It would be well if the current number of the Graduates' Magazine were read by every undergraduate. It is of course desirable that the graduates should be among the first to know of the changes in opinion which are being disclosed, so that they, being convinced, may tell their juniors that they wish that things had been presented to them in this light when they were undergraduates; but after all it is the undergraduate who can profit personally by the new appeal for a fundamental change in the attitude of the average undergraduate toward his college work. In the last generation the opportunities for study in Harvard were enormously multiplied; the curriculum was enriched by so many courses taught in such enlightening ways that it was believed that the attraction of this new program with its elective system would be such that all that would be necessary would be to open the doors to the impatient students without any restrictions. But in the students of this perverse generation this aroused little enthusiasm. They had as little to do with learning as possible, thinking their other engagements much more worth while, or made derogatory remarks about the futility of it all. It was the current belief of this generation that the men who eventually amounted to something in the world spent their time in the agreeable dalliance of College society while they were undergraduates and then in their professional schools would turn to their life work, taking there high rank and attaining in the world of men immediate success. This was reinforced in their minds by the gossip of their elders to the effect that first scholars in college drifted into the obscurity of the ill-paid school-teacher or the unknown country parson. The fallacy of this belief and the danger of this prejudice is pointed out in two of the leading articles in this December issue. And new ideals of fore-college work are set forth in two other of the leading articles.
President Lowell's article on "The Relationship between Rank in College and the Professional Schools" proves beyond question that unless one attains, by hard work, in some department of learning, high standing in college, he cannot hope for great success in his professional school. In the Law School the chance of obtaining a cum laude is almost ten times as great for a man with a summa cum laude in college as for a man who graduated with a plain degree; for the man with a magna cum laude it is six times as great, and for a man with a cum laude between three and four times as great.
The article by the Editor of the magazine shows the success that first scholars attain in their after life in the world at large,--thus clinching the argument. Equally interesting are the life records made by them as Mr. Thayer marshals his facts. Most of the first scholars have been not ministers but lawyers by profession, but often the lawyers have used the law as a ladder to public office. In the list are five United States Senators, ten Representatives, two ministers to Great Britain, three members of the Cabinet, three for- eign ministers, one members of the Continental Congress and also of the Constitutional Convention, one Governor of Massachusetts, two Presidents and one Acting President of Harvard, three presidents of other colleges, six judges of the United States Courts and of State Supreme Courts, one United States Supreme Court Justice; and, if one is to believe the current gossip, another is soon to sit on that bench. The first scholars of late years have been for the most part either educators of high rank or lawyers whose practice brought them into relations with great industrial affairs.
This is not a plea for wearisome grinding at set tasks. There can be too much studying of courses but not too much work upon subjects. One may welcome Mr. Ware's ideal of undergraduate activity--that the maturer graduates should be treated with the respect they really deserve, and by pointing attention to things worth doing to arouse in them the intelligent interest which they are ready to manifest. This might, as the writer suggests, be afforded in the later years of undergraduate life by leading them to concentrate upon practical questions of real difficulty.
Professor Merriman has a practical suggestion along these lines. He proposes a general examination at the end of the college course for which one should be preparing himself throughout his college course. Without denying the advantages of the present system of specific examination, he does maintain that it could be made far more effective still in combination with a more general test along somewhat different lines. The amount of information that the average American college graduate possesses, he believes, is not nearly so inadequate as is his ability to utilize that information, and to discover and make good his own deficiencies.
All agree that this is a time of storm and stress--an age of academic read-justment and reform. The new policies as to college work have gone into effect. They should result in stimulating a wider culture and a higher efficiency. If the word culture does not, the word efficiency must appeal to every young American. And every Harvard undergraduate should ponder well the demonstrated fact that without the attainment of the requisite power over intellectual problems by concentrated work, he can hardly expect to reach high place in after life. It does not make so much difference, as the statistics from the Law School show, what a man studies, but how he studies it. And for real grasp of the life he must live, a man must not only know as nearly as possible something about everything, but as nearly as possible everything about something