The present system of theme writing, while possessing many undeniable advantages, inasmuch as the students are led thereby to do some original thinking and useful reading, is nevertheless apparently at fault in some not unimportant respects. A theme is written by the student on one of several subjects assigned by the instructor, handed in at the appointed time, and then returned to the student corrected by the instructor according to his own ideas of style, expression, et cetera. This way is well enough, provided we take the instructor in question as absolute authority in all questions arising in this subject, and fashion our style after the model preferred by the instructor. In many cases the beauties or advantages of the model, if there be any, are not considered in the least, and it is copied as faithfully as possible merely for the purpose of acquiring a good mark.
Thus, instead of being seekers after a strong, original style and clear expression, we become copyers of a style which another has adopted as being in his own mind good enough for all and beyond criticism. Theme writing cannot, of course, be dispensed with, but to improve as much as possible the various styles of the students, we think a greater range in subjects should be given, and that one rather impracticable should not be adopted as a criterion. The style which we endeavor to imitate is no doubt beautiful and good for some subjects, but the fact that we are obliged to write according to the judgment of a single individual tends to destroy all originality. If originality is of value anywhere it should be in this particular course.