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January 06, 1924 - Image 1

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SUNDAY MAGAZINE
ANN ARBOR, MICHIG AN, SUNDAY, JANUARY 6, 1924
What I Think of American Colleges
and
American Students
We received a letter recently from ent demand for education-the pres- things-the power of concentrated way for mankind, which is the real
George D. Pratt Jr., Executive Secre- ent rush towards the universities. I study and thought, and the power of hope of the world today. I was dis-
tary of The National Student Forum, have heard of men who treat their self-mastery. If education does not appointed that they think so little
which serves as an explanation for four varsity years as a period in which help him to these, it has failed. Many about the great political issues and
the following article. simply to "play about"; of girls who students confessed to me that they that their thinking is so conventional.
New York, N. Y. go to college merely "to have a good were living in the distracted way I I was dismayed at the number of them
December 6, 1923 time." But when all such facts have have been discussing. And they had who seemed inclined to believe the
To the Editor: been allowed for I believe you have a clear sense that emotionally, moral- papers and who will become later
Following up my letter of recent a greater impulse towards education ly and spiritually it is very bad for on the victims of mere fashion and
date referring in part to what is be- than any other nation and that even- them. Colleges that send out grade- the dupes of popular orators. Hith-
Ing said about American colleges and tualy you will get it-as a nation. ates with superficial minds are fail- erto I had believed that youth is uni-
American college students, I want to And then unless materialism should ing the nation. But the system now versally the period of criticism. I
call your attention to the enclosed ,dominate your colleges, you will go in vogue makes for that superficial- do not know whether this state of
article by that eminent Scotsman, A. on to very great things. ity. j matters is the cause or the product
Herbert Gray. It was published In 4 ut now with this background of Your students are strangely docile of the paternalism which characteriz-
the "Intercollegian" for October, 1923. faith in you, may I express some crit- in mind. Everywhere else in the es your institutions. In any case I
" a * icism of your college life at Its present j world I find the rising generation in deplore it. A student should not bye
My dear Porter: stage. It seems to me that American conscious and intense rebellion simply a person /who believes what
You asked me to put on paper some college life is to a terrible extent a against the conventions and methods he is told. And a professor should
of my impressions after three months distracted life. Your boys and girls of life and thought which dominated not be simply a source of informa-
spent among the colleges and univer- dissipate their intense vitality by ;their fathers, and which led the world fion-but one who provokes and chal-
sities of your country. I comply very touching lightly a multitude of things. to the present disaster. But young lenges thought.
gladly, though I must remind you The name of your college activities is nAmericans are not rebelling. They Shall I be entering unwisely upon'
that three months is after all a very legion. Your students don't work too are eagerly getting ready to go on dangerous ground if I confess that I
: hart tine, and that I visited only hard, but they put in some work at in the old way. Morally of course attribute much of this to the fact that
about twenty out of the hundreds of too many things-picking up "credits" many of them are rebels. They are your colleges are so largely controll-
institutions which your country con- here and there In a varigated manner,' making the same old attempt to dis-- ed by trustees and bodies of alumni?
tains. and over-filling the residue of life card the eternal moral laws which Being one myself I know that an
Frankily-I write as one who is im- with athletic, social, dramatic, liter- every generation has made in its turn, alumnus is not necessarily either an
mensely impressed by America and ary, musical and other miscellaneous They grasp at what they call free- educated or a wise man. And al-
very greatly attracted by Americans. activities. And this seems to me dom and so doing make many heart- though to be a trustee a man must
Your achievements in the last hun- eduicationally disastrous. There is breaking mistakes in the way of sex- have succeeded in the money-making
dred and fifty years have been a mar- plenty of time in life to learn many uai folly and general dissipation. But world it does not follow that he
velous expression of high vitality, things and engage in many activities intellectually they are docile. I found knows anything about education. If
aonstructive genius and the daring after college days. But at that time in among them little or none of that your colleges are to be interesting
application of science to the problems life a man is meant to learn two burning passion to discover a new and stimulating places, surely they
of life. It is true tremendous prob- must be places where thought is free,
lems still challenge your minds and D EI R inquiry fearless, and where control Is
wills. Europeans have poured mit in the hands of really larned, able,
