Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/244

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238
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

OLD LAMPS FOR NEW
By JOHN MILLS
NEW YORK CITY

THE lament for the good old days, which rises so frequently from academic circles, has recently in the case of Amherst College resulted in definite action and policy. Following the recommendations of a group of alumni of the eighties, Amherst has reacted against the commercial and technical tendency of modern education, and hereafter is to be wholly and frankly classical in its aims and its curriculum. Whether the hands of this particular college clock can be turned backward without injury to the works, or false guidance to the youths whose period of training it apportions, is a question for the future. That something is amiss in our present scheme of higher education, and that the unassisted processes of evolution will lead too tardily and expensively to a solution is, however, the feeling of many.

The form of the lament and the burden of its criticism depend upon the early training and business or professional experience of the critic, and upon his business or social relations with present-day college graduates. One critic attributes his own personal success to the study of Latin and Greek, another to the course in "moral and physical philosophy" pursued under his college president, and a third finds his intimations of immortality in the mathematical concept of an infinite series. But one and all, in final analysis, agree that the college prepares for no special vocation, and the technical school for a too special vocation.

The failure of the technical school is not due to the over-specialization of the doctor of philosophy or German-trained research student. The average doctor of philosophy can at least think in the terms of his own narrow division of the world's knowledge, whether he is gifted with scientific imagination or not. The average technical school graduate is a Tomlinson of the laboratories and text-books, a product of modern motion study, who can perform certain laboratory manœuvers or calculations with a minimum expenditure of mental energy. These various operations are listed in the school catalogue and referred to in the diploma. The better the name of the institution, the greater surety does it offer to the captain of industry who buys its wares that they will meet the specifications.

In part, this unfortunate condition has resulted from the short-