In his last lecture to the freshman class in Greek Etymology, Prof. White took occasion to explain the experiment the faculty are making this year in the system of lectures and conferences for freshmen, and to comment upon its progress thus far. Undoubtedly, if more frequent opportunity of such a sort were taken by members of the faculty to explain and discuss with their classes, and especially with the freshman classes, the status and relations of the various courses and methods of work, a far more cordial and franker feeling would come to subsist between instructors and pupils, and a clearer notion of what is expected of them would remain with the latter. Prof. White's advice and ideas will certainly be carefully considered by his hearers. He began by intimating that the spirit of apathy and procrastination which the freedom of the lecture system allowed and unfortunately seemed to foster among the students, might necessitate its abandonment or modification by the college; for it seemed to lead directly to the pernicious habit of "cramming," a habit fatal to good scholarship and entirely evil in its effects. "If this spirit is in the air, we must drive it out of the air." The failure of men to come forward and meet the instructors half-way in their liberal offers, and thereby to justify these changes, would compel the college to revert to the former "paternal relations" and common-school system of teaching. Therefore, in some measure, it depended upon the action of this class, whether they would continue the experiment of lectures in the freshman course. Now, undoubtedly, this unfortunate spirit does exist to some extent among the students; but still there are some things to be said in extenuation, and especially so in the case of the freshmen; for in the first place, the freshman course is not elective, and much of its work which is not elementary and novel, but considerably specialized, must be irksome and uncongenial for the majority. Moreover, while the system of advanced sections brings about some sort of a selection of men, it by no means amounts to the same thing as the selection secured by electives.
But, more than this, the freshman work is excessively subdivided as to topics; and that greater confusion and distraction of mind does not result among the men is really a matter for wonder. While these things are so, while the freshman course remains so arbitrary and unattractive in so many respects, and while its scope is so diffused and its arrangement so incoherent, it is to be expected that men will be driven to partially neglect certain subjects, and then to resort to the cramming system to save themselves at the end, whether the subjects be taught by lectures or by the most antiquated and iron-bound sort of recitations possible.