Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/25

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

languages, and social science, were finally admitted to a place in the curriculum of the colleges. It was insisted, however, that space should be found for them, not by cutting the time given to Greek and Latin, but simply by demanding more in these subjects for admission, and thus giving to them as much time as was given before and lengthening the college course correspondingly, so that a college boy is now much older than he was a half-century ago. When further demands were made with irresistible force, they were finally met by a reluctant permission to establish so-called modern or Latin-scientific or scientific courses, parallel with the old, but carrying with them a separate degree which did not recognize the candidate as a liberally educated man, whatever else he might be. It was thus that the field lay, when Dr. Eliot began fifteen years ago his career as President of Harvard College. An earnest agitation was shortly begun to make Greek elective in the course for the degree of A. B. It was maintained that the facilities for study and methods of teaching, etc., in the modern studies had been so far perfected that they could put something else in the place of Greek and still fairly claim for the man who had completed the course the proud title of bachelor of liberal arts.

Here the adherents of the old system made a desperate stand and were determined to fight the proposal to the bitter end. How far President Eliot may be personally responsible for the view within Harvard College which admitted the reasonableness of this claim of the "modernists" I am not aware. But certain it is that, whether rightly or wrongly, he is identified with it in the public mind. With every passing year, with every extension in the courses of study at Harvard, with every improvement in their facilities for giving instruction in these new branches, with every debate on the question in the faculty meetings, with every careful and unprejudiced consideration of the question in a broad or liberal way, with every increase in pedagogical knowledge; and with every comparison of our own system with that of progressive nations abroad and the tendencies of thought on educational matters elsewhere, the number of those favorable to the scheme increased, until during the last year the plan was finally adopted which marked the culmination of the long development. So fully was it recognized that Harvard's decision on the matter, if favorable to the claims of the modern party, would lend an inmense impetus to the cause everywhere and ultimately lead to the utter rout of the "ancients," that a very unusual step was taken by several of the New England college presidents. Eight of them joined in a circular memorial to the Board of Overseers of Harvard College in the spring of 1885, praying that no relaxation be made in the requisition of Greek for the A. B. I think I am right in saying that such action was unprecedented in the history of American education—the head of eight institutions of learning uniting in a request to the governing board of a ninth institution that it should not comply with the request of its