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Duggan Compares Educational System of Europe With That of United States

Director of Carnegie Institute Urges Formation of Junior Colleges at N. S. F. Conference


The following article is a speech by Dr. S. P. Duggan, a Director of the Carnegie Institute and the Institute of International Education, given at the conference of the National Student Federation of America which was held last week at Ann Arbor, Michigan. In his speech Dr. Duggan compared the spirit of education in Europe and the United States, and urged the formation of junior colleges to give present Freshman and Sophomore years in affiliation with a few great universities.

Before taking up my subject, permit me to congratulate you on the significance of this conference. I was unable to be present when the N. S. F. A. was founded a year ago, but I have had many conferences with some of its officials, with Mr. Fox, Mr. Field, and Miss Breckinridge particularly. They have kept me informed of the fine purpose that has been kept steadily in view and the generous enthusiasm which I feel confident will continue to supply the necessary motive power to make the movement a success. An older person can hardly read this program without being impressed by the knowledge of the situation in higher education that exists in the United States today and by the good judgment shown in the selection of topics upon which you might justly expect to have an influence in bringing about reforms.

The Educational System of Latin Europe and also wherever the Latin countries of Europe have colonized is based upon that of France in which the lycee is the very heart of the system. And the educational system of Teutonic and Slavic Europe is based upon that of Germany in which the Gymnasium is the very heart of the system. When, therefore, I make some comparison between our system of higher education and those of France and Germany, I am really making a comparison between our system and that of the civilized world. The lycee and the gymnasium complete the general education of the French and German young man and woman preparatory to taking up graduate or professional education. These young people are generally eighteen years old when they complete their work and have covered subject matter which is now practically everywhere accepted as the equivalent to the conclusion of our sophomore year.

Compares European Spirit With Ours

It would be a very interesting study to compare fully our college with the lycee and gymnasium from many points of view. My time will permit me to consider but two, and the first of these is the spirit that animates the European institutions as against that which animates ours. The French lycee and the German gymnasium is a place of hard work, not merely hard work but of real grind. The curriculum is almost wholly prescribed, the long day is almost wholly given over to lectures, recitations and laboratory studies and the day's work is followed by lessons which require hours of study. There is little relief from the grind, no athletics, no dramatics, no musical or glee clubs, no periodicals, no rallies, none practically of the extra-curricular activities which play so big a part in the college life of our country. The lycee and gymnasium are emphatically places of intellectual discipline, of preparation for the serious activities of life. It is needless for me to say how different this is from the American college. I think it is too intellectualized and neglects much of the emotional and spiritual aspects of life. But it does give a thoroughness and accuracy or knowledge which our young people so often lack. I would not be understood to advocate driving out of the American college the extra curricular activities that play so large a part in its life and, no doubt, help to develop the self-reliance and initiative which characterize so many young American college graduates. But I do insist that the college is primarily a place of intellectual appeal in which attention to the serious problems of life should be emphasized and not overshadowed by other activities such as inter-collegiate football and athletics generally.

Now, not all this is to the credit of the French and Germans and to the discredit of the Americans. You young people cannot conceive of the intensity of competition in the European countries to make a living and secure a position in the higher walks of life. The openings in the professions and the opportunities in business and vocational life are very small as compared to those in the United States. The sons and daughters of the ordinary people who go to the lycee and gymnasium cannot afford to waste time in their student years. The morality is great and graduation from those institutions is the sole entrance into the professions, the higher civil service and the higher positions in vocational life generally. This is not the situation in the United States. It is a young and growing country of almost boundless resources. New vocations and additional opportunities for new kinds of service are constantly appearing. The pressure for existence is not nearly so great. But neither in Europe nor in the United States do young people go to college merely to be prepared better to earn a living. They are expected to be the guides of the people in the solution of the political, economic and social problems that confront them. The abounding material prosperity of our country is justifiably a cause of gladness but must there not accompany that gladness a note of sadness at the undeniably low estate of our spiritual life? We have been celebrating the one hundred and fiftieth Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia this year. It would seem that some time during its existence there might have been given in a striking and dramatic way an evidence of our appreciation of the significance of that great document. But it seems to me that the most striking and dramatic event that occurred during its existence, was the greatest prize fight ever held in our history and that contemporaneous with the celebration of the Declaration occurred an election for United States Senator in the state of its birth which was characterized by the existence of the greatest slush fund in our history.

