As Dartmouth College opened today, President Hopkins drove home a lesson in educational conservatism taught by a country where one might least expect it--Soviet Russia. Mr. Hopkins was speaking to his students of the great clamor recently heard in America against the disclipinary requirements of our college curricula. Much criticism has been voiced, he said, against all those subjects which call for painstaking study and mastery of exact factual data. The labor of learning foreign languages, for example, has been under fire, on the ground that it is not worth the trouble. The whole system of giving "marks" or grades has been attacked, as tending to put our students under too much competitive pressure to attain a high, scholastic standard. "The idea is usually accepted," said President Hopkins, "that except for conservatism and addiction to established forms on the part of the colleges, such requirements would speedily be abandoned."
And then, with telling force, he remarked: "Well, they were abandoned in the most radically experimental project over undertaken educationally upon a large scale, when the Soviet Union set up its system of universal education and founded this on the (so called) 'project' method. What was the result? In a resolution adopted by the central committee of the Communist party on Aug. 25, 1932, the whole plan was declared ineffective and undesirable. It did not give sufficient general knowledge and failed to teach the essential principles of specific subjects. The resolution prescribed a more thorough study of individual subjects, more time to be spent on mathematics, physics and foreign languages, and the reintroduction of examinations and the marking system."
This complete change of policy is now being put into effect in the land of Lenin, and it is high time that educators here in America should mark the fact well and be governed in judgment accordingly. The youth of our nation face great difficulties, today, and college men in particular are hard put to know how they can use their higher education to proper advantage. But in this perplexity, one thing is cortain. Any policy which tends to make the years of a man's college life easier and more pampered, is a policy, which can only make him less fit, not more fit, for the very conditions of difficulty which he must face in the economic world of today. As President Hopkins quietly points out, there has been a surfeit of argument about what the colleges should do for their students, and a dearth of plain emphasis upon what these young men should do for themselves. "Much has been said about making the absorption of learning less difficult, the conditions of college life more comfortable, and the adverse judgments in regard to indolence and indifference less exacting. Little has been said about how learning should be made more accurate, or about how mental fiber should be toughened and intellectual fortitude developed."
These are the great and enduring needs of mankind in life's struggle. The possession of such qualities is plainly the most valuable asset a college man can have. American colleges and their students will do well follow the counsel of President Hopkins, and redouble their emphasis upon such basic virtues. Surely America need not go further in educational experimentalism and radical abandonment of conservative teaching principles than even Soviet Russia finds it fruitful to go. --Boston Transcript.