페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

It is good, I believe, and one for which we should be duly thankful. The very existence of the summer school is such a brave answer to the challenge of the zeit-geist as ought to fill us with encouragement. It is proof that the stock of our national vitality has not yet begun to show signs of exhaustion. It is evidence of our fitness for the struggle in which, whether we will or no, we must engage for dominance among the nations of the earth.

For the pitiful truth is that progress comes mainly by fighting; and one of the most essential lessons of the past-one which no love of inaction can obscure, and no cowardice evade-is that we ought to fight. Rarely, indeed, do we find just occasion for physical attack or defence, but the necessity for intellectual and moral contest recurs almost constantly. The only kind of individuality that deserves the name is that which by striving with and overcoming opposition, impresses itself upon the world. It is the strenuous lives that determine social conduct and give direction to history. With all respect and reverence for scriptural truth, let me assert that, other things being equal, the race is to the swift, the battle to the strong, and the prize of success in the game of life to the most skillful player.

It is true that other things are not often equal, and that the organic nature of society and the limitations imposed by it upon the individual frequently destroy the conditions necessary for free competition and transfer the advantage to the worse qualified and the less meritorious. Such is the case both in the industrial and in the literary and professional field. All this, however, is but the friction due to the growing complication of our social machinery, and sometimes to its newness and imperfection. Much loss of energy results, no doubt; but there is cause for congratulation in the fact that the American people has still a large surplus. Taken together with our national courage and capability, it gives the assurance that our future will be even richer in achievement than our past. Therefore, I welcome every evidence of reserve strength and capacity among us, and especially in our teachers, who are often sorely tested.

It can hardly be denied that a complete analysis of the tendency which has given us the summer school would disclose some motives of which we ought to be ashamed. It is claimed, for example, that

many teachers attend the summer normals only for the sake of the certificates that are the prizes of the attendant examinations. These are such as would live by bread alone. They would never work in summer if they were sure they could get through the winter without it. They have considered the ways of the ant to a certain extent, and neither they nor we should be unthankful that they have gained a degree of wisdom. Such cattle take advantage of the opportunities they have only because necessity compels it; and it is fortunate that they must accept in the bargain more or less of incidental moral and intellectual development.

But the rise and growth of this peculiarly American and modern institution bears witness to something more than the increasing requirements of the age and the ability to meet them, or the demand for certificates and degrees. It indicates, I believe, on the part of the teachers who attend it, an aspiration for something better, for a higher standard of professional duty and skill, and a desire for genuine self-improvement. The American teacher is charged with many faults and shortcomings, and one count in the general indictment is that he-I use the masculine pronoun in generalizing, but not without the impulse to substitute she-is superficial in his scholarship, and more so in his teaching. Moreover, it can scarcely be denied that when he is compared with his professional brother in a country like Germany, for example, the charge appears to have a certain justification. But of one thing he can scarcely be accused, and that is unfrankness. If he is not always as well equipped as he should be, he does not conceal the fact from himself; the prosperity of the summer school is his humble confession. Flung into professional life, so to speak, before he has been able to complete his preparation for it, he has thenceforth very little opportunity. The necessity for a livelihood, and the risk of giving up a more or less satisfactory position, once obtained, keep him at work as teacher during the regular term, when he ought to be in some academy, college, or university as a student; his only chance to continue his own studies under competent direction is to sandwich them in during summer. That he is conscious of the reasons for doing this, and is willing to do it, ought certainly to increase the respect and confidence accorded to him by his generation.

To the motives which bring the ordinary university student to

the summer school I cannot give, in general, the same commendation. The teacher, situated as he is, must come then, or not at all; and in justice to him the opportunity of which he cannot avail himself at any other season should be extended to him in his vacation. There are many students, too, who feel the pressure of necessities almost exactly the same as those of the teacher, and they may well avail themselves of the same advantages. But the young man or woman undergraduate with the time and money necessary to complete the course ought not to be here. Their presence indicates to me the effect of one of the great vices of civilization, namely, its impatience. It ruins both work and pleasure in its haste. It is forever plucking the closely-folded bud and the unripened fruit. My young friend, if you belong to the class I have described, if you are doing this work only because four years seems to you such a long time, and you wish to compress your undergraduate course into three, let me warn you that you are making a mistake. You may get into life a year sooner, but you will be the worse prepared; and you are in danger of paying, some day, the penalty of your haste in premature old age. If you have wasted time, and are here. simply to make it up, you may be able to justify yourself; but the wrong began further back, and should have been corrected there. You will need your full strength hereafter; do not impair it by overtasking yourself now. And for the sake of your own character, always take time to do whatever you have to do well and thoroughly. If you can work through a part, or even the whole, of your vacation without disobedience to either of these injunctions, you may safely do so; otherwise, you cannot.

