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UNIVERSITY TRAINING FOR BUSINESS-A REPLY.
UBLIC interest in educational questions grows apace. For long, Canada was too complacent concerning her educational system. With the adoption of the Ontario public school system and its spread to the other provinces and with the importation of the University on the Scottish model, the Canadian public as a whole ceased to give serious thought to broad questions of policy and organization. Occasional tinkering there has been, of course, and a certain evolution in keeping with the drift of the times. But until recently any comprehensive appraisal of results or any radical examination of fundamentals has been lacking. The overhauling of our system of secondary education by an Ontario Committee in the last two years is a significant indication of the new spirit. The public school system now seems due for a similar heartsearching. The University will not escape, as it has not escaped in other countries. The admirable reports of the Committees on the teaching of Classics, Modern Languages, English and Science are symptomatic of the thinking going on in England. In the United States the great ferment which has been stirring University circles is evidenced by numerous radical changes in University curricula and by the appearance of such publications as The Education of Henry Adams, the Supplement of the New Republic on The Revision of the Curriculum, and The Liberal College by Alexander Meiklejohn, President of Amherst College (a College which, by the way, would alone be sufficient to justify the retention of the small college as a laboratory for educational experiment). In Canada a beginning has been made in the report of the Ontario Royal Commission on University Finances. So far only the externals have been touched, but an interest in the fundamentals is apparent. The preceding article in this issue is, therefore, welcomed as a forceful contribution to the discussion of one phase of University policy which much needs public discussion. It is especially welcome because of the man from whose pen it comes. Reared in one of the too few Canadian families in which the growing
boy is brought into early and intimate contact with Greek and Latin, trained at Queen's and Oxford according to the best traditions of the old Classics course, and now rising very rapidly in the world of business, Mr. Macdonnell has a right to argue for, is indeed himself an argument for, the type of business training which he champions. His contribution is, therefore, doubly welcome; yet I find the argument unconvincing.
The argument is a three-fold one. He endeavours to show that our Canadian Universities do not awaken an interest in intellectual things and that in the performance of this, their true function, they have become progressively less efficient in recent years; he traces this deterioration to the infection of a narrow vocational spirit, and more particularly to the introduction of Commerce Courses into the Faculties of Arts; and he finds it easy to advocate the complete eradication of the last-named cause of trouble because after all a liberal Arts training seems to him the best preparation for a business
That part of the indictment of our Canadian Universities which is necessary for his argument does not appear to be wellfounded. The character of their product has been and still is subject to serious criticism, as we shall admit, but if Mr. Macdonnell's diagnosis and remedy are to stand, not only an inferior product but a progressively inferior product must be shown. One cannot indict a University system on a friend's chance acquaintanceship with University graduates. The experience of the Committee entrusted with the selection of Rhodes Scholars is a reflection not on University graduates as a class but on University graduates who apply for the Rhodes scholarship. Few men acquainted with the facts would admit that Rhodes scholarship candidates, outside of a few brilliant exceptions, have been typical in recent years of the "most promising" of our University graduates. In Professor Leacock's satire there is as usual a core of fundamental truth. He would, however, be the first to admit that he was here putting into a practice a bit of advice which he gave to my freshman year: 'Close one eye, look out upon the world and state what you see as if it were the whole truth.' The courses which he criticizes are not typical of the 'best models' of
University curricula in Canada. But the important point is that his real argument is not based on a comparison of University curricula; his fundamental criticism of American Universities is that they exemplify 'the convoy system of education', and his eulogy of Oxford is based not on the values which come from the class-room, but on those which are developed in the Junior Common Room, the Hall and the College. Moreover, his able criticism of co-education is based on a frank acceptance of the vocational principle in education.