I am convinced, young men and women, that a very large minority, perhaps even a majority of the young people who are going to college today, even among those who can afford it, do not go primarily to get the fine education which will not only enable them to make a place for themselves in life but also to render the service to society I mentioned a few minutes ago. Some go to be prepared to earn a better living, some for social prestige, some to make the contacts that will be of service to them in life after the college, some to have a good time, etc. May I draw your attention to the fact that the men who are trying to steer the new democratic republic in Germany are Dr. Stresemann, Dr. Wirth, Dr. Luther, men of the gymnasium and university, men of the higher education. The same is true of France and Great Britain. But as I go about the colleges and universities of this country I find few young men and women, even as I say, among these who can afford it, who intend to go into political life or even into the wider public life which can so helpfully influence political life. Yet the burden of solving the problem of this great democracy must fall upon the shoulders of someone. Upon the shoulders of whom ought they most justifiably fall than upon the college graduate especially in a time like the present when faith in democracy as a form of political organization is apparently waning, not in dictator governed countries like Italy, Spain, Greece and Russia, but apparently in our own country. However, this desideratum will not be attained until a more serious spirit animates the life of the college and more generous attention is given to the serious problems of the political, social and economic organization of society.

Add Two Years to High School

How can this be accomplished? That brings me to my second point. You remember that I promised to draw two lessons from a comparison of European and American education one, which I have just briefly discussed referring to the spirit of education. The other, that I shall even more briefly discuss, having to do with the organization of education. I told you that the last two years of the lycee and gymnasium were equivalent to the first two years of our college. In the European systems these two years are added to those which go before to form an institution viz: the lycee. I am convinced that the European organization is better than ours. I am convinced that the spirit, content and method of work in the Freshman and Sophomore years of the American college are more closely assimilated to those of the High School than to those of the Junior and Senior years of college. I believe, therefore, that were those two years of college to be added to the four years of high school, there would be a gain all around. Many boys and girls who want and deserve a college education but who cannot afford to go to the distant college or state university would get a junior college education. Moreover they would get a better college education for the best teachers of the high schools are at the to whereas, generally speaking, the poorest teachers of the college are at the bottom. Moreover, when the students have finished these two additional years, they ought to be prepared to go into professional, and technical schools for their vocational training. It is generally admitted that 22 is a very late date to begin vocational training and it is hard to see why, if a European young man or woman can begin their professional and technical, education at 18 a young American couldn't at 20. If this were done and the larger and more juvenile element thereby removed, in all probability a far more serious spirit and attitude would pervade the young men and women of the Junior and Senior classes. Those classes could then be organized in preparation for the research work of the graduate courses. One of the reasons why graduate students in an American university are so much more closely supervised and guided in their work than similar students in a European university is that when they arrive at the graduate school of the university they must be taught research methods of work which they have not learned in the last two years of their college career.

Many Junior Colleges Appearing

You will of course, say that such a suggestion is excellent, perhaps for the college attached to a great university, but what is to happen to the hundreds of non university colleges scattered about the country? Just what is happening at the present time. The expensive part of a college education is in the last two years, where smaller classes, more specialized teachers, and more costly books and apparatus are required. Many colleges, therefore, which formerly gave a complete college education of a mediocre type are now turning themselves into junior colleges so that they can give excellent education for two years and affiliate themselves with some great university to which they send their graduates for the Junior and Senior work. There will, of course, remain the strong non-university college like Amberst and Vassar which will not want to do this. Nor would it be necessary that they should. It is desirable to have colleges to which students who can afford the time and money and have the inclination can spend four years in a general cultural education. Moreover, one of the best features of education in the United States is the fact that it is not wholly standardized and unified as in most continental European countries. Opportunity is there by given for experimentation. We can have Mr. Morgan conduct his fine experiment at Antioch and Mr. Mickeljohn organize his new plan of college education at Wisconsin.

There is nothing new in this plan of organization in higher education. I have brought it to your attention partly because John Hopkins in the East and Leland Stanford in the West have announced that they are going to adopt it and I think their example will be followed. But I have also brought it to your attention because I think it is one way of introducing the element of seriousness into American education which will cause. American students to give more attention to the great problems of political, social and religious life which confront us today. For any careful observer must admit that there is taking place before our very eyes a disintegration of standards which must give great concern unless we know the direction in which we are moving and the foundations which we are laying.

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