At a time when nine-tenths of the college students of the country are feverishly preparing for the ordeal of final examinations, it hardly seems appropriate for Dr. Donald A. Laird, Association Professor of Psychology at Colgate University, to come out with the results of his latest researches in the field of insanity. Dr. Laird apparently has no scruples about publishing his gruesome findings. Without a single quiver of sympathy, he asserts that whereas only one man in fourteen hundred and one woman in eighteen hundred outside universities are subject to mental disorders, the percentage within academic walls is a great deal higher; to be accurate one out of every thousand.
The reason which Dr. Laird assigns in the kindness of his heart for this sinister state of affairs is that college students go mad because they live a "highly competitive intellectual existence, and any mental handicap is quickly noticed." One would like to think so. Unfortunately, however, the unprejudiced observer is driven to the conclusion that though this may be a contributing cause, the real reason is not to be found in so superficial an examination. It is also obvious that the Colgate scientist has not had the benefit of a heart to heart talk with Mr. F. H. Hoffman, of the Babson Institute, whose opinions on the mode of life enjoyed in at least one American university appeared in these columns not any weeks ago. An interview between Dr. Laird and Mr. Hoffman, after the manner of Berkeley's "Dialogues", should make interesting-reading.
An old saying has it that there is very little difference between the genius and the fool. If this is so, and Dr. Laird's observations are accurate, the intrepid spirit who dares to undergo four gruelling years of college life is taking an impressive gamble with the gods of chance. When he emerges from the strain of intellectual competition, or as one critic would prefer, the pernicious influences of a vapid university atmosphere, he may find himself a second Shakespeare, a second Dante, a second Leonardo; of his family may discover to their horror that all he can remember of his past life is a somewhat garbled version of "Mr.--is requested to call--".
As some interesting statistician has demonstrated that only about four persons out of every one hundred are mentally capable of obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree, it may very, well be that the high rate of insanity among college students is due to the fact that their minds are composed of a finer, more delicately tragic material than are those of the common herd; that while they are capable of more Intricate and more subtle machinations, they are also more subject to derangement. If this is the case, the present college population may be divided roughly into two groups--those who have come safely through Divisionals and are still able to count up to ten; and those who are fearfully preparing, with cold towel and strong coffee, for the Finals.