A second number of the "Gad-Fly" has appeared. Not being an expert entomologist, and having but a vague a recollection of what Socrates said about the value of a gad-fly in stirring up the Athenians, I have turned to the Century Dictionary for a description of the-beast. I find that it is "very active, voracious, blood-thirsty, with great powers of biting. The bite is deep and painful, often drawing blood, though not poisonous."
Is the March "Gad-fly" one of these deep-biting and blood-thirsty creatures? Hardly. It opens with a moderate and sensible article on "Peace-Time Responsibilities of Pacifists." Believing that war is preventable, Mr. Wood draws an interesting analogy between the flood-prevention work of a civil engineer on the banks of the Mississippi, and the various opportunities for prevention work which are now open to lovers of peace. The tone of the essay is conciliatory and well-bred. It neither barks nor bites.
Mr. Swayze contributes a brief and provocative treatment of the much-discussed question as to who should go to college, and who should stay there. "Forty per cent of the men who enter college never complete their course, forty per cent more never should." The trouble, according to this diagnostician, in that no student is forced or even allowed to show "ability to cooperate and create." I should have supposed that every laboratory course in Harvard, and dozens of other courses where essentially laboratory methods are followed, give every potential collaborator and creator a chance. Mr. MacKaye's solution of the academic difficulty, on the other hand, is more leisure, "leisure to dream and be tolerated". He thinks that the present regime stunts or thwarts many men of ability; that the last two years in college should be largely free to Cream in; and that a degree of "cum spe"--"for those who give promise"--would ultimately be more honorable than the Phi Beta Kappa. Alas, that degree "cum spe"--in default of any concrete performance--is already bestowed more often than Mr. MacKaye imagines.
Such queries about education are better Gad-Fly material, possibly, than the discussion of "Organized Religion" by Mr. Ferguson, and the examinations of the pseudo-sciences in their relation to philosophy, as made by Mr. Colt. Both of these essays are carefully thought out and clearly, presented; excellent, from every point of view except that of journalism. They do not draw blood.
Mr. MacKaye's poem is finely imagined, and movingly though not quite impeccably phrased. The nursery drama sketched by Mr. Hale has charm and symbolic value. The most vivid prose in the number is Mr. Swayze's half-page about "the gods behind the gods".
If this new and very attractive Harvard periodical is really going to lay the axe to the root of the tree, it will need, I think, a bit more weight in the head of the axe and a keener edge to the blade. Or rather, let us revert to entomology. There is an insect something like a gad-Fly, which buzzes just as loudly, and is even more glossy and friendly and inquisitive and circulatory. It bothers some persons, but it never actually bites. It is known as the June-bug. But it will take more than a June-bug to sting the Athenians into action