In any case, no evidence has been submitted to show that the work of Canadian Colleges has been getting worse. My own experience is to the contrary. I can speak intimately of conditions only in one University and only for a period of fifteen or sixteen years. But I imagine that what is true of Queen's is true in essentials of other Canadian Universities, In the last fifteen years, and especially in the three or four years since the war,there has been to my mind an unquestioned improvement. If we pierce beneath certain superficial indications and make sufficient allowance for shifts in individual departments, and for our natural tendency to idealize the time when we ourselves strutted across the stage of student life we will find, I think, that to-day the lamp of true scholarship burns just as brightly and that at least as many students develop the 'enquiring mind' and find beauty and inspiration in the artistic manifestations of the human spirit. Such things can scarcely be measured by any quantitative standards, but there are certain indices which are ordinarily considered to have some value. For instance, the standards required in class and essay work and at examinations seem to me to show on the whole a decided stiffening. Changes have taken place in the organization of the curriculum designed to rescue students from the dangers of a random election of courses and to give the Faculty a greater responsibility for the range and quality of their studies; in spite of Professor Leacock's preference for the haphazard and the vague, these changes seem to me to make it more likely that the ordinary student will get that vision of the unity of knowledge which the liberal college aims to give. The seminar or class discussion group has to a large extent taken the place of, or been brought in as a supplement to, the formal lecture. The best lecturer may
incite the admiration of his students by the range and profundity of his thought or the beauty of his language or the masterly arrangement of his ideas, but in actual practice the lecture system fails because while the professor's mind is, or may be, active, it is the student's arm, not his mind, which is active. The moving finger writes, yes, writes with such nervous speed, lest a word be missed, that the chief result of the professor's lecture is not intellectual activity, but a more or less violent form of gymnastics in the college corridors. However, all the professor's ideas, yea even his very words, are down in a loose-leaf notebook where they remain in cold storage until it comes time to cram them and return them unabused to the source from which they came. How often have I heard the merits of the new professor discussed by students and how often the question settled in his favour by the 'splendid set of notes one gets from him!' Splendid for examination purposes! The class discussion system has its own dangers, but at least it is based on the Socratic idea and is definitely directed to the development of the active and enquiring mind. Its superiority in practice cannot, I think, be seriously questioned.* A more important criterion of progress is the use made of the library, the extent to which the student is brought into contact with the treasure-house of the world's best in thought and feeling. I believe I do not exaggerate when I say that the present-day Queen's student does two or three times as much assigned reading as he did when I was a student, and at least as much and probably a little more voluntary reading. Too frequently the assigned reading may not be great literature and too frequently, even though great literature, it may not appear such to the student simply because it is compulsory, but in this respect 1923 is not worse than 1910 or as bad as 1915. More important, the practice of 'browsing' in the library, while not one of the major college sports, is just as popular as it ever was. Indeed may it not be recorded as a considerable advance that such a practice is no longer against library law? When I was in college it was distinctly 'against the fashion' to study. The man who made
*For instance, I think it not unfair to say that in my day we got from the University mainly a set of admirable opinions about the world's masterpieces, whereas to-day the student has a much better chance of getting to know the masterpieces themselves and of forming his own opinions about them.
even an attempt at serious study was called a 'crammer.' We boasted of the small amount of reading which it had been necessary for us to do to 'get off a class.' Not a little 'surreptitious' study was done by the man who wanted to stand well up in the examination lists and by the earnest mediocre man for whom the respectable minimum of study was not sufficient. I see to-day sufficient lack of serious study, but I do not see that a cult is made of it. Finally, may we not say that, in spite of the spirit of jazz which has invaded the college after conquering the outside world, the manifestations of mental activity outside the classroom show student life to be just as healthy as it ever was. May we not be fundamentally optimistic when we contemplate the dramatic activities of Canadian students, the spread and substantial success of the Little Theatre movement in our Universities, the greater opportunities offered and taken advantage of in musical and artistic appreciation, the activity of debating and all the other student clubs interested in the discussion of political, economic and literary problems, and the recent creative efforts of Canadian students in prose and poetry? To take a single and perhaps a strange instance is not the appearance of The Goblin Canada's only admittedly humorous paper and a not unworthy one is not The Goblin, organized by three or four students and financed on a shoestring, symptomatic of health and growth rather than of decline?
What I have said has been based on personal knowledge of a recent period. I have discussed my point of view with four or five of my colleagues and find substantial agreement. The criticism may be made that the heroic days are farther back. Perhaps so, but such printed evidence as we can find does not substantiate this view. We need not go to Mark Pattison and others to picture the Oxford of an earlier day. American Universities will provide sufficient evidence. Professor Tatlock, after a study of the biographies of some thirtyfive prominent Americans who attended University a generation or so ago, concludes that there 'can simply be no comparison between the general mental stimulus offered by the college courses, and personally by the professors, then and now.' 'E. E. Hale (at Harvard, 1835-39), found that little was done by the professors except to set tasks and to hear them, and was