« AnteriorContinuar »
mediocre. We must not attempt to mint doctors from merit basely alloyed. Examinations should have their main use, not as a means of admission, but as a means of exclusion, and the more men of low and middle rank that are excluded the better. One poor student damages a whole class. We should look forward to the exclusion of all men who fail to get high marks in the preliminary tests, so that there may be a reasonable probability that all who get in are capable of hard sustained mental work and of loyalty to their studies. The examinations ought, however, to accomplish more than this: they should afford evidence that the candidate has a natural power of observation, and that the power has already received some scientific discipline, and, finally, they ought to prove that the candidate has the preliminary knowledge of chemistry, physics, and general biology without which the pursuit of the medical sciences is impossible. It is a welcome sign of progress that these entrance requirements are being rapidly adopted by the medical schools of the country, and there is, I am glad to perceive, a steady advance toward uniformity. In my opinion, such a preliminary training, with the appropriate sifting of the unfit, can be accomplished by two or three years of college work—and it is not and can not be accomplished by requiring an A.B. degree (or its equivalent) unless that degree represents adequate courses in chemistry, physics, biology, French and German. Under the prevalent elective system, a man may become a bachelor of arts and yet be not only undisciplined, but also very ignorant of natural science. I have had to do with many such men, and can only say that they are so inferior at the start that only the most brilliant of them can overcome the heavy handicap. Indeed, I can not affirm that even the brilliant men are able wholly to repair the evil, for in the rush of medical study they have no time to make up their deficiencies in the preliminary sciences. They enter as cripples and as cripples still they are likely to graduate from the medical school.
Although observation is the foundation of knowledge, and no human knowledge is built on any other foundation, men of intellectual power are by no means always interested in observation. There are mathematicians who can scarcely be said to feel interest in any observations. I often recall with amusement a distinguished mathematician whom I would not have trusted to make an original observation beyond a simple measurement, and yet who condescendingly explained to a company of biologists that their science must remain inaccurate until its results were mathematically formulated. The reply might have been made to him that no mathematical result can be accuratey known until put in graphic form, so that it can be observed. The one half-truth is as good as the other. Our mathematical friend had still to learn that there is an accuracy in a complex visual image with which mathematics can not even distantly vie. We might construct a scale, with the anatomist at one end and the mathematician at the other; both alike depend on observation, but one seeks his accuracy chiefly in the renewal and extension of his personal observations—he loves first-hand knowledge; the other seeks his accuracy in the logical evolution of quantitative relations, and cares but little for the simple observations on which his mathematics depends. Between these two extremes we must range those minds which enjoy and seek both observational and logical satisfaction, and who are often experimenters. Among experimenters there is a wide range in the degree of relative interest-on the one hand, in what can be directly observed, and, on the other, in the logical work following the experiment. Only those in whom the love of observation is predominant are likely to succeed as physicians. For the pure experimenter there is plenty of room in medical science, but he can hardly find his right opportunity in medical practice.
The natural observer differs both from those who, like the humanitarians, are satisfied by second-hand knowledge, and from those who prefer experimental work, by his insatiable craving for seeing, and, to a less extent, for hearing and feeling. His inborn need is to have direct contact with the phenomena. Nothing short of the personal acquaintance with the phenomena satisfies him. Now those students who while in college elect the humanitarian studies, and neglect the natural sciences, are extremely unlikely to have the observing faculty. If they are required to study chemistry, physics, and biology before they get to medical work they will be tried out, and those who have not the observer's gift, will learn their limitations in time to avoid becoming medical impedimenta.
There have followed in rapid succession the Academic
formal exercises attendant upon the inauguCelebrations
ration of President Lowell of Harvard, President Nichols of Dartmouth, and President Bryan of Colgate. These will be followed within a few days by the formal induction into office of President Shanklin of Wesleyan University. The functions at Harvard, at Dartmouth, and at Colgate were all marked by dignity and impressiveness. Large and representative gatherings of scholars from both the United States and from Europe were present, particularly at the Harvard celebration. On each occasion the dominant note has been one of hopefulness and confidence in the vitality and progress of our higher education. Faults and shortcomings have been neither denied nor concealed, but the overwhelming preponderance of opinion has been that these faults and shortcomings can be, and are being, corrected. Here and there is heard occasionally a single voice protesting that our higher education is in bondage either to the unfortunate tribe of college presidents or to the horrid politicians or to the tyrannical benefactors of great wealth. These protests reflect, however, an habitual state of mind, rather than any knowledge of the facts. American higher education is freer today than it ever was, and it is steadily throwing off whatever limitations of an earlier period it still suffers from.
It is plain, and the formal addresses at these academic celebrations have emphasized the fact, that the central point of our present-day educational problem is the college. It is nearly thirty years since Mr. Andrew D. White, then President of Cornell University, pointed out what would probably happen to the American college with the growth of the university spirit and ideal in this country, and it is more than forty years since President Barnard of Columbia, in a painstaking and widely influential study of statistics, showed that the college was losing ground when the growth of the population was taken into account. From that time to this the college problem has been under the most careful observation, and while very different solutions of that problem have been proposed and attempted, it is worth while bearing in mind that all these solutions have proceeded on the assumption that the college and college training are something to be saved, not sacrificed.
With all the manifest activities and problems of Harvard before him, President Lowell in his inaugural address selected Harvard College, and particularly Harvard College freshmen, for consideration. Those somewhat hasty critics who are in the habit of saying that the large universities overlook the college problem and forget the college freshmen might well have their attention drawn to this fact.