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January 11, 1925 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1-11-1925

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C, r




VOL. XXXV. No. 80










Has The Student Lost All Interest In Things Intel]
Cultural Aspects Of College Life?

Do Extra-Curricula Activities Overshadow The Old

Mr. Angell Presents His Report On Methods

of Increasing Intellectual Interest At Michigan

By Robert C. Angell
Editor's Note: Owing to the typographical ar-
rangement in which this report is printed, it will
be impossible to include the footnotes giving
credit for quotations used.
The Present State of Intellectual
HERE are few college or university facul-
ties in the United States that have not
some complaint to make of the intellectual
life of their students. Books, magazine
articles, committee reports, all bear witness to the
distressing lack of keen interest in things of the
mind among the men and ,women in our institutions
of higher learning. Especially subject to criticism
are the students in the colleges of liberal arts, both
colleges which exist separately and those connected
with a university.
The University of Michigan is no exception to the
general rule. The atmosphere of the campus is one
of intellectual apathy, rather than intellectual en-
thusiasm. Many professional students, to be sure,
do exhibit commendable interest in their specialties.
All too frequently, however, this is inspired not by a
burning curiosity to know the truth, but by the
worthy but relatively commonplace desire to be suc-
cessful in the competition of after life. Were it not
for this obvious relationship between good scholar-
ship and professional efficiency and the fact that the
specialized schools get the benefit of the weeding out
process conducted by the College of Literature, Sci-
ence and the Arts, the professional students would
probably have no greater intellectual curiosity than
do those in the Literary College. Through force of
circumstances, however, the latter has to suffer.
That it represents the least satisfactorytstate of
intellectual interest and that it comprises half the
student body would seem reasons enough for making
it central to this study. But there is the further
consideration that, since a large proportion of men
and women in professional courses spend from one
to four years in the Literary College, any heightening
of intellectual enthusiasm among the latter's stu-
dents would react favorably on the other schools
and colleges.
The background of the majority of entering
freshmen is not conducive to a high degree of in-
tellectual interest. As an eminent literary critic has
said: "Our teaching is strewn upon a bare and
barren hinterland where, finding no soil to root in,
it dries up and blows away." The two dominant
characteristics of the times in which we live, com-
mercialism and speed, have led us to regard the
automobile magnate and the aeroplane pilot as the
true heroes, the scholar being but an uninteresting
recluse who is neither trying to make a fortune nor
spending his life in the endless search for a noisy,
speedy and otherwise immoderate good time. Twen-
tieth century children grow up in a world of hasty
and superficial living of which newspaper scandals,
professional athletics, and somewhat sordid or sen-
timental moving pictures are typical expressions.
The quiet evening at home is well-nigh a thing of the
past in American families. Automobiles and moving
pictures lure adults as well as children away from
the family circle where formerly the taste for good
reading was acquired and stimulating conversation
carried on. The whole task of education has been
given over to the primary and secondary schools--
good institutions, but quite incapable of combatting
successfully all the forces opposing their efforts.
What a contrast with the situation in Germany dur-
ing Munsterberg's youth! "The teachers were sil-
ently helped by the spirit which prevailed in our
homes with regard to the school work. The school
had the right of way; our parents reinforced our be-
lief in the work and our respect for the teachers. A
reprimand in the school was a shadow in our home
life; a word of praise in the school was a
ray of sunshine for the household." Nowadays
neither the parents nor the children are primarily
interested in the school work. The former are dis-
tracted by other duties and amusements, the latter
find the element of emotional adventure in the learn-
ing process insufficient to compete with the many
more colorful pursuits at hand.
The difficulties which the liberal arts college in
a state university faces are compounded chiefly of
two elements: -intellectual indifference and num-
bers. Either alone would present a formidable prob-

lcm, but togetherethey give riseto a well-nigh in-
soluble one. "Great numbers have laid education
under necessity. They have compelled close organ-
ization, and organization means mechanics, and me-
chanics means artificiality." The freshman throngs
which yearly tax the capacity of our recitation
rooms require large classes, formal testing of
knowledge, credit by hours, grading systems, ab-

