The recent statement of President L. D. Coffmah, of the University of Minnesota, to the effect that the future of American education, as well as of several other things, belongs to the western universities, strikes the cultured ear of the effect East somewhat harshly. Even when due allowance is made for local pride and sectional patriotism, the conviction remains that President Coffman has been guilty of exaggeration--excusable, perhaps, but still exaggeration.
For one thing, education is not a geographically transferable commodity, like food-stuffs or the Federal Reserve. Whether for good or bad, it remains in one place, and rows about itself a decorative ivy of cultural tradition, bedded and nourished in the soil in which it stands; so that one hears the expression, "a southern education", "a New England education", applied to the educational heritage of particular regions of the country.
President Coffman is quite right in pointing out that there is a difference in the types of higher learning cultivated in the East and in the West. The West, is young, vigorous, and intensely practical. Its literature has been enriched--though this has not yet been universally conceded--by the work of Masters, of Sandberg, of Anderson, whose young and engagingly pessimistic view of life has done much to stimulate modern American thought. Its education is of a more immediate turn. There is less of that deliberately pure scholarship which is found in the East, of that ripe appreciation of higher values which comes with maturity and age.
Such existing differences are due wholly to the conditions of environment in which the educational system of the West has grown, and are not in any sence, as President Coffman seems to imply, the results of a successful execution of preconceived ideas. Nor from the fact of such differences can anyone argue a superiority of one variety of learning over another. To indicate points of variance is interesting, and possibly even valuable, but to prophesy therefrom a glowing future on the one hand, and an early and permanent dry rot on the other is to venture almost too far into the fields of unrestrained fancy.