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McCormick, Bart E. (ed.) / The Wisconsin alumni magazine
Volume 28, Number 3 (Jan. 1927)

Frank, Glenn
An experiment in education,   pp. [87]-91


Page 88


THE WISCONSIN ALUMNI MAGAZINE
            For instance, we are accustomed, to
          regret that it seems so much easier to
          awaken an athletic college spirit than to
          awaken an intellectual college spirit.
          -But I wonder what would happen
          to athletic college spirit if instead of
          offering a schedule of football games
          we presented at different hours 'and
          on different days even brilliant ex-,
          hibitions of the separate elements of
          football.  I suggest that one way of
          meeting the menace of a possible over-
          emphasis on athletics would be rigidly to
          departmentalize football, 'offering, in
          approved academic fashion, an exhibition
          of the   forward   pass on 'Mondays,
          Wednesdays and Fridays, of punting on
          S ,Tuesdays and Thursdays, and so on. 'It
          is, of course, the coherence, movement
          and meaning of the game as a unity
          that captutes and charms the interest
          of the spectator. Of course, I do not
          'seriously suggest that this analogy
          should be 'ridden too far into the enemy
          country of detail; I merely suggest) in
          passing, that a section of the college
          years devoted to an approximately uni-
          fied body of knowledge might prove to
          be a fresh and effeclive device for cap-
          turing reluctant interest and stimulat-
          ing sluggish intelligence.
            If such ' a curricular 'device should
          prove effective in providing for the
          superor -student an intellectual back-
          ground he needs but is not now getting
          and atnthe- same time stimulating te
          intellectual interest. of the less, gifted
          student more than it i~s now       being
.         stimulated, it would have particular
          interest for institutions of higher learn-
          ing that are supported by taxation, be-
          cause such institutions are not free,
          certainly not free -at the moment, to
          pick and to choose their student bodies
          after the fashion of the privately en-
          dowed colleges and universities. A state
          - uni'ýersity stands between the sometimes
          conflicting compulsions of science and
          democracy. Science, coming up from
          the right, suggests that educational
          policy and procedure- should be based
          upon the biological inequality of stu-
          dents. Democracy, coming up from the
          left, insists that educational policy and
          procedure should be based upon the
          political equality of students. This puts
          to the University of Wisconsin, let us
          say, a problem that Harvard University
          need not face unless it so chooses. State
          universities, of course, along with the
          Harvards, the Yales and the Prince-
          tons, must more and more free them-
          selves from the ancient absurdity of
          throwing half-wits and geniuses indis-
          criminately into- the same class-room,
          lock-stepping them at a standardized
          pace through freshman,      sophomore,
          junior and senior years, and graduating
          them on the same day with the same
          sort of recognition. State universities
must do their share in putting a stop to
the Fordizing of higher learning., But
it is' obvious that, in the light of their
political parentage, state universities
will be particularly interested in any
policy or technique that serves alike the
average and the exceptional student.
   But I am   wandering from   the main
road of my contention. Let me return
from-this bypath of comment by sug-
gesting  again  that although    modemr
knowledge has become so        vast and
varied that we shall probably never
again-see the encyclopedic mind of an
Aristotle, a- Descartes or even of a
Helmholtz, we must somehow manage
to induct students into the larger out-
lines and leading ideas of this enormous
mass of modern knowledge or resign
ourselves to living fractional lives and
remaining   spiritual aliens and   intel-
lectual provincials in the modern world.
   Of course, no onewho has evenpartly
earned the right to participate in a dis-
cussion of education will expect, too
much of such a synthesized section of
the curriculum. ýNo. one will 'consider
this as more than, a part, and probably
not the most important! part, ofany:,
educational policy that might be ex-
pected to give insurance, as far as that
may be possible, against the bad by-
products of specialization, giving back-
ground and perspective, to the special-
ized scholar and a more comprehensive
