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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

WHEN FATHERS WERE SONS

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Looking back over his own academic career at Princeton, Mr. Jesse Lynch Williams, writing in the current Scribners, waxes facetious over the dismay of newly entered students these days when they find that college entails some work. "The older college generation went to college for an education, but remained to have the time of their lives," he says. "The members of the new generation go to college for a good time, but get an education--if they remain."

A rhetorician would approve this statement for its deft use of antithesis; but, since nothing could be more inaccurate, it is not of much value as a comment on the present problems of higher education. Mr. Williams' picture of the student of the nineties entering college athirst for knowledge but enticed away from it by the lure of athletics and managerships does not command credence by its cleverness. One suspects that a good many of Mr. Williams' fellow Freshmen were out quite openly in search of the good time which it appears circumstances forced down his own unwilling throat. Those were, one understands, the good old days; and whoever supposes that all our fathers and uncles went to college for learning alone does vast injustice to the animal and liquid spirits of their generation.

Although many a youth now enters college in search of pleasure and finds it, it is absurd to assert that as the sole motive the going to college--even in this pleasure-loving age. Neither the older nor the younger generation could be so unanimous in a single motive. Both, it seems fair to say, were prepared to absorb as much academic and worldly wisdom as came their way. Neither was averse to a good time. The greatest difference is in the tense of the verb with which you describe fathers and sons: one got it, the other is getting it. The truth of any comparison seems to reduce itself to this: undergraduates of today are more numerous and may have to work harder than those of yesterday, but the motives and capabilities of the two are almost identical.

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