« AnteriorContinuar »
himself,” he may do so till he is at cross purposes with his own youth and with every natural manifestation of youth in others. Yet the spirit that brings all the students of a college together for a common purpose, the undivided enthusiasm of a whole college, is one of the precious experiences of education ; for even when to middle-aged people the cause seems trivial, the spirit is patriotism, the same patriotism that in a national crisis
“Shall nerve heroic boys
To hazard all in Freedom's fight.” That even a large college may be roused as one man is obvious to anybody who has heard (I use the word advisedly) a game of baseball at Princeton, or who has known athletics at Yale, or who knew Harvard in the football season of 1901. Princeton, situated in a small town on an isolated hill, is a centre to itself. Yale lived long in and about a crowded campus, and is so far from a great city that even on Saturdays
and Sundays the students naturally stay at the college. At Yale, moreover, as at Princeton, the elective system was for many years applied so sparingly that the students felt the sympathy which comes of common tasks; and even if now and then this union, like some others, was a union for the avoidance of labor, it could not but prove a strong bond. Harvard, on the contrary, seems at first sight to have every requisite for disintegration : she lives close to a large city, full of social distractions; she has hundreds of students from Boston and the suburbs who may go and come every day; her recitation halls, her laboratories, and even her dormitories are often far apart. Moreover her elective system is so free that even at the outset it breaks up the classes; and not only Jones and Smith, but Jones and Johnson, whose alphabetical destiny would seem to unite them, may go through four years without knowing each other by sight or even being in the same lecture room at the same time. In such a university, it is urged, all common feeling must be factitious — “pumped,” like that organized cheering when nobody is cheerful, but everybody is trying to “support” his team and “rattle” the other one. In organized cheering, it is urged, and in that only, Jones and Johnson have a common emotional experience, but they have it anonymously.
A story told by Professor Palmer and afterward printed by Mr. E. S. Martin reveals the divided interests of Harvard. On the evening of a mass meeting in Massachusetts Hall for the discussion of some point in the athletic relations between Harvard and Yale, Professor Palmer went to Sever Hall, where Mr. David A. Wells was to lecture on banking; and as he went he was troubled by the thought that “those boys” would all be in Massachusetts Hall, and that Mr. Wells would have no audience. Arriving at the lecture hall, which seats over four hundred persons, he found standing-room only; and it was not Cambridge women that filled the seats — it was Harvard students. After the lecture, remembering that there should be that evening a meeting of the Classical Club, he went to the top of Stoughton Hall to find there between twenty and thirty men, who, oblivious alike of banking and of Yale, had spent the evening in a discussion of Homeric philology. “Harvard indifference,” says one critic; “Harvard University," says another. Much of the strength of Harvard lies in her diversity of interests. Side by side with the boys whose passion is football are the men whose passion is mathematics or philosophy, who care nothing for intercollegiate politics and less than nothing for intercollegiate athletics; and such is the freedom of Harvard that these men are suffered to follow their own bent, and are not forced into a life with which they
have no sympathy. To one who has lived in Harvard College it is the college of all colleges for the recognition of individual needs and individual rights; of the inevitable and delightful variety in talent and temperament, and even in enthusiasm. When all the people in one place are interested in one thing, it may be inspiration, and it may be provinciality. When everybody in a university shouts at every ball game, athletics prosper, but culture pines. Where Greek and the chapel are elective, baseball should not be prescribed; and where baseball is not prescribed, there are sure to be individuals who cannot always occupy either the diamond or the bleachers.
“We grant," it may be said, “ that Harvard allows and encourages a man to lead an independent intellectual life, to get all the Greek he wants, and all the chemistry he wants — and no more; but what of human fellowship, the real and great and permanent blessing of college life?”