Freshman orientation is elaborately discussed in the January "Educational Review" by C. H. Ho, a Chinese student at Teacher's College, Columbia. The attraction of the article lies in the data amassed. The instances cited show the colleges laboring hard with the problem of tucking in the bib and enticing the child to sit down to the feast.
A lecture series is a favorite means, extensively employed with such subjects as methods of study, the field of knowledge, student activities, health, and guides to the particular intricacies of the particular college. Solitary institutions here and there dabble with lectures on religion, reading, use of leisure time, and life careers.
Where the difficulties of the freshman are more profoundly realized, there will be found also initiatory courses, comprehensive in title and often sadly superficial. Their captions picture the grand attempt to inspire an interest in the essentials of current life, a cultural background, and original thinking. "Social and Economic Institutions" at Amherst, "Introduction to Contemporary Civilization" and "An Introduction to Reflective Thinking" at Columbia, Dartmouth's courses in "Evolution" and "Problems of Citizenship", and Princeton's "History, Politics and Economics', all reflect the difficulty of making the horse drink.
These courses and lectures are substantial evidence that it is universally recognized that freshmen come to college without an independent mental conception of their tasks. Their expectations are indefinite; usually they do not recognize the fulfillment. It is hardly necessary to remark that the break in instruction between preparatory school and college is largely responsible. Education, is of its nature, personal and continuous; and if instruction lapses or skips two jumps ahead, the result is incomprehension. It is but stating the problem to say that the remedy lies in a general correlation of secondary school preparation and college work.
But happily there is a less impossible mode of improvement at hand. It is not the method of these preliminary courses and lectures, likely as dull and incomprehensible as the incomprehensibilities they try to explain. The highest service the explanatory lecture can perform is to accustom the student to the mere mechanics of his surroundings. For introduction to intellectual deeps and desires, there is a better path, namely, the instructor himself. To him who makes plain without making easy, makes colorful without making tawdry makes profound without making involved, initiates will gladly turn. Charles Kingsley's "Let not the sourfaced teach morals lest they create a distaste for virtue", applies also to education, and with unmitigated thoroughness.