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THE AGE OF INNOCENCE

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Group pictures of crews, clubs, and editorial boards in past generations preserve the impression that our ancestors in their college days were mature and solemn men. Sartorial fashions, no doubt, contribute to the effect; but a record of student ages half a century ago would probably show an average of at least a year more than the prevailing number now'. Yet a large portion of President Lowell's annual report is devoted to an appeal for students to enter college at an even tenderer age than is now common.

The reasons he gives are sound, as far as they are carried. Men who delay entering until they are nineteen or twenty prove less flexible under the developing influences that college is supposed to direct upon them: Many feeling that they should "get out in the world", grow impatient and either try to hurry through their course in three years, or devote themselves to studies which offer practical training instead of "deepening and enlarging the outlook on life", which must be, after all, the real aim of such an education as Harvard offers. Furthermore the report declares that "Statistics. . . showed conclusively that the younger students were better in scholarship and conduct than the older ones."

Seventeen, then, is the age which President Lowell desires as an average at entrance, rather than the present figure of eighteen or nineteen. The examinations as now prepared are not above the capacity of "any youth of ordinary ability." This would mean, correspondingly, that a fairly large number endowed with more than that ordinary ability, would be entering each year at sixteen and fifteen, while several (the present fifteen-year-olds) would come at fourteen or under. Unfortunately, the examinations test only mental development; they offer no estimate of character or physique, and it is already plain to be seen that the first often grows far faster than the other two. And the report which he quotes, also, refers only to scholarship plus a negative quality called "conduct", which probably means that younger students are more docile.

From the undergraduate point of view, it would seem superficially that the President's remarks had overlooked the broader college influences, outside of the classroom, which he himself would be quick to acknowledge as of almost equal importance, in the aggregate, with instruction itself. Perhaps we are wrong in thinking that the younger men, in respect to physique and character, are already at a disadvantage, and find themselves unable to reap a full harvest in the fields of "interests and activities." It is true that the present century is far slower in developing its youths than the past have been. The Elizabethans were taking their degrees at our age of matriculation. But we may answer than in England now, in the same universities, a student thinks nothing of continuing long past twenty-one; he labors under no sense of duty which says that date is "as late as he ought to begin the study of his profession or the apprenticeship for his career." This American frenzy for an early plunge into life, though necessary in many cases, is a principle of doubtful merit. Harvard should at least ponder well before encouraging it so frankly.

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