Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/580

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574
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE FUNCTION OF THE AMERICAN COLLEGE
By Professor A. K. ROGERS

UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI

ALONG with the movement toward vocationalism in the lower schools, there is at the present time apparent an equally powerful and not wholly unrelated trend in the higher toward intellectual specialization. Any one who is acquainted with the situation knows that in so far as the college and university teacher has to-day any distinct notion at all of what he is about, it is likely to be in the majority of cases in terms of an exaltation of scientific scholarship. The business which he conceives he is there to forward is to produce thinkers and investigators of the specialized and technical sort that he is familiar with among his colleagues and in his scientific associations. And the commonest justification of this is apt to be in the form of a claim that the task of the schools is to produce leaders. In consequence the teacher gets into a habit of considerable asperity toward the average member of his classes in whom he sees no special promise of distinction. His dealing with them becomes perfunctory, and all his enthusiasm he reserves for the few who can be expected to go farther along the paths of academic glory. The special ideal of the university is apt to overshadow the entire scheme of higher education.

One result of this tendency is the anomalous position which the college is at the present day coming to occupy in the American educational scheme. To one who is not content to see an institution simply in existence, and doing work which has something to be said in its favor, but who wants to adjust it to a principle, it is growing a very puzzling matter to state with any approach to precision the function of this typically American contribution to the forms of educational expression. The original function of the college was professional preparation, which at the same time came pretty close to a training for social leadership as well, since the professions to which it led, including in particular the profession of divinity, were looked to more consciously than at the present day to provide the material for leadership in ideas. But if one were to try to justify theoretically the college now on the same ground, two facts at least would need to be recognized. In the first place the college does not actually at present, except in the form of a pious aspiration, base itself upon intellectual distinction, or aim at developing peculiar capacities for special kinds of intellectual service. And we can the more readily admit this, inasmuch as in the university we have a new type of institution which does have just this aim. Accordingly,