Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/264

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

258

POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

than the bachelor's, but of the same general scope, and they may be sought with the same propriety as any other reward which represents a performance of a definite task and which is honorary only in the sense that the formal recognition of an accomplished work is an honor. The plea for conferring these degrees in absentia might, at first thought, be regarded as in the interests of young men and women, prevented by poverty—actual or relative—from pursuing their studies beyond the usual limits of the college course. On the contrary, few are prevented from continuing their education at college by lack of funds, on account of the generous provision of scholarships and because the experience of undergraduate life renders it comparatively easy for the post-graduate student to be self-supporting, as a tutor, a literary hack or in some other capacity. The real obstacle to postgraduate study in præsentia is that every young person of energy and ambition realizes, with the advent of that indefinable condition which we call maturity, that it is time for him to be about the serious business of life, that he must cease to be a consumer, even of scholarship, and that he must become a producer. Some few lines of life work admit of a protraction of residence at a university without interference with the demands which society justly makes on a well-trained intellect, some few are favored by accident of location, but, in the vast majority of all instances, the man or woman who decides to remain at college beyond the usual undergraduate period, must make a sacrifice of the best years of life, years which might better be applied to the preliminary struggle for position which is inevitable to success in every business or profession and which must be undertaken in the arena of actual life. The desire for thorough educational preparation, however laudable, must be recognized as futile in the sense that no scholar can hope to gain the point at which he can consider his past progress as having measurably subtracted from the infinite possibility of the future. On the other hand, all educational systems must frankly recognize that senility begins its inroads before full maturity is reached. The appearance of grey hairs before the beard is fully established is but the symbol of all physical and mental development. The man who waits for his judgment to be fully formed and his knowledge to be completed—even according to human standards before engaging on his life work, has already lost something of mental flexibility and of the vigor of innervating centers. It is impossible to translate this principle into terms of age and the formulation of standards must be left to the collective experience of educators, sociologists and of that paramount factor in education and social progress which we so often forget—the people. A surprisingly large number of great men have practically completed their work in life