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a college officer has promised to write something for a college paper. No money is involved and no glory. He is hard pressed for time, and hard pressed with excellent reasons — much better than those of the idle student. Accordingly he copies something from another writer and prints it as his own. If discovered, he will justly be regarded by every student as a dishonest man ; yet, clear as the student's view would be in the case I have supposed, there is a real difficulty in educating the public opinion of a college to honesty in written work, — and in excuses for the mild indisposition with which some students are often and perfunctorily afflicted. No penalty has proved satisfactory. Our common penalty in Cambridge for dishonesty in written work is suspension ; but suspension is more and more unsatisfactory as years go by... In old times a suspended student was rusticated, as it was called. Some country minister took him in
charge and heard his lessons : but, with the complexity of instruction at American universities to-day, with the number of courses that require excellent laboratory facilities and extensive libraries, old-fashioned rustication becomes impossible; and the suspended student is in the position of a man obliged to do a certain piece of work by the very authorities who have cut off his opportunity of doing it. I suppose we must wait in this matter for the slowly developed sense of documentary honesty among students. The “honor system,” so called, is as yet, I believe, experimental. What worries me about putting students on their honor in all matters of written work is the fact that they cheat most in those exercises in which they are put on their honor now.com
After all, the most serious question of discipline in the college of to-day is how to get from our students intellectual work. Want of responsibility to work rather than radical dishonesty is at the root of such dishonest acts as I have described. In the attitude toward work a considerable number of students are still boys and not men. It is only in athletics that some of them recognize the flimsiness of excuses, the necessity of hard training, the responsibility of duty day by day, the meanness of the “quitter.” As to excuses, I have heard a college officer whose business it is to pass on them described as “a man you lie to and get mad with for not believing you ;” and this definition shows how dexterously the unthinking student uses in college morals a double standard, and how flexible he is in transforming himself from man to boy and from boy to man, according to his own immediate advantage. The most searching temptation of a Freshman when he first finds himself turned loose in a university is the temptation to idleness. Some Freshmen act as if in entering college they had scaled the mountain of life and had nothing to do but to picnic on the summit. Their natural desire to get into this or that club, their knowledge that they cannot get into it without wide acquaintance, and their belief that wide acquaintance involves free use of social hours at all times of the day, lead them to loafing. Thus far the influence of the club is bad, though later a clubman may be upheld in his work and driven to his work by those members of the club who see his danger. The radical difficulty about work among students comes, in part, from the prevalent theory of education through which boys and young men have things done for them, sometimes for their amusement, sometimes for their information, instead of being taught to do things for themselves. I lately talked with an intelligent and delightful Sophomore who had excused himself for absence on the ground that he had gone with a sick companion to a “phizician.” I cheerfully accepted his excuse, but told
him that I did not like to see him spell physician in that way. “I know,” he replied, “I did n't know how to spell that word: mamma was n't at home; and I did n't know." Yet this boy came from a school recognized as among the best, and from educated parents; and even in Boston, mamma, when she goes out, leaves the dictionary behind her. Possibly he was like the other student who said, “What's the use of looking in the dictionary for a word if you don't know the letter it begins with ?”
A large part of the discipline of a college, in the widest sense of the word discipline, lies in the training toward power for the emergencies and the strains of life. Even the knowledge a student acquires is of value chiefly to that end. Now nobody ever got power through being amused and having things done for him. This principle is, as I have intimated, recognized in athletics; and hence comes much of the value of_athletics.