Two articles in the current issue of The Nation concern themselves with the question of higher education. Glenn Frank discusses the "Revolt Against Education" and suggests a method by which the colleges may more adequately effect some progress against the huge flood of learning which is now engulfing them. Professor Mussey of Wellesley has another and more personal suggestion. Both are, each in his own way, attempting to outline one particular flaw in the present college system. And both, therefore, are merely polishing facets of a large and imposing, many faceted jewel. Yet even such isolated endeavors are in their fashion implications of the uncertainty which faces modern educators as they watch the libraries grow and the students grown.
President Frank says in his opening paragraphs that "we are witnessing today both the collapse of our curricula from structural overloading and the beginnings of a student revolt against the sterilities of current academic procedure." And he sees no happy exit from the enigma in further curricular jugglings. Bringing pragmatism into education, he would replace as much of the historical survey work of general fields as is now given by courses which would deal more with situations than with subjects. To understand how a nation or civilization met situations similar to those which now face the citizen of the modern world is to him very worth while.
But his position as president of a university forbids any sanguine belief on his part that such courses could be easily inserted into the college of today. Yet he thinks that attainment of a better system than the present is, if no approach to perfection, certainly sufficiently worth while to be more than dreamed of.
And he is right in believing that something should be done to fit the college man for his new world. Yet the question of method is difficult to get at from the abstract. The system is not everything. In fact it is very little. The man is really what counts.
So one is tempted to agree definitely with Professor Mussey whose language may at times favor the sentimental and the inspirational, but whose thought is fundamentally sound in that it presents a truth which is at the basis of much of the difficulty in modern education: the faculties often are too blinded by the masses with which industrial success has flooded the college to remember that those who really delight in learning and in culture, who can get at the root of things, system or no system, are just as much a part of the college world as they ever were.
"If our faculties, then," writes Professor Mussey, "will only forget their methods and devices, their endowments and equipment and paraphernalia, their hopes of prosperity and success, of riches and power, their hordes of so-called students indifferent and incompetent--if they will but forget all these and center, their thought on that youth of the starry eyes and the dream in his heart: if they will but see him as the child of this puzzling, fascinating, maddening world of yesterday and today, inheritor of its riches, its traditions, its burdens, its sins: will see him as a maker of the world of tomorrow which must be different because he wills it so; if they will only stand erect before him, in no pride of authority, but with unquestioning faith in the scientific tools they have pain-fully learned to use for the progressive revelation of that world to its maker-to-be, and with unquenchable enthusiasm for the value of that revelation, the college need not fear. Its future is secure." This may be too much akin to sentiment, to the inspirational to satisfy the modern undergraduate--it may, and probably is, as has been suggested but one face of a multi-sided jewel-- but, fortunately or unfortunately, it is absolutely true.