spend a pleasant four years and emerge on a sup-
erior social level; some to distinguish themselves in
kthetics or other extra-curricular activities; a small
minority to increase the meaning of their lives by
achieving a better understanding of man and nature.
College is no longer, if it ever was, solely a place
for those who wish to become cultured; it is a so-
cial practice ground where men and women learn
to make friends and to carry on mutual undertak-
ings, where they acquire a certain amount of polish
and enjoy, free from worries, the most delightful
period of life. It is small wonder that the intellec-
tually eager are almost unremarked in the throng.
Coupled with apathy toward things of the mind is
the lack of a sufficient foundation of knowledge
upon which to rear a well-fashioned structure. "Now,
when all classes come to college, the college must
give that active, positive background which in former
generations was prepared for itoutside. It must
create the intellectual stomach as well as present
the food."
There is no need to rehearse here the facts con-
cerning the intellectual life of students in the Col-
lege of Literature, Science, and the Arts at Michi
gan. The situation is presumably not much better
and not much worse than that existing in other
large American universities. Twenty hours of prep-
aration a week outside of the class rooms is lib-
eral average. The student's interest in the ex-
ternal, rather than the vital, is too apparent to re-
quire exposition. Those forms of achievement are
coveted which give immediate and obvious glory.
Places on athletic teams, editorships of student pub-
lications, presidencies of student organizations, are
sought with unflagging zeal, and scholarship rele-
gated to a subordinate position. What with athletic
practices, committee meetings, play and musical club
rehearsals, moving pictures, dances, intercollegiate
gamles, and-what is worse-hours and hours of
idle talk about these and other diversions, little
time is left for the principal purpose of the college
It is discouraging enough for the college to have
to work with such material. It is more discouraging
to have tre standards of the general American life
constantly imposed upon the institution, as in the
case of intrcollegiate athketics, thus effectively
preventing the development of higher aims among
students. The evil influence of many alumni in glor-
ifying the less important features of college life is
well known. As former Dean Keppel has said, "Tie
interest of many an alumnus in the team of his col-
lege is really no more academic than is that of the
Chicago man in the "Cubs" and many a father holds
forth upon his son's performance at college exactly
as he would upon those of a promising three-year-
old in his stable."
Many of the so-called student activities are, of
course, valuable. Perhaps all would be if they were
entered into solely as a means of self-expression
and training in cooperation. Too often, however,
the incentive is the desire for prominence. Other
reasons swell the number of candidates, but if the
editor of The Daily, the captain of the baseball team,
and the president of the Union were not heroes in
the eyes of undergraduates, these activities would
lose much of their charm. Nor is the academic
work wholly free from the taint of personal aggran-
dizement. The idea of brain activity as a pleasure
in itself, said to be common among the French, is
quite foreign to the American student's mind. le
does not revel in the discovery of truth nor is he
keenly desirous of acquiring that breadth of knowl-
edge and that depth of sympathy which is true cul-
ture. Many make brilliant records for whom the
great fields of intellectual endeavor have little
charm. Some are aiming for the Phi Beta. Kappa
key or another such mark of achievement. Others
pile up honor points as a miser his gold pieces.
The Utilization of Student Sef-Ass-
ertiveness as the Basic Means of
hIceauing Interlectual Interest
From the point of view of one who wishes to see
an increase in intellectual interest the mostprom-
ising factor in a generally distressing situation Is
the strength of the self-assertive impulse among
students. As a rule they like to feel that what they
are doing is counting for something. Theirs is an
eager, energetic, confident nature. This is due part-
ly to their youth but chiefly to the American spirit
of individualism-that aura of suggestion which ren-
ders children even at a tender age extraordinarily

ambitious. Although at present this impulse finds
its outlet for the most part in athletics and other
extra-curricular activities there is no reason to sup-j
>ose that, if properly handled, it cannot be so di- I
rected as to remodel the whole collegiate structure.
If scholarship could be substituted as the channel
through which it flows, the results might be aston-
ishing. The achievement of this condition is the

