Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/521

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515
THE ADMINISTRATIVE PERIL IN EDUCATION

most richly fed." In reminding the alumni of Harvard that "our undisciplinables are our proudest product" he gave expression to a memorable reflection. The administrative temper breeds an atmosphere peculiarly noxious to the finer, freer issues of learning. The inner quality so precious to the function of leadership in intellectual callings, dependent as they are on the delicate nurture of the creative gift, is precisely that which recedes at the first harsh touch of imposed restraint. There is a temperamental disposition involved, fraught with difficulty of adjustment under the most favorable circumstances, beset with hazard throughout its uncertain maturing at all levels. Unless the academic life is made helpful to its purpose, the course of which it must so largely be free to set for itself, the ships that bear our most valued cargoes will be storm-tossed and needlessly discouraged in their efforts to reach their sighted harbors: and some of them will mutely and ingloriously go down at sea. It is because the prevalent administrative system is so deadly to "our proudest product," that it appears to me, through the vista of a quarter century, as the supreme peril of the educational seas.[1]

  1. Since this article was written, Professor Cattell has made known the results of his inquiry in regard to the opinions of professors upon the desirability and acceptability of the present system of academic control. (See Science, May 24 and 31, 1912). Speaking generally the inquiry, which was conducted upon a wide basis and presumably a frank one, reveals the astonishing conclusion that 85 per cent, of the replies are unfavorable to the system in vogue—the system here criticized. It is even more significant that a large majority advocate a very decided and radical reconstruction to bring about an urgently needed reform. The variety of points of view from which the dominant system is attacked is also suggestive. Knowing as I did from the many letters of endorsement of my own utterances, that there was a wide-spread sympathy with this position, I was yet entirely unprepared to find so general an expression of dissatisfaction. It would appear that the professors constitute a fairly unanimous army of insurgents, with a peculiar reticence in announcing their cause, and a reluctance to enlist in any active operations. None the less the statistical result is a cause for congratulation; and the academic world owes a debt to Professor Cattell the nature of which the future will more clearly reveal. Of the several constructive suggestions those advanced by Professor Cattell must now be accorded the preferred position, since it is with reference to them that a representative referendum of the academic profession has been taken. When it is realized that a considerable majority favors an extensive reconstruction of the system as established, and that the professors as a body find themselves dispirited and not inspired by the provisions supposed to ensure their efficiency, it is hardly probable that boards of management will fail to respond to this convincing and notable evidence that there is something out of joint in the academic situation. In my opinion Professor Cattell has indicated a workable, flexible program. As a platform its stability will depend not so directly upon this or that plank which is inserted or omitted or trimmed to local requirements, as upon its finding a solid support in the sentiments and judgments of those whose business and privilege it will be to direct its construction, as at once a visible and a spiritual reality.