BORDER WARFARE

After being told in the first lecture of History 1 that history is the study of everything that has happened--and more, the complacent freshman sometimes thinks seriously of dropping the course until his fears are assuaged by the assurance that the lecturer will be forced to omit a few minor details. Subsequently he learns that all the world is chemistry; and is later informed that the atoms and electrons are the pet playthings of the physicists. With everybody intruding on everybody else's territory, is it surprising that the undergraduate not infrequently studies physics under a mathematics professor or learns his economics from a course on Government?

"The shrewd professor", says the current number of the Independent in a short dissertation on Frontier Wars in College, "goes at his task by indirection, by raising frontier disputes with his neighbors. Since the dividing lines between subjects of study, like those between nations, are usually quite arbitrary and accidental, this is not hard to do". In so far as the impartial college president will permit it, so the periodical infers, our instructors are engaged in an unceasing border warfare which results in a balance of power as proclaimed in the announcement of courses. "To multiply subjects is to multiply rivalries. But a shrewd Bismarck of a professor who has a nice expansive subject such as sociology, history, or philosophy can soon be trespassing on every field in the whole curriculum before his colleagues--or his students--suspect what he is doing".

Although it is inconceivable that any sedate Harvard instructor would ever consciously encroach upon his neighbor's ground, there need be no alarm at the possibility. Competition may be as essential to the welfare of academic life as it is in the business world; at any rate, students will unfailingly elect courses that present the facts in the most inviting and digestible form. If all instructors are obliged to vie one with another in catering to popular demand, college faculties might be stimulated to produce some particularly palatable food for thought.