chapter  6
40 Pages

Education Versus Enlightenment

I t was inevitable that this unique situation should in due time impinge upon the intellectual life of college circles. In the period intervening between the college life of the parents of the present generation of college students and their children there have been more changes in our scientific knowledge and outlook of an unsettling and disconcerting nature than in the thousand years which separated Charlemagne from Abraham Lincoln. This fact has, however, been slow in penetrating the thinking of college students. Only rarely have their teachers achieved approximate contemporaneity in their intellectual outlook. A goodly proportion of college teachers have retained unaltered the dogmas and convictions which they acquired in the generation in which they attended col-

lege and have lost touch with current intellectual progress. Others are narrow specialists who do good work in their particular lines but lack general orientation and interests. Few college teachers become such because of comprehensive enlightenment on their own part or on account of the desire to bring about such a beatific state on the part of their students. The process is not unlike that described by ex-President Clarence C. Little of the University of Michigan in the remarks attributed to him in a speech recently delivered before the National Student Federation:

When, however, there is a teacher who is in reasonable rapport with the contemporary age and possessed of at least average powers of articulation the shocking power of his reflections and observations is inevitably great, even though he does nothing more than synthesize the rudimentary platitudes of Twentieth Century knowledge. This disturbing influence need not be due in any sense to special ability or peculiarly seductive pedagogy on the part of the instructor. I t is merely a measure of the unique gulf which separates us from the assured knowledge of the year 1890. When one calmly reflects upon the reality and extent of this gulf, he is likely to marvel, not at the frequency with which alarmed parents endeavor to tone down the lectures of teachers who are endeavoring to dispense information and points of view of a contemporaneous vintage, but rather at the relative absence of such efforts to intimidate university and college instructors and executives.