Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/517

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511
THE ADMINISTRATIVE PERIL IN EDUCATION

wares on his counter. It is difficult to have one e) r e on popularity and the other on scholarship and retain a concentrated attention. A confessional questionnaire upon the motives operative in electing studies would reveal family secrets, difficult to reconcile with the lofty provisions and disinterested opportunities of the catalogue.

Involved in this rivalry, friendly in appearance, deadly in effect, is the intrusion of over-practical, quasi-professional interests, to the disparagement of discipline and cultural ideals. It is as though the course of the ship of education were determined by consulting the passengers. Advertising looms large and boosts the bigness that brings revenues and responds to administrative ambitions. The general consequence, I contend, is that the policies pursued, the measures adopted, that determine what students do at college and how they do it, and what they fail to do, neither truly nor adequately reflect the intent, the wisdom, the influence of those to whom they rightly look for guidance. Let me concede at once that some of the above trends are within limits legitimate and helpful, and again that in considerable measure they are not wholly or predominantly due to the administrative influence. None the less the administrative emphasis must be charged with a large responsibility for the excess to which the natural derogations of youth have been permitted to expand.[1] The administrators have held the balance of power; they have ruled by overruling; or by yielding where resistance was demanded. If theirs is the pride, theirs is also the shame.

There can be no doubt that college life is generally and severely criticized. The perspective of student activities seems to the casual as to the close observer sadly out of joint; and this extends to more than the fact that for news of the colleges one must turn to the prismatic sporting pages of enterprising dailies. The query whether the collegiate side-shows have not eclipsed the business carried on in the main tent, if carried further, may lead to similar revelations as to the altered spirit of the performance in the academic arena. The arraignment is long and severe: students have no intellectual interests, no application, no knowledge of essentials, no ability to apply what they assimilate; they are flabby, they dawdle, they fritter and frivol, they contemn the grind, they miseducate the studious, they seek proficiency in stunts, they drift to the soft and circumvent the hard; undertrained and overtaught, they are coddled and spoon-fed and served where they should be serving; and they get their degree for a quality of work which in an office would cost them their jobs. You may read it seriously and impressively set down in Mr. Flexner's "The American College"; you may read it no less forcibly if more indulgently recorded in Mr. Gay-

  1. Since writing these words Mr. Owen Johnston has set forth in no uncertain temper the "Shame of the Colleges" in terms of undergraduate dissipation, not as ominous in its physical extravagance as in its intellectual waste. It is the undergraduate distortion of perspective that is the source of despair, and for which the academic authorities must accept a considerable responsibility.