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THE welcome calm of American college life was a little disturbed, as was anticipated, by the novel pebble which some six of its representatives agreed to toss into it a week ago. Of the few ripples it occasioned some satisfactory ones extended over parts of New York and New Jersey, and one even came as near as a remote corner of Massachusetts.
The occasion we have no wish to criticise; though from the reports the papers have brought us we should infer the absence of some of the older colleges and their salutary restraint on the ebullitions of undergraduate boyishness. The particulars of the evening of the literary contest have been read by the interested or curious, and indicate a thoroughly American institution. It is nearly a year since the preliminary meeting of the "Intercollegiate Literary Association" was held in Hartford, and before any due discussion was had on the advisability of literary contests, steps were taken to inaugurate them. Harvard, in common with many other colleges, considering the final and all important question to be the purpose rather than the practicability of these contests, naturally refused to send delegates to a convention designed to carry out an idea that the callers of the convention refused to discuss. One of New England's ablest writers had already stated the more salient advantages of such contests, and had failed to convince any large body of our students. We do not pretend to judge the motives - they were probably of a mixed nature - which led representatives of some of the younger and smaller colleges to pronounce oracularly on the irreproachable nature of this embryo institution; but we can hardly commend that excess of enthusiasm which led them to forget that undergraduates of other colleges were not necessarily boys, and to be guided in a thing of this kind by the mere ipse dixit of any one. It is always unpleasant to discuss the accidents, as they seem to us, of the origin of these literary contests.
There is so much to be said on the educational principles involved, that it devolves on us with double force to keep widely distinct the best purpose they may serve and the unimportant use they may have first been put to. Yet, even in this spirit there seems less of promise in these contests than their most ardent friends among us, if there be any such, could reasonably expect. A singular apathy in regard to the whole contest is as apparent as it is wide-spread. Whether or not this apathy is without good foundation will be somewhat tested, we think, during the next few months, and there will be need of our insisting on a fuller discussion of the purposes of these contests, or we may be hurried - as some other colleges are now in danger of being - into participation in a kind of contest where victory might perpetuate our error. While we do not wholly agree with some of the journals in considering this as merely a contest in "prize declamation and composition," yet we think that one of the Boston papers was much further from the truth when it gave as a parallel institution the contest on literary topics which has found its occasions in the rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge. Such a comparison is simply so premature, that our grandchildren will probably be able to laugh at it with us. As to the immediate future of this "Literary Association," we learn that the field of contest is at once to be widened. At the convention held last week it was decided to hold competitive examinations in Greek and Mathematics, and for this purpose the following resolutions were adopted:-
First. The examinations shall be held in only two departments, classics and mathematics.
Second. The standing committee shall arrange for a competitive examination in Greek according to the following rules: Three judges shall be chosen by the standing committee, who shall be men of literary eminence, not officers or professors of any institution represented in this contest, who shall examine the contestants and make awards of honor.
Third. In the classics the examination to be based upon one Greek play, to be announced as soon as possible by the examiners; and in addition that the contestants he required to translate at sight some Greek author into English and from an English author into Greek.
Fourth. The standing committee shall arange the competitive examination in mathematics in a like manner, and that such examination shall be in analytical geometry.
The next contest is to be held in New York City, January 4, 1876, the only requirement made of colleges seeking admission to the Association being their ratification of its constitution.
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