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In attempting an evaluation of the educational policy of the liberal arts college, a discussion of the alumnus plays little part--perhaps too little.
It is obviously futile to point out, much as one might like to, what the alumnus body should or should not do. But insofar as the alumnus reflects the spirit of what our colleges have been in the past, any effort to analyze them should aid us in our probe of the privately endowed colleges.
Throughout the country the alumni bodies have often proved more of a detriment to American education than an asset. It is no empty stereotype that has pictured them as contributors to the volume of the college cheers, rather than to the cultural activity and educational advancement of their alma maters. This perennial collegiatism cannot be blamed on the earnest graduates so much as the empty spirit that has pervaded so many of our campuses from the beginning of the century. It is another example of the lack of perspective with which past generations of college men have been imbued.
The attitude of most alumni is indicative of the present need for placing the liberal arts college on trial. Most of them look upon their undergraduate days as "four swell years." College is for many of them an oasis in a desert of hardship and struggle. While we all agree that these years of undergraduate life should be as pleasurable as possible we feel that college has failed in its primary purpose if a majority of its graduates are unable to look upon their campus lives as anything but a four-year summer camp.
Dartmouth has been fortunately free of the alumni who view their college as an athletic club, as an escape. But whether it be athletics, or college tradition, many an alumnus becomes so blindly loyal to his college that he desires to see it prosper at the expense of its intellectual growth or its contribution to society. It is this tendency to make college the end, rather than to twined his horizons so that he may gain an understanding of the relationship which his college should have to his social life, that contributes to the present inadequacy of the liberal arts college.
There are few finer characteristics developed in undergraduates than loyalty to their college. Too often this deteriorates into a narrow, blind loyalty, in which the grads active interest in the college tends to be restricted to an attempt to preserve the spirit and atmosphere of the college as they knew it. This naturally leads to stifling conservatism which resists radical innovations in educational policy.
Real loyalty calls for a willingness to recognize the facts that the new problems we face today must be solved by new ideas, and that these solutions can be formulated only in colleges which will change their polities to produce the men and thinking so urgently needed. Daily Dartmouth.
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