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Why Go To College(为什么上大学)

WHY GO TO COLLEGE?
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WHY GO TO
COLLEGE?
ALICE FREEMAN PALMER
Formerly President of Wellesley College

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To a largely increasing number of young girls college doors are
opening every year. Every year adds to the number of men who feel as a
friend of mine, a successful lawyer in a great city, felt when in talking of
the future of his four little children he said, "For the two boys it is not so
serious, but I lie down at night afraid to die and leave my daughters only a
bank account." Year by year, too, the experiences of life are teaching
mothers that happiness does not necessarily come to their daughters when
accounts are large and banks are sound, but that on the contrary they take
grave risks when they trust everything to accumulated wealth and the
chance of a happy marriage. Our American girls themselves are becoming
aware that they need the stimulus, the discipline, the knowledge, the
interests of the college in addition to the school, if they are to prepare
themselves for the most serviceable lives.
But there are still parents who say, "There is no need that my daughter
should teach; then why should she go to college?" I will not reply that
college training is a life insurance for a girl, a pledge that she possesses
the disciplined ability to earn a living for herself and others in case of need,
for I prefer to insist on the importance of giving every girl, no matter what
her present circumstances, a special training in some one thing by which
she can render society service, not amateur but of an expert sort, and
service too for which it will be willing to pay a price. The number of
families will surely increase who will follow the example of an eminent
banker whose daughters have been given each her specialty. One has
chosen music, and has gone far with the best masters in this country and in
Europe, so far that she now holds a high rank among musicians at home
and abroad. Another has taken art, and has not been content to paint pretty
gifts for her friends, but in the studios of New York, Munich, and Paris,
she has won the right to be called an artist, and in her studio at home to
paint portraits which have a market value. A third has proved that she can
earn her living, if need be, by her exquisite jellies, preserves, and
sweetmeats. Yet the house in the mountains, the house by the sea, and the
friends in the city are not neglected, nor are these young women found less
attractive because of their special accomplishments.
While it is not true that all girls should go to college any more than

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that all boys should go, it is nevertheless true that they should go in greater
numbers than at present. They fail to go because they, their parents and
their teachers, do not see clearly the personal benefits distinct from the
commercial value of a college training. I wish here to discuss these
benefits, these larger gifts of the college life,--what they may be, and for
whom they are waiting.
It is undoubtedly true that many girls are totally unfitted by home and
school life for a valuable college course. These joys and successes, these
high interests and friendships, are not for the self-conscious and nervous
invalid, nor for her who in the exuberance of youth recklessly ignores the
laws of a healthy life. The good society of scholars and of libraries and
laboratories has no place and no attraction for her who finds no message in
Plato, no beauty in mathematical order, and who never longs to know the
meaning of the stars over her head or the flowers under her feet. Neither
will the finer opportunities of college life appeal to one who, until she is
eighteen (is there such a girl in this country?), has felt no passion for the
service of others, no desire to know if through history or philosophy, or
any study of the laws of society, she can learn why the world is so sad, so
hard, so selfish as she finds it, even when she looks upon it from the most
sheltered life. No, the college cannot be, should not try to be, a substitute
for the hospital, reformatory or kindergarten. To do its best work it should
be organized for the strong, not for the weak; for the high-minded, selfcontrolled, generous, and courageous spirits, not for the indifferent, the
dull, the idle, or those who are already forming their characters on the
amusement theory of life. All these perverted young people may, and often
do, get large benefit and invigoration, new ideals, and unselfish purposes
from their four years' companionship with teachers and comrades of a
higher physical, mental, and moral stature than their own. I have seen girls
change so much in college that I have wondered if their friends at home
would know them,--the voice, the carriage, the unconscious manner, all
telling a story of new tastes and habits and loves and interests, that had
wrought out in very truth a new creature. Yet in spite of this I have
sometimes thought that in college more than elsewhere the old law holds,
"To him that hath shall be given and he shall have abundance, but from

