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YALE LITERARY MAGAZINE
JOHN WILLIAMS ANDREWS, CHAIRMAN.
HENRY ROBINSON LUCE
FRANK P. HEFFELFINGER
THOMAS E. HURLEY
PAUL P. BUSHNELL
THE CORPORATE COLLEGE.
F all the manifold institutions that confront the weary twentieth-century consciousness from the pages of the current periodicals and the economics books, that one which is the most vital, the most organic, is the university. On the one hand there is just enough of tradition, just enough of lasting custom about it, for us to recognize it as essentially the same thing from one generation to the next, while on the other hand, the continually changing personnel, always reacting either consciously or unconsciously upon the institution, makes it flexible, endows it with an active life, and forever keeps it safe from a crystallization into a dead thing of "outworn creeds." Thus it is that such a thing as Yale University can be regarded as a personal, intangible entity, distinct from any single one of the personalities that go to compose it, an entity with a will and a life of its own, which goes on from year to year, and from year to year grows and develops.
If, then, we are to consider a university in this light, as a living, corporate being, we secure a view-point upon many of its characteristics that is at least interesting. It seems obvious that such an organism must be largely a reflection of the environment in which it has arisen, and this explains at once the fact that the American university is perfectly representative of the usual
American conceptions of life. All, or nearly all, of our college men come from circles in which the first, though perhaps not the highest, desideratum is that particular sort of energy and ability that brings monetary success; the aggressiveness, selfassertion, business acumen, and the power of "handling men" (though not necessarily of understanding them) are all held up to the young well-to-do American as virtues to be striven for. America considers that without these all other things shall be as naught. On the other hand, we have no ideals of a cultured poverty, and on the other, too few of us have independent incomes, for there to be any general disregard among us of the immediate means to wealth. For success in the world we must be able to make money first, or to show the qualities which would bring us money, and the other things must come after.
The college which grows up under this attitude is naturally an accurate reflection of it. Because the true scholarly ideal does not teach us aggressiveness, because the influence of books does not foster our self-assertion, because the higher life of thought does not make us keener business men or better able to knock about in the hail-fellow-well-met atmosphere of ordiof desirability. The scholarly ideal at that moment ceases to nary intercourse, we refuse to place such things high in our scale exist in our universities, and the course of study becomes something quite alien in fact and in spirit from that ideal. Instead of "reading for a degree" we "do" assignments. We never go after knowledge, because we have agreed among ourselves that knowledge is not the thing, par excellence, to be desired. We are content to have samples of knowledge doled out to us from day to day by professors who abominate the system in which they are caught but who cannot alter it, and only so content because we recognize that a certain appearance of learning is of value.
This is the attitude of the corporate body, much more than that that of any individual. But the corporate body, even, cannot be satisfied in spending its life doing badly a thing in which it is only half interested. So it has invented the extra-currirulum. The extra-curriculum becomes quite naturally the real end of undergraduate life; it satisfies the ambitions that the course of study cannot satisfy; its criteria of success are the
The Corporate College.
criteria of the world in which the undergraduate has always lived, and success in the extra-curriculum becomes the desirable and the honorable thing. The captaincy of the football team requires the maximum of aggressiveness, self-assertion, and material intelligence; the editorship of the NEWS stamps. its holder as a man who to a greater degree than his fellows has learned the rules of practical achievement in the world; so it is also with the managerships, to a certain extent with the social positions, and with all of the extra-curriculum honors which a man can win. These are the achievements to which the undergraduate accords the first acclaim merely because they are the achievements which he has always been taught to value first. So American universities have grown into places where the desirable thing is not the acquisition of a cultured intellect but the acquisition of other virtues, places in which the intellectual ideal has sunk to a position of almost incidental and secondary importance. This does not at all mean that the "scholastic stand" is necessarily low; it might be the highest possible, but that would signify nothing, because it is the method of study and teaching which shows this incidental character, as much as the actual success in high marks that it meets with. The whole system of regularly assigned lessons beyond which the student is never expected to go in his reading, of formal recitations and daily papers whose object is to test the thoroughness of preparation rather than to stimulate the intellect, and above all, of the undergraduate attitude toward his studies, is a system that, whatever it may be, is essentially not one under which the real dignity of art and letters and of thought can ever appear.
The faculty are not responsible for the system. It is inconceivable that any instructor would voluntarily submit himself to the drudgery of correcting papers if he felt that he could accomplish anything of his purpose without doing so. No one is responsible, because it is not a question of responsibility, but of a normal, organic development. Because, it has been shown, the university has to a certain degree a personality, it has a corporate will, and if that will declares that such things shall be so, there is no one who can directly negative the dictum, and there is no one who can be held responsible that it is not otherwise. American universities are what they are because they are