Solely Cultural
Editorial comment the country over having
been aroused by the release of Mr. Angell's
report, The Daily will publish in this section
the complete text of the paper, dividing it into
three installments of which this is the first.
We reprint below an editorial from the
New Yore Times as an example of the com-
ment mentioned.
(From the New Yorle Times, issue of Friday,
Dec. 19, 1924.)
Refuting an early prediction, the West
has encountered difficulty in making culture
hum. From the University of Michigan, Pro-
fessor R. C. Angell laments that "college no
longer is solely a place for those who wish to
become cultured." But his woe is only a
plaintive idyll compared to the tragic gloom
which emanates from the University of Minne-
sota. Through the pages of The American
Mercury, Richard Burton asks Why Go to
College ?-and finds no answer.
Professor Burton is for a process of whole-
sale exclusion. His heart is hardened against
the ' gentleman-loafer," the "picturesque, but-
ter fly type of student." That was to be ex-
pected. More significant is his diatribe against
the dig, the grind, the shark, the poler, the
swatter-"the word varies, the genus is the
same." This faithful plodder, this monster of
"machine-like assiduity," he describes as a
young man or woman of mediocre or worse
calibre who lacks initiative, personality and
that creative energy which translates curiosity
in learning into genuine performance." And
he hurls him headlong from the haunts of the
Muses together with the painted, fluttering but-
One wonders just who will be left. The
answer brings the tragic curtain of the fifth act.
On the one hand Professor Burton excludes
the young men of family and breeding who
"take college as a matter of course, because
their predecessors did," and on the other he is
even more down upon "those who go to college
not because their parents did, but because they
did not." Thus nobody remains but the Fac-
ulty. For such an institution, solely cultural,
there exists a happy precedent. All Souls'
College at Oxford is inhabited only by dons,
except that they have four or five "scholars"-
undergraduates who do the chapel business for
them. It may seem to be a self-limited para-
dise, doomed to extinction. But there are nine-
teen other colleges, swarming with sharks and
swatters, with gentlemen butterflies and with
youths whose forebears went to college or did
not, from whose non-cultural activities, dons of
All Souls' are derived as a. by-product.
From Professor Angell's outgiving one sur-
mises that college was once a place where
young men were not at all interested in things
"external," but deeply interested in everything
"vital." Thee principal purposes of college
life were eagely embraced, while the "forms
of achievement" now "coveted" were piously
scorned, namely, "places on athletic teams,
editorships of student publications, and presi-
dencies of student organizations." That being
the case, there was no possibility of the "hero-
worship" of athletes, editors and Presidents
which Professor Angell so sternly deprecates.
One wonders what Carlyle would say, or Mat-
thew Arnold, who describes Oxford so lovingly
as the haunt of young barbarians, all at play.
Would they have excluded the activities most
warmly human, native and dynamic in young
men? Surely there is something to say for the
conception of culture, of which Professor Burt-

on is so scornful, as "a sort of contagion; you
get it by being exposed to it."
Is there, in fine, such a thing as being
"solely cultural," a sort of Typhoid Mary of
Muses? Or is culture an overtone, a fine es-
sence of other things-of personality and init-
iative and creative energy in any of the great

I :creased only as intellectual effort and achievement
satisfy these desires. If the bait as presented is not
attractive to the fish, we must so alter its shape,
size, color, position or state of motion as to
overcome the fish's prejudices. Else we shall angle
forever in vain. Not that we -must try to suit the
taste of every fish in the pool; but we must meet
the wants of most of those considered worth fishing
Since to the student success in after life seems
very remotely connected with intellectual interest
in college, this desire is of little help for this study.
Speeches by eminent men testifying to the value of
scholarly habits in undergraduate days might have
some effect; the publication of the college grades
of Michigan or other university graduates who are
in Who's Who would have much more.
Th most promising lines of approach to the gen-
eral problem are the endeavors to enhance the pres-
tige of intellectual achievement and to procure a
sense of self-expression in the performance of intel-
lectual tasks. Though scholarship is seldom asso-
ciated in a student's mind with self-expression or
prestige, the possibility of their being closely iden-
tilled is readily admitted by undergraduates. Hence
attempts along these lines are the central considera-
tions in any scheme of making college life more
alive intellectually. If an intellectual elite which
is admired can once be secured and means be de-
veloped for the adequate expression of one's indi-
viduality in college work, the problem will be solved.
Though positive measures should be chiefly relied
i on, the; e is little doubt that, once the shift toward
intellectual development as the primary aim of col-
l lege life is started, any steps taken to lessen the
ever-present distractions will facilitate the process.
A Method of Enhancing the Prestige
Attaching to Intellectual
The securing of an intellectual elite possessing
prestige among students must be a long, slow pro-
cess. The end will only be achieved when a change
amounting almost to a revolution in student senti-
ment has occurred. Undergraduates must first be
t rought to realize that scholarship is to be admired
lbecause it is worth while from the points of view
of individual development and social welfare. This
is a difficult task and one which will prove especial-
ly disappointing to those who anticipate quick re-
sults. But nothing is so likely to succeed in the
long run as the granting of substantial privileges
to the best students. It is curious how suddenly a
man, ridiculed for devotion to his studies, becomes
honored when he is chosen a Rhodes scholar.
A beginning might be to take outstanding stud-
ents on scientific expeditions or to let them share
in solving problems brought to the University from
outside. Honorary societies and departmental clubs
might so reorganize as to furnish more opportuni-
ties for intellectual companionship. The more of
value which these organizations impart to their
members, the more will students desire to be chosen
and consequently the greater prestige will the for-
tunate ones enjoy. The expediency of utilizing all
other organized groups in the development of re-
spect for scholarship is evident. Fraternities and
sororities are especially important since they have
j great influence in the formation of campus public
opinion. Fellowships in other institutions might
well be established by these groups for their mem-
bers, as well as by their respective general organi-
jzations, the Interfraternity Conference and the Pan-
Hellenic League. Alumni committees on scholarship
in these house groups charged with the duty of
fostering in every possible way intellectual interest
and attainment could find methods of giving unusual
advantages to their best students. Private donors
could do few things better calculated to increase
scholarly interest than to endow traveling fellow-
ships, a type of privilege which appeals strongly to
Honors courses are probably the most effective
method yet found of increasing the prestige of schol-
arship. These have been tried out in a number of
American colleges and seem to be meeting with
marked success. President Aydelotte has discussed
the whole subject with great thoroughness in an
able pamphlet, so that there is little need of going
into much detail here.

