THE SEARCH FOR EDUCATION
College no longer means a four year search for knowledge; it has become more nearly a social convention. President Hutchins in an attempt to restore to college education its former prestige has transformed the University of Chicago. He frankly admits that his plan is an experiment and that, like all experiments, time alone can prove its worth. But there are several elements of the idea that can eliminate the difficulties of the present system.
Colleges today are prone to emphasize the importance of professors as "great men." This is a natural outcome of large classes which tend to minimize a man's ability to teach. The chief demand, now, of a professor is that he know something well.
This system reduces the student from an individual to a mere absorber of knowledge. The University of Chicago hopes to develop an individual by its method of advancement by achievement." A brilliant student, unhampered by the indolent, will be able to make extremely rapid progress and he will have the advantage of personal contact with the professors. This type of education will require a faculty that is not only learned but that can teach as well. It is a glorified tutorial system.
One of the salient advantages of the plan is the effect it will have upon graduate schools. Chicago has done away with these departments, but has established in their place courses of "more advanced study," which only those of unusual ability may take. The type of scholar in these courses will, of necessity, be more able and intelligent than under the present system.
There is one difficulty in the idea. It puts a premium upon speed. A good man will be anxious to prove his worth by graduating as rapidly as possible. It is impossible to absorb a large amount of reading in a short space of time, and reading is a necessary complement to a thorough study of many subjects. It would be very difficult, for example, to graduate from Harvard in one year in the field of History. One of the greatest advantages of the four year system is the time it allows for careful, digestive reading. But this objection merely presents an obstacle at Chicago to be avoided; it does not necessarily vitiate the practical application of President Hutchins' plans.