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Six university presidents graced the platform of the Commonwealth Club in Chicago the other day. The heads of the Universities of Chicago, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Northwestern gave their audience a varied, if not entirely consistent, estimate of the educational situation. Although they all agreed with President Glenn Frank of Wisconsin that "humanizing" is a great need and that there is a strong temptation to make administration an end in itself, they nevertheless varied on other emphatic assertions.
President Mason of Chicago deplored "rote learning". Dr. Penniman of Pennsylvania insisted that "education must be dynamic"; while the Illinois President, Dr. Kinley, deprecated "educational din".
The charge of "rote learning" strikes an actual evil. The growth of universities has outstripped the science of pedagogy. And to combat the wrong, Dr. Penniman and Dr. Kinley invoke opposite methods. The "dynamic education", championed by the Pennsylvania President would impart to the students the inspiration nearest at hand, namely, the current industrial and social crusades, the drama which is being so unsystematically waged throughout the world. To ask the student to take his mental intoxicants from modern turmoil is, however, hurrying his ultimate fate. Allow him first to realize that education is not merely supplementary to life but preparatory for life, that it can create the character of life, for it is not bound to select its creeds from momentary enthusiasms but can range the whole field of knowledge and the whole history of man for its expression.
Contemplation is not a term of mere thoughtfulness. It connotes opportunity to watch undisturbed and to reason with care. In college education, it holds the added significance of wide speculation inducing as sound general conclusions on existence as a term of four years will permit. Din, educational or otherwise, is not consonant with formal education. The student is somewhat in the position of a diver gauging the spring of the board and the depth of the pool. It is hardly prudent to push him in before he has some idea of how far he will be thrown and how deep the water is.
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