He examines in turn graduation honors conferred
for a high general average, those conferred for extra
work done in connection with regular courses, and
those conferred for satisfactory work in separate
honors courses. The last type is the most recently
developed and appears to be meeting with the great-
est favor among educators. Barnard, Carleton, Co-
lumbia, Hobart, Rice Institute, Smith', Swarthmore

at once prepare him for honors work and be some
indication of his aptitude for it * * * The one almost
universal requirement for admission to honors work
at present is a creditable record in the courses of
the first two years. (usually a B average) * * *
In most of the colleges and universities considered
* * * students who have been granted permission to
read for honors are excused from all the ordinary
requirements of class attendance, semester examina-
tions, mid-term tests, and the like, and are left In
freedom to spend all their time in preparation for
the comprehensive examination at the end of the
course * * * While honors students are normally
excused from the requirements of undergraduate
courses they are practically everywhere expected to
make use of such courses in preparation for their
examination * * * There is nearly everywhere pro-
vision for giving them individual supervision and
instruction * * * The honors students has his work
outlined for him not in terms of what he must do,
but in terms of what he must know. Instead of
taking courses he takes a subject. He must (with
what assistance lhe can get) organize his materials,
set his own tasks, find out and strengthen his own
weaknesses, develop his own strong points and in
general, take the responsibility for his own salva-
President Aydelotte believes that .n honors
course should not represent too narrow a field, but
that frequently a single course should cover the
work of several departments. The final compre-
hensive examination varies from one institution to
another, some being entirely written, some entirely
oral, and still other a combination of the two. It
seems to be customary for the department giving
the course to pass on the fitness of the candidates
for admittance in any way it chooses. Various meth-
ods are adopted to interest the best students in hon-
ors courses, such as having the instructors of fresh-
men and sophomores hand to the Director of Hon-
or:, Work the mnames of promising meni and women.
If psych'ological tests are given at eitrance to col-
lege, the tenth of each class receiving the highest
ratings may be told that they are expected to make
records such as will enable them to take honors
The advantage of the honors course from the
standpoint of individual development of honors
students can hardly be questioned. These men and
women are allowed to go ahead at their own
pace, are intellectually stimulated by frequent con-
ferences with their professors, and are required to
gain a thorough mastery of their chosen field. This
is the significant statement of two Smith undergrad-
uates: "Special Honors is the best thing most of us
have discovered at college. The acquisition of learn-
ing has departed far from the realm of the painful
and has become a stimulating pleasure * * * We
often become engaged in rousing discussions' over
something we have been reading and our interest in
our work has the advantage of not having any
classroom to which it could be confined * * * Instead
of sitting like a vegetable and being talked at in a
class one has the privilege of talking with and
coming to know one's faculty. This means inspira-
But apart from their happy effect upon the
chosen few, honors courses raise scholarship in the
eyes of the remaining undergraduates. Individuals
who are singled out for special privileges are always
looked up to, especially when some high sounding
title such as "honors students" is conferred upon
them. Even the freedom from course examinations
and other routine requirements serves to inspire envy
in the "pass" students. President Lowell bears wit-
ness to the prestige which honors work gives in
these words: "It was encouraging for me the other
day to hear that in the present freshman class, out
of six hundred and fifty-nine men, two hundred fifty-
seven in selecting their main subject announced
themselves as candidates for the Degree with Dis-
tinction. This is three times as many as have an-
nounced themselves for distinction before. And
what it means to us is that a degree with distinc-
tion is worth having. I think we have, to some ex-
tent at least, succeeded in making high scholarship
a subject of more admiration and attention."
It is not intended to recommend any particular
form of honors course in this report, but merely to
endorse the principle. Whether an honors course
should take all the student's time or only part of it,
as in the case of the course being tried in the Eng-
lish department this year, whether the course should
cover two years or one, whether written or oral

comprehensive examinations should be given, wheth-
er the honors students should meet their profes-
sors in seminars or in private conferences, how broad
or how narrow should be the fields covered by honors
courses, whether or not theses should be required in
addition to the other work, what measures should
be taken for the demotion of an honors student who
is not doing well to the status of a "pass" student
-:ail thrCP am'.ipstionforica~reful faculty discus-

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