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an invigorating influence among boys, an influence toward the spirit of leadership.
In one of our best schools for boys the older and stronger pupils are called “prefects,” and are put in positions of responsibility which bring them into close relation with the masters. They do not govern the school ; they are subject to the masters: but they are consulted by the masters as best representing the state of mind of the boys in general, and as best interpreting to the boys in general the state of mind of the masters. They are the maturest boys; and in their responsibility they increase their maturity. As a result, the school best known for its prefect system sends to Harvard College, nearly every year, at least one youth who stands out in his larger surroundings as a leader. In one year three of the class presidents in Harvard College were from that school, which sends us not more than about fifteen boys a year; and they
were presidents of classes in which five or six hundred young fellows had the right to vote for class officers. Moreover, many boys from this school keep in college the attitude of the prefect, the recognition that the main object of student and college officer is one and the same, - to do the best that can be done for every student who comes to the University; to keep him if he can be made worth keeping, and otherwise, for the good of the place and for his own good, to send him away, though seldom or never without a hope of coming back. This coöperation between scholar and master, between student and professor, is the most striking characteristic of modern school and college discipline. It is not what is called “student government;” but it is better than student government. So far as my experience goes, the government of a university, or of any large part of a university, cannot with safety be entrusted to students, they are harsher
than their elders, and less just to persons that they dislike. Nor do the students themselves seriously wish for such responsibility and power. In their own enterprises, their athletics and athletic management, their newspapers, their social and debating societies, — in a hundred things, — they may develop their leadership and their administrative capacity. In the conduct of the university they should, I believe, have great weight with the administrative officers and have their confidence, but not themselves be administrative officers.
When I say they should have the confidence of the administrative officers, I mean that these officers should so far believe in them as not merely to ask their opinions, but to speak out their own opinions, and lay open to the best of the students whatever can honestly be laid open to them; that the officers should not hesitate to explain fully the reason for this or that act, relying on their own
sincerity and openness, on the good will of the majority, on the hearty coöperation of student leaders, and, through student leaders, of the student body. This good will and coöperation cannot be counted on unless the officers have the qualities I have already mentioned, sympathy with youth, and straightforwardness in all their dealings. I remember one large school at which the desks in the rooms for study were turned away from the platform, so that the master might better watch the boys, while they could not watch him without turning their heads and showing him that they were watching him. What can be expected of boys who are avowedly distrusted ? In an open fight the best man may be the master; but in strategy the boys nearly always win.
To illustrate the spirit of the prefects, I may recall a few things that have happened in Harvard College. A student had expressed to me some disgust at
the election of his class president — who had been a prefect — on the ground that the man was not a natural president; that, though he was a good football player, he was a poor hand at the conduct of a class meeting, and had little skill in speech. A day or two later the same student said: “I have changed my mind about X. When one of the fellows from his school was drunk in the street to-day, and the crowd had got about him and were guying him, X came round and tried to get him home. When he refused to go, X calmly picked him up and carried him through the street to the dormitory.” Note the incidental advantage in having an athlete for a class president.
Another man from this school came to me one day about a clever loafer, whose habits were unsteady, and whom the college authorities had given up as a bad job. Instead of saying, as the conventional student of twenty years ago would