Columbia University, in the annual report of the "Director of University Extension", has stated the desire of offering opportunities for study to men who are unable to attend courses within the university. Although it already conducts hundreds of lectures in centres at a distance from its own campus, it now wishes to provide a man with the greater part of his schooling at home. And it hopes to develop service in a manner "consistent with the traditions of the university."
Perhaps this is the panacea that educators have been trying to discover for the past year or more. It is much like an earlier suggestion made by Dean Holmes of the Harvard School of Education. Can overcrowding be met by the simple expedient of letting men do the bulk of their studying away from college, by means of a series of reading lists, written reports, and examinations? If so, the bugaboos of "selective admission" and the universal right to education will be supplied.
Unfortunatly, just more desire for knowledge is not usually a sufficient stimulus to learning. Abraham Lincoln can hardly be cited as the "typical American youth." Most students, when they are given books, must be personally instructed how to get the greatest benefit from them, and reading lists or "correspondence" will prove only partially satisfactory. Aside from the real difficulties in the way of the lonely student, there are apt to arise dozens of minor discouragements which are now met by suggestions from friendly roommates, instructors, or advisors.
Still, there is reason to hope that the worst of these obstacles can be avoided. One, the loss of the stimulus of spoken lectures, has already found a simple remedy--the radio. Special text books, too, may eventually be made self-explanatory, so that even a second Tarzan will find no difficulty in understanding them. In any case the scheme seems a possible though only a partial answer to the question. If the proposed experiment at Columbia proves at all successful, the educational mountain may yet come to Mahomet.