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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

AVERTING THE LIGHTNING

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

The course of training provided for the young of the nation in the grade schools is constantly threatened with the inclusion of more or less unimportant subjects, in order to satisfy some particular group of uplifting reformers. The fact that there are several uninteresting but essential branches of learning, such as the rudimentary R's, which must be mastered before advancement to the higher and less confining arts, and that the time of the average pupil is limited, never seems to be considered.

The outcry of the latest group, which urges a course in Library Training in public schools, seems not more necessary than the thousand and one similar demands which appear and disappear from time to time. In quoting from the letters of college freshmen to prove that first year university work would have been much easier with a knowledge of how to use books and libraries, these petitioners are almost ridiculous. The collegiate mind must be singularly inept which fails to solve the intricacies of the average card index system after a few moments of thought. And the fact that several cities report that their libraries are crowded with school children to the exclusion of adults would seem to indicate a reasonably wide familiarity with books and their eccentricities.

The aim of the elementary school is primarily to give the student the foundation on which the details of a more liberal education may subsequently be constructed. It cannot undertake also to give instruction in special subjects, such, among others, as library training. If, however, the purpose of this latest idea is to cultivate an instinctive love of books and reading, it might be accomplished much more effectively by personal suggestion, and a closer cooperation between library and school boards, than by routine mass instruction. To paraphrase a trite proverb, anyone can lead the student to a book, but only his own inclinations can induce him to develop a genuine taste for reading.

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