understanding of the modern world to
the layman. ' None of us, I am sure, is in
danger of falling into the fallacy of the
ancient Brahman who made such a
sporting proposition respecting educa-
tion, as related- in the introduction to
that engaging volume of Sanskrit tales-
"The Panchatantra."
  In the southern country [the story beginsi is a
city called Maidens Delight. There lived a king
named Immortal Power. He was familiar with
all the works treating of the wise conduct of life.
His feet were made dazzling by the tangle of
rays of light from the jewels in the diadems of
the mighty kings who knelt before him. He had
reached the far shore of all the arts that em-
bellish life. This king had three sons. Their
names were, Rich-Power, Fierce-Power, Endless-
Power, and they were supreme blockheads.
  Now when the king perceived that they were
hostile to education, he summoned his counsellors
and said: "Gentlemen, it is known to you that
these sons of mine, being hostile to education, are
lacking in discernment. So when I behold them,
my kingdom brings me no happiness, though all
external thorns are drawn. For there is wisdom
in the proverb:
    "Of sons unborn, or dead, or fools,
      Unborn or dead will do;
    They cause a little grief, no doubt;
      But fools, a long life through.
"And again:
    "To what good purpose can a cow
      That brings no calf, nor milk, be bent?
    Or why beget a son who proves
      A dunce and disobedient?
"Some means must therefore be devised to awaken
their intelligence."
  And they, one after another, replied: "0, King,
first one learns grammar,* in twelve years. If
  this subject has:somewhat been mastered, then
  one masters the books on religion and practical
  life. Then the intelligence awakens."
  .-But one of their number, a counsellor named
  Keen, said: "0, King,- the duration of life is
  limited, and the verbal sciences require much time
  for mastery. Therefore let some kind of epitome
  be devised to, wake their intelligence. There is. a
  proverb that says:
    "Since verbal science has no final end,
      Since life-is short, and obstacles impend,
    Let central facts be picked and firmly fixed,
      As swans extract the milk with water mixed.
    "Now there is a Brahman here named Vishnu-
  sharman, with a reputation for competence .in
  numerous -sciences. -Intrust the princes to him.
  He will certainly make them intelligent in a
  twinkling."
    When the king had listened to this, he sum-
  moned Vishnusharman and said: "Holy sir, as a
  favor to me you must make these princes incom-
  parable masters of the art of practical life. In
  return, Iwill bestow oi you a hundred land grants.
    And Vishnusharman made answer -to the king:
  "0, King, listen. I am not the man to sell good
  learning for a hundred land. grants. But if I do
  not, iin six months' time, make the boys ac-
  quainted with the art of intelligent living, I will
,.-give up my own name. Let us cut the matter
  short. Listen to my lion-roar. My boasting arises
  from no greed for cash. Besides, I have no'need
  for money; I am eighty years old, and all the ob-
  jects of sensual desire have lost their charm. But
  in order that your request may be, granted, I will
  ,show a sporting *spirit in reference to artistic
  matters. Make a note of the ýdate. % if I fail to
  render your sons, in six months time, incompar-
  able masters of the art of intelligent living, then
  And with a touch of oriental obscenity
  that must be, deleted, he tells the king
  what may be done if he fails.
    Of course, there is no "epitome" that
  will educate youth "in a twinkling." If
  our colleges ultimately    develop   any
  such generalized' and synthesized sec-
  tion in their curricula, it will obviously
  be only one measure that seems neces-
  sary in meeting the challenge 'of the
  enormous mass of now unassimilated
  and, maybe, as far as capturing and'
  correlating it in a curriculum is con-
  cerned, unassimilable knowledge.    The
  historian, with, say, the last hundred
  and the next hundred years of our edu-
  cational  history  before   him, would
  doubtless look upon the use of any such
  generalized and synthesized section of
  the curriculum as an emergency meas-
  ure adopted by a people that found
  itself the victim of a great confusion
  resulting from an unprecedentedly rapid
  accumulation of knowledge. It alone
  will not educate men or equip them for
  the mastery of modern life. I suggest
  therefore, a second field of inquiry.
                    VII
    If we find ourselves driven frankly to
  admit that knowledge is growing more
  rapidly than educators can fetter it and
  synthesize it in any curriculum, may it
  not be necessary for us to strive to de-
  velop educational processes in the un-
  dergraduate years that will deal more
  directly with the mental processes of the
  'student than do many of our present
88
,7anuary,' .92'7


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