes many fond parents, is beginning vaguely to realize that something is wrong with our educational system, and as many a boy about to graduate from the university fails to appreciate the value of culture and has no overwhelming love for learning, it is only natural that the parental disappointment should attribute the failure to the last person controlling the throttle of the educational machine, namely the college president. At once the system is blamed, changes are proposed, new hopes are aroused, a general culture is promised, the elective system is dropped, courses are prescribed, the boys are forced to work, and then believing a panacea has been found the public temporarily loses interest in the discussion.

Again the machine grinds on until some one makes the discovery that the majority of the undergraduates do not read "Culture and Anarchy," nor do their copies of the "Novum Organum" show signs of being well-thumbed. The wave of public interest rises again and breaks with such force that the foundations of more than one institution of learning are shaken. The army of the Philistines not having been routed by the frontal attack, strategy is substituted for force, and with the same generals in command a flanking movement is planned. The functions of the brain and nervous system are to be properly