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him who hath not shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to
have." For it is the young life which is open and prepared to receive which
obtains the gracious and uplifting influences of college days. What, then,
for such persons are the rich and abiding rewards of study in college or
university?
Pre-eminently the college is a place of education. That is the ground of
its being. We go to college to know, assured that knowledge is sweet and
powerful, that a good education emancipates the mind and makes us
citizens of the world. No college which does not thoroughly educate can
be called good, no matter what else it does. No student who fails to get a
little knowledge on many subjects, and much knowledge on some, can be
said to have succeeded, whatever other advantages she may have found by
the way. It is a beautiful and significant fact that in all times the years of
learning have been also the years of romance. Those who love girls and
boys pray that our colleges may be homes of sound learning, for
knowledge is the condition of every college blessing. "Let no man
incapable of mathematics enter here," Plato is reported to have inscribed
over his Academy door. "Let no one to whom hard study is repulsive hope
for anything from us," American colleges might paraphrase. Accordingly
in my talk today I shall say little of the direct benefits of knowledge which
the college affords. These may be assumed. It is on their account that one
knocks at the college door. But seeking this first, a good many other things
are added. I want to point out some of these collateral advantages of going
to college, or rather to draw attention to some of the many forms in which
the winning of knowledge presents itself.
The first of these is happiness. Everybody wants "a good time,"
especially every girl in her teens. A good time, it is true, does not always
in these years mean what it will mean by and by, any more than the girl of
eighteen plays with the doll which entranced the child of eight. It takes
some time to discover that work is the best sort of play, and some people
never discover it at all. But when mothers ask such questions as these:
"How can I make my daughter happy?" "How can I give her the best
society?" "How can she have a good time?" the answer in most cases is
simple. Send her to college,--to almost any college. Send her because there

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is no other place where between eighteen and twenty-two she is so likely
to have a genuinely good time. Merely for good times, for romance, for
society, college life offers unequalled opportunities. Of course no idle
person can possibly be happy, even for a day, nor she who makes a
business of trying to amuse herself. For full happiness, though its springs
are within, we want health and friends and work and objects of aspiration.
"We live by admiration, hope, and love," says Wordsworth. The college
abounds in all three. In the college time new powers are sprouting, and
intelligence, merriment, truthfulness and generosity are more natural than
the opposite qualities often become in later years. An exhilarating
atmosphere pervades the place. We who are in it all the time feel that we
live at the fountain of perpetual youth, and those who take but a four years'
bath in it become more cheerful, strong, and full of promise than they are
ever likely to find themselves again; for a college is a kind of compendium
of the things that most men long for. It is usually planted in a beautiful
spot, the charm of trees and water being added to stately buildings and
stimulating works of art. Venerable associations of the past hallow its halls.
Leaders in the stirring world of to-day return at each commencement to
share the fresh life of the new class. Books, pictures, music, collections,
appliances in every field, learned teachers, mirthful friends, athletics for
holidays, the best words of the best men for holy days,--all are here. No
wonder that men look back upon their college life as upon halcyon days,
the romantic period of youth. No wonder that Dr. Holmes's poems to his
Harvard classmates find an echo in college reunions everywhere; and
gray-haired men, who outside the narrowing circle of home have not heard
their first names for years, remain Bill and Joe and John and George to
college comrades, even if unseen for more than a generation.
Yet a girl should go to college not merely to obtain four happy years
but to make a second gain, which is often overlooked, and is little
understood even when perceived; I mean a gain in health. The old notion
that low vitality is a matter of course with women; that to be delicate is a
mark of superior refinement, especially in well-to-do families; that
sickness is a dispensation of Providence,--these notions meet with no
acceptance in college. Years ago I saw in the mirror frame of a college

