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That genial iconoclast, John R. Tunis, whose official calling in life is tennis expert, but who some time ago addressed himself to the problems of education in America, has taken another shot at the colleges of the nation in an article in the current Scribner's entitled "Selling Scholarship Short." Here the ambitious idol-smasher, not content to rest with his recent doubtful answer to the question "Was college worthwhile?" points out that a large number of the colleges in the United States are unable to get enough students to fill their halls, and hence resort to underhanded practices, from fraudulent advertising to downright kidnapping, to lure the youth of the land inside their gates. The cause of this condition is a lack of enough men with brains to fill the existing colleges, and the result is a change in the emphasis of college from an atmosphere of learning to country club life.
If general conditions are really as black as Mr. Tunis paints them, what of Harvard? Fortunately Harvard's slate appears to be clean, for instead of having to lure coy students to Cambridge, University Hall is at pains to limit the enrolment each year so that the teaching staff and, more important, the dormitory space in the Houses, will not be flooded. As long as this situation prevails, it is obvious that whatever agents the University may send around the country to interview students, especially those applying for scholarships, and to explain to the public in general the intricacies and formalities of gaining admission, their purpose is to help, rather than hinder, the scholarly activity that goes on within the University. And it is significant that the agents the college sends around, if they can be called agents at all, are no mere advertising representatives. They range from minor deans, who deal more directly with the candidates for admission, to President Conant himself, who is abroad at various Harvard Clubs and other universities from time to time, spreading the message of Harvard leadership in the educational world.
But with Harvard and a few other large universities free from Mr. Tunis' criticism, the general picture does not become brighter. For the distinction which seems implicit in Mr. Tunis' argument is the difference between a college and a university. A university, engaged in graduate teaching and in research, as well as in undergraduate instruction, is more likely to attract the portion of the population genuinely interested in education. The small college, without the added attractions is likely to have to take what is left. It does not follow that the calibre of undergraduate teaching must necessarily be worse in a small college. But it appears to be sadly true from Mr. Tunis' investigations, that the small college has a much harder time putting its educational fare before people capable of using it to advantage, than does the larger institution.
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