your spacious territories bringing heavy, heavy, hangs over thy head scientific men.
with them problems so complex and Fine, or superfine? I have often deplored in my own
difficult that I doubt whether any Theodore Droiser Is old-he Is very, very old. I do not know how many country the tyranny of custom and
other nation ever had such bahoing is- years he has lived, perhaps forty, perhaps fifty, but he Is very old. Some. fashion within the student world. Mor-
sues to deal with. To build a real na- khIng grey and ;bleak and hurtful, that has been in the world perhaps for. ality and religion may be things left
tion with some dominating common ever, is personified in him. to the discretion of the individual, but
convictions to give unity to its life When Drelser Is gone men shall write books, many of them, and in the woe betide th an who does any of
out. of such polyglot elIments is per- books they shall write there will be so many of the qualities that Dreiser the "things which are not do e.' Sn
hps the most stupendous task to lacks. The new, the younger men shall have a sense of humor, and every gospel. Dot in yer land of libry
which any nation was ever called. one knows that Dreiser has no sense of humor. .More than that, American g u t in you land "ofby-
But I believe you will achieve it. prose writers shall have grace, lightness of touch, a dream of beauty break. sory conformity" seems t re the rule
With my naturally critical Scotch In throngh the husks of life, in many fraternities and clubs; and
mind I have seen many things in 0 those who follow him shall have many things that Dreiser does not apparently what those not in frater-
your national life which your best have. This is a part of the wonder and beauty of Theodore Dreiser, the nities and clubs may choose to tio
friends could not fail to deplore. It thInes that others shall have, because of him. does not patter to anybody: Is the
saddens a visitor to find so many of Lona ago, when he was editor of the "Delineator," Drelser went one fraternity a good thing? Is it good
the familiar evils of European capi- d,. "ith a woman friend, to visit an orphan asylum. The woman onee told that social control should be made so
tals reproduced in places like Chi- ;, ih eory of tht afternoon in the big, grey, ugly building, with Dreiser, dominating? I was immensely at-
eago and New York. But I believe i r,. heavy and lempy and old. sitting on a platform, folding and re. tracted and charmed by much that I
you are going to win through. I be- faidiins his nocket-handkerchief and watching the children-all In their saw in fraternity houses. I shall
lieve it because apart from occasion- 'lfte eniforss, trooping In. never cease to think with pleasure of
al Fourth-of-July moods, your own '' fers ran down his cheeks and he shopk his head," the woman the delightful courtesy and hospitality
minds are so open to the evils in your wt , and that Is a real pi ture of Theodore Dreiser. .He is old in spirit and extended to me in them by some young
midst. You do not shirk the facts. he does not know what to do with life, so he tells about it as he sees it, Americans. But the above questions
You are not afraid of commissions of im >Iv and honestly. The tears run down his cheeks and he folds and remained to haunt me none the less.
inquiry. In some respects you are 'oA('t is pocket-handkerchief and shakes his head.
less hypocritical than any nation I Heavy, heaiy, the feet of Theodore. How easy to pick some of his books- Perhaps I may sum up my impres-
know. And I feel confident that the. to pieces, to laugh at him for his heavy prose. sions in this whole connection by say-
same conquering and inventive gen- The feet of Theodore are making a path, the heavy brutal feet. They Ing frankly what I felt about Ameri-
ius which faced and solved the prob- ars tramping through the wilderness of lies, making a path. Presently the can students in the mass. I thought
lems of the prairie and the virgin 'a will be i street, with great arches overhead and delileately carved them most lovable people. They are
territories, which built your railroads, spires pierelig the sky. .Along the street will run children shouting, "Look full of life and joy and wit. They are
your cities and your industries, will at Ia see 'what I and my fellows of the new day have done"--forgetting frank, good to look at, and happy.
in time triumph also over the prob- the heavy feet of Dreiser. They express their abundant vitality

lems of your moral and social life. At ii' fellws af t'e ink-pots, the prose writers in America will have in uncounted ways and live a many-
least unless your sons re unworthy ; never one. Their road is long, but because of him, sided life that is full of charm of a
of your forefathers unless the 1 ,1 1 ci e Ill reper have to face the road through the wilderness kind. They have abundant good will.
pioneer spirit has vanih 1 from f- of trrfan denial, the road that Dreiser faced alone. They respond quickly to ideals. I
land; unless m.aterial prose'rio' 1 f f, 1c7 heay hn. o over thy head thought them affectionate and sin-
made you soft. Frine, or superfine? cere. Many of them know quite e lot
Of ll the r ansons or , shr -rn - s P-.s -n 5n by s:r-sod Ad rs o, before they leave college. 01t ith
that most Impresses 01e fp sP , : }y ,ermission of B. W. Huebach, Inl. (Continued on Pse Tr

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