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In spite of what Mark Twain said about statistics as a superlative form of lying, there are times when figures are very impressive--especially if one is left to draw his own conclusions. The Boston Transcript has given such figures of college attendance in this country. "Since the establishment of colleges in the United States," says the Transcript, "there have been graduated, in round numbers, 900,000 men--and at the present moment there are actually in the colleges of the country about 700,000. In other words, there are almost as many students now in the colleges of the land as have been graduated from all the colleges during two centuries and a half."
Stephen Leacock in a semi-serious mood has looked askance at the present-day rush to the colleges as a too evident victory for the spirit of "go-getting" in American life. He thinks the desire to make more money is at the bottom of increased college attendance, and he doesn't like the tendency.
Mr. Leacock is right in his analysis of carses, at least in part. America is fast ceasing to be the land of "great open spaces" where untutored native talent could always extract a fair sized plum from natural wealth which only waited to be plucked. The United States is rapidly approaching the crowded condition of European countries where intensive competition in every scheme of activity is naturally reflected in intensive training for leadership.
It would be erroneous, however, to place too much emphas's upon economic incentives. The very facts of increased competition and increased wealth have made more preminent than ever before another cause for growing college attendance. It will not be too optimistic to interpret the Transcript's figures as evidence in America of a real increased demand for culture for its own sake.
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