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freshman's room this little formula: "Sickness is carelessness, carelessness
is selfishness, and selfishness is sin." And I have often noticed among
college girls an air of humiliation and shame when obliged to confess a
lack of physical vigor, as if they were convicted of managing life with bad
judgment, or of some moral delinquency. With the spreading scientific
conviction that health is a matter largely under each person's control, that
even inherited tendencies to disease need not be allowed to run their
riotous course unchecked, there comes an earnest purpose to be strong and
free. Fascinating fields of knowledge are waiting to be explored;
possibilities of doing, as well as of knowing, are on every side; new and
dear friendships enlarge and sweeten dreams of future study and work, and
the young student cannot afford quivering nerves or small lungs or an
aching head any more than bad taste, rough manners, or a weak will.
Handicapped by inheritance or bad training, she finds the plan of college
life itself her supporter and friend. The steady, long-continued routine of
mental work, physical exercise, recreation, and sleep, the simple and
wholesome food, in place of irregular and unstudied diet, work out
salvation for her. Instead of being left to go out-of-doors when she feels
like it, the regular training of the gymnasium, the boats on lake and river,
the tennis court, the golf links, the basket ball, the bicycle, the long walk
among the woods in search of botanical or geological specimens,--all
these and many more call to the busy student, until she realizes that they
have their rightful place in every well-ordered day of every month. So she
learns, little by little, that buoyant health is a precious possession to be
won and kept.
It is significant that already statistical investigation in this country and
in England shows that the standard of health is higher among the women
who hold college degrees than among any other equal number of the same
age and class. And it is interesting also to observe to what sort of questions
our recent girl graduates have been inclined to devote attention. They have
been largely the neglected problems of little children and their health, of
home sanitation, of food and its choice and preparation, of domestic
service, of the cleanliness of schools and public buildings. Colleges for
girls are pledged by their very constitution to make persistent war on the

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water cure, the nervine retreat, the insane asylum, the hospital,--those
bitter fruits of the emotional lives of thousands of women. "I can never
afford a sick headache again, life is so interesting and there is so much to
do," a delicate girl said to me at the end of her first college year. And
while her mother was in a far-off invalid retreat, she undertook the battle
against fate with the same intelligence and courage which she put into her
calculus problems and her translations of Sophocles. Her beautiful home
and her rosy and happy children prove the measure of her hard-won
success. Formerly the majority of physicians had but one question for the
mother of the nervous and delicate girl, "Does she go to school?" And only
one prescription, "Take her out of school." Never a suggestion as to
suppers of pickles and pound-cake, never a hint about midnight dancing
and hurried day-time ways. But now the sensible doctor asks, "What are
her interests? What are her tastes? What are her habits?" And he finds new
interests for her, and urges the formation of out-of-door tastes and steady
occupation for the mind, in order to draw the morbid girl from herself into
the invigorating world outside. This the college does largely through its
third gift of friendship.
Until a girl goes away from home to school or college, her friends are
chiefly chosen for her by circumstances. Her young relatives, her
neighbors in the same street, those who happen to go to the same school or
church,--these she makes her girlish intimates. She goes to college with
the entire conviction, half unknown to herself, that her father's political
party contains all the honest men, her mother's social circle all the true
ladies, her church all the real saints of the community. And the smaller the
town, the more absolute is her belief. But in college she finds that the girl
who earned her scholarship in the village school sits beside the banker's
daughter; the New England farmer's child rooms next the heiress of a
Hawaiian sugar plantation; the daughters of the opposing candidates in a
sharply fought election have grown great friends in college boats and
laboratories; and before her diploma is won she realizes how much richer
a world she lives in than she ever dreamed of at home. The wealth that lies
in differences has dawned upon her vision. It is only when the rich and
poor sit down together that either can understand how the Lord is the

