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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 thoroughnesy 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 Fl
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 all of his infinite modes of revealing by half concealing himself behind his characters, the task is exceedingly difficult. But perhaps for this very reason, for the manifoldness of his thought, for his power of seeing things from numberless points of view, the task would in the case of no other poet be so well worth undertaking. I shal} not attempt it with regard to his work as a whole, nor in any considerable part; but in the case of one poem I shall at least attempt to make plain the philosophy of life which he gives to one of his characters—to present that character with all its implications, leaving untouched the question as to how far the views here so perfectly expressed must from that very fact be those of the author.
Rabbi Ben Ezra is a man who is at a point midway between youth and age. He stands at the apex of life, on an eminence from which he can look both ways. As he realizes this, he pauses, and looks back on the pleasant land behind and forward to the misty, uncertain road ahead—taking in at one glance youth with its noise and strife and perplexity as well as its keen enjoyments, and age with its peace as well as its deprivations; and, as it were, struck suddenly reflective by the sight of all that, he asks himself with great earnestnese, what is the meaning of it all? It is a turning point in the man's life, plainly enough: the first realization of the situation has brought him to a sudden halt, struck a chill to his heart, and plunged him into a comfortless, wistful mood of questioning, hesitation and thought, bringing him for the first time into the presence of those primal doubts from which there is and can be no final escape possible to man.
Up to this time, the joy of activity, of striving and attaining, has occupied the man's whole being; youth was to him a continuous battle-field on which the world and the soul, mind and sense, take sides, and where the world is made to surrender bit by bit its treasures of youth and beauty to become the inalienable possessions of the soul. But in the midst of all of this absorbing strife and conquest, there was yet room at every step for perplexity. For all of the gains, of which surely many are good, what is best? Where much is offered, how shall one choose with perfect surety that the choice will never become cause for regret? For what one supremely good thing should one strive, and, if need be, let all else go by? If there be such a single true object of endeavor, the failure to recognize it may be fatal. Moreover, it is the very essence of the striving temper of youth that no attainment whatever completely satisfies it: there is always a light just ahead; no matter what may be given, the youth invariably answers, “Yes, this is good, but I meant something a little bit better.” And so he goes on seeking in order that he may find it. Rabbi Ben Ezra has chased this glimmering light to the top of the hill, and now stands gazing into the darkness on the other side, straining his eyes to see if perchance he may catch some stray gleams though they be fainter than ever before, or if perchance the light has vanished altogether. For youth has always placed the fulfillment of its endeavors just ahead; and now, with that fulfillment still ahead, he finds youth going and age coming to take its place. The appalling question now is, will age bring the fulfillment? The prospect is not of the brightest. Can it be that what life in its prime, with all its powers at their height, was unable to accomplish, will yet be accomplished when every day sees the decline of some power, the loss of some source of enjoyment—that a light too wavering to be fixed by the keen eyes of youth shall yet be held in view by the dim eyes of old age. In short, is it not a better, more beautiful thing to be young than to be old? And if age, if the whole of life, cannot finish the tale, the hope becomes hopeless when pushed forward into the shadow-land beyond life. The man's life is therefore, for lack of certainty, left as an unfinished thing, an unanswered riddle—at most, an unmeaning series of experiences of which the best-have already come and gone.
The need for some solution to the problem becomes imperative: the man cannot find it in his nature to acquiesce in a state of things in which doubt prevails over certainty, in which what comes so near to being an ordered cosmos is yet for the lack of something chaotic; where the separate notes may at times be clear and strong and beautiful, it is true, but where the melody that should run through the whole and make itself felt in every part is lacking. Many natures would succumb to the difficulty, would find themselves conquered by this eternal problem of youth and age, life and death, and would consent to live blindly without hope or fear. But Rabbi Ben Ezra, emerging from this turmoil of perplexity, like a bloody warrior from the battle-field, can yet, as the result of all his painful deliberation, cry out triumphantly:
"Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
For the man's own nature is an answer to all the probleins that itself can raise; and of the depths of that nature he has evolved a theory which sheds light into the darkness, supplies the missing notes, and makes the melody complete. The demand for a unifying principle has been answered; and what was all but a chaos has been converted into a cosmos where the most absolute, soul-satisfying harmony prevails. And what may be this revivifying principle, struggled after so painfully, and leading to such triumphant results? I cannot but think that the keystone of the arch, to Rabbi Ben Ezra's mind, is the word God. That is the talisman—the unseen light for which the man's whole soul has been seeking—“the Everlasting Yea, wherein all contradiction is solved; wherein whoso walks and works, it is well with him." As for Browning himself as he expressed it in the poem La Saisiaz, the soul and God are for Rabbi Ben Ezra the indubitable ontological certainties: “Why, he at least believed in soul, was very sure of God.” Of the exceeding potency of this conception in solving contradictions and making a beautiful unity of life, the poem is a detailed exemplification. The problems of youth and age, of attempt and failure, of soul and senze; doubts as to the true values of things, which are often to youth irresolvable; doubts as the true estimate of one's own character, which the world is so prone to estimate falsely; and, above all, the final doubt as to the purpose of life as a whole and the meaning of death-all of these are one by one resolved and transmuted by the alchemy of this potent conception.
The problem of youth, and age, which had eaten itself so cruelly into the man's heart and driven him to seek some refuge from its sickening possibilities, is here solved when life is recognized as an orderly, purposeful progress, and referred to God as its end and consummation. For the whole of life is but a vestibule, in which man's soul is prepared step by step for its true use hereafter; and therefore the final steps are as necessary as the first, if not more so, to the making of a rounded whole. It is clear, then, that "youth shows but half.” Youth requires age to complete it; for age has as much to give youth as youth has to give age. Both have their uses. What