This leads naturally to a consideration of the influences which emanate from the summer school, and of the value of its work. The principal criticism of the institution is based upon the charge of superficiality. It will save time and facilitate the purposes of this discussion to state the allegations of the critics baldly, as they themselves usually put them. They say that the ablest lecturers are not to be heard from the Chautauqua platforms, and that the most eminent and strongest men of university faculties do not take part in the summer work; that the conditions under which this work is done preclude the best, or even good, results; that the time given is so short, and that the plans include so much as to make any

systematic adjustment impossible; that the outcome of instruction. under such circumstances is broad and ill-defined generalization in the minds of those who need to be trained especially to habits of accuracy and rigorously logical thought; that it leaves many hopelessly drunk with the vanity of a little learning; and that the mischiefs thus disseminated are reproduced and multiplied in a thousand school rooms throughout the land to the great detriment of sound and true education.

Such is the grave indictment made by many honest thinkers. Perhaps it would be better to say has been made, for it applies with much greater force to the movement in its earlier stages than at present, and especially since the universities have freely joined in it. There are still summer schools enough, to be sure, in which superficial work is done, but these are not the university schools. It is impossible for an instructor or student to use for three quarters of the year genuine university methods without carrying them also into the fourth. It has been found necessary at the University of Chicago to vary the work of the summer quarter to some extent from that of the others, because the attendance during that quarter is made up so largely of teachers; but there is no less of hard study and thoroughness and accuracy in method.

In any case, the critic who reaches the conclusion that it would be better not to have the schools is seriously mistaken. There is, I believe, hardly a summer normal among the worst, from which the majority of teachers in attendance do not derive some positive benefit. That some of the schools might be far better does not imply that they do more harm than good; and, if a few of them did, they can by no means be considered as representing the average, or showing fair samples of the summer school product.

On the whole there can be no doubt that, in spite of the crudities and positive mischiefs that have been carried along with it, the institution has proved itself an uplifting social force which it would be well for us to use all means in our power to strengthen.

There is, however, room for improvement. You, therefore, to whom the summer school means most, and who are especially interested in its growth and efficiency, should look well to your own share in its work. The spirit in which you undertake it will help to determine the esprit-de-corps, which animates the whole mass of

teachers and students. The same desire for self-improvement which I take for granted brings you here ought to be manifest in all your utterances and efforts. Whatever you may be expecting in the way of recognition of your labors, whatever certificate or credit on your course in the University or elsewhere, I trust you are always conscious of the fact that these are not the most substantial rewards you may obtain. If you wish to measure the results according to their real value, you must adopt another standard. Dismiss from your mind occasionally the though of the examination that is to be set for you at the end of the term, and think of a self-examination that will then be due. The first of these will serve to determine whether you are to receive as the prize of your toil a little of that kind of cash with which one buys a position or a degree, the second will show, if fairly conducted, what progress you have made in your education. You may take the highest honors in the one and fail miserably in the other. Students of the Summer School, and especially teachers, let not your purpose be simply to increase your moneymaking, or, to put it a little more mildly, your bread-winning capacity. Let me assure you that, as you put your books and papers in order and turn in apparatus and material when your work is done, the most serious question for you will be not whether you could safely demand an increase of pay from your board of trustees or whether you could earn a few more dollars doing this or that; it will be rather how much better you are qualified to do what you expect to undertake, or how much more you can give in exchange for your salary. In every genuine teacher, as well as every genuine man or woman, there is the willingness to spend and be spent for whatever is worthy of being accepted as an object in life. If this feeling brings you here, then you deserve, and you may feel sure of reaping, a rich harvest of good.

BROWNING'S "RABBI BEN EZRA."

[Graduation essay, read June 16, 1897, by Miss Florence P. Lewis.]

It would be a matter of some interest to discover just how much philosophy has been embodied in the works of individual poets. In the case of some poets, the task would be easy; but in the case of Robert Browning, with all his intricate turns of expression, and with

« 이전계속 »