The public appears to be in a mood for a thorough discussion of the American college and university system, at this time. In this week's Nation, the question is again considered, Beloit and Oberlin both taking their say on the matter. The Beliot correspondent appears to have a reasonable appreciation of the true status of the subject, and advances several plausible theories as to the proper relations of the terms college and university. "The name university," he says, "ought to represent an institution where not rudiments but sciences are taught by specialists, and where the learners are responsible young men who have chosen one or more of these sciences for a life work." But the college should aim to give a general preparatory culture to boys and youths, graduating them at the age of from eighteen to twenty. "It should be an institution for training the mind and disciplining the character, and should not aim to be an institution of learning, in the broad sense of the term. The teacher's personal interest in the student should not be diverted by ambition for renown as a scholar, nor the efficiency of his teaching encumbered by large numbers of students." This is eminently reasonable as a theory, and is really a statement of the swiftly-approaching fact as to the relations of educational institutions in this country. Such colleges as Beloit and such schools as Phillips and Adams academies are actually types of such a college; and Harvard is fast becoming such a university. At present, she is in a state of transition, and there are anomalies still in her course which have not been swept away. It will take but few years more to complete the change to a perfect university system. But the system of Yale is radically unwise in this respect, as we believe, for this reason stated by the Beloit professor. "If young men are kept in preparatory training-schools, and are not allowed to assume the responsibilities of manhood till the blood is chilled and the ambition dampened, the 'thoroughness' of preparation defeats its own ends." And the method of Yale is but that of a higher preparatory school of this sort.
But the Nation's Oberlin correspondent, on the other hand, displays such a lamentable confusion of ideas and of statement that the attempt to answer him is rather hopeless. It is to be regretted that such petty envy and calumniation in this matter should be shown by college men of any sort. It is simply misrepresentation and misstatement to say of Harvard's system that "It dazzles us with the rich variety of electives, and, somehow, produces the impression that a student can take them all in the four years." It would certainly be a very foolish person who would receive such an idea. Further: "The idea that a certain amount of information and a certain familiarity with the lines of thought in each of the leading departments of human knowledge is essential to an education, is wholly ignored." We will venture to state as to this that the preparation required to enter Harvard and the prescribed work of the freshman year amount probably to as thorough a grounding in the leading departments of human knowledge, as the entire course of most of our Western sisters (e. g. Oberlin) afford in their whole four years. This is not a matter of pride, but simply a matter of fact. This entire discussion in the Nation cannot but serve to clear the public mind on all these questions, and so is to be welcomed. We commend an examination of the Nation's articles on this matter to all college men once more.