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Maker of them all.
To-day above all things we need the influence of men and women of
friendliness, of generous nature, of hospitality to new ideas, in short, of
social imagination. But instead, we find each political party bitterly calling
the other dishonest, each class suspicious of the intentions of the other,
and in social life the pettiest standards of conduct. Is it not well for us that
the colleges all over the country still offer to their fortunate students a
society of the most democratic sort,--one in which a father's money, a
mother's social position, can assure no distinction and make no close
friends? Here capacity of every kind counts for its full value. Here
enthusiasm waits to make heroes of those who can lead. Here charming
manners, noble character, amiable temper, scholarly power, find their full
opportunity and inspire such friendships as are seldom made afterward. I
have forgotten my chemistry, and my classical philology cannot bear
examination; but all round the world there are men and women at work,
my intimates of college days, who have made the wide earth a friendly
place to me. Of every creed, of every party, in far-away places and in near,
the thought of them makes me more courageous in duty and more faithful
to opportunity, though for many years we may not have had time to write
each other a letter. The basis of all valuable and enduring friendships is not
accident or juxtaposition, but tastes, interests, habits, work, ambitions. It is
for this reason that to college friendship clings a romance entirely its own.
One of the friends may spend her days in the laboratory, eagerly chasing
the shy facts that hide beyond the microscope's fine vision, and the other
may fill her hours and her heart with the poets and the philosophers; one
may steadfastly pursue her way toward the command of a hospital, and the
other towards the world of letters and of art; these divergences constitute
no barrier, but rather an aid to the fulness of friendship. And the fact that
one goes in a simple gown which she has earned and made herself, and the
other lives when at home in a merchant's modern palace--what has that to
do with the things the girls care about and the dreams they talk over in the
walk by the river or the bicycle ride through country roads? If any young
man to-day goes through Harvard lonely, neglected, unfriended, if any girl
lives solitary and wretched in her life at Wellesley, it is their own fault. It

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must be because they are suspicious, unfriendly or disagreeable
themselves. Certainly it is true that in the associations of college life, more
than in any other that the country can show, what is extraneous, artificial,
and temporary falls away, and the every-day relations of life and work
take on a character that is simple, natural, genuine. And so it comes about
that the fourth gift of college life is ideals of personal character.
To some people the shaping ideals of what character should be, often
held unconsciously, come from the books they are given by the persons
whom they most admire before they are twenty years old. The greatest
thing any friend or teacher, either in school or college, can do for a student
is to furnish him with a personal ideal. The college professors who
transformed me through my acquaintance with them--ah, they were few,
and I am sure I did not have a dozen conversations with them outside their
class rooms--gave me, each in his different way, an ideal of character, of
conduct, of the scholar, the leader, of which they and I were totally
unconscious at the time. For many years I have known that my study with
them, no matter whether of philosophy or of Greek, of mathematics or
history or English, enlarged my notions of life, uplifted my standards of
culture, and so inspired me with new possibilities of usefulness and of
happiness. Not the facts and theories that I learned so much as the men
who taught me, gave this inspiration. The community at large is right in
saying that it wants the personal influence of professors on students, but it
is wholly wrong in assuming that this precious influence comes from
frequent meetings or talks on miscellaneous subjects. There is quite as
likely to be a quickening force in the somewhat remote and mysterious
power of the teacher who devotes himself to amassing treasures of
scholarship, or to patiently working out the best methods of teaching; who
standing somewhat apart, still remains an ideal of the Christian scholar,
the just, the courteous man or woman. To come under the influence of one
such teacher is enough to make college life worthwhile. A young man who
came to Harvard with eighty cents in his pocket, and worked his way
through, never a high scholar, and now in a business which looks very
commonplace, told me the other day that he would not care to be alive if
he had not gone to college. His face flushed as he explained how different

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his days would have been if he had not known two of his professors. "Do
you use your college studies in your business?" I asked. "Oh, no!" he
answered. "But I am another man in doing the business; and when the
day's work is done I live another life because of my college experiences.
The business and I are both the better for it every day." How many a
young girl has had her whole horizon extended by the changed ideals she
gained in college! Yet this is largely because the associations and studies
there are likely to give her permanent interests--the fifth and perhaps the
greatest gift of college life of which I shall speak.
The old fairy story which charmed us in childhood ended with--"And
they were married and lived happy ever after." It conducted to the altar,
having brought the happy pair through innumerable difficulties, and left us
with the contented sense that all the mistakes and problems would now
vanish and life be one long day of unclouded bliss. I have seen devoted
and intelligent mothers arrange their young daughters' education and
companionships precisely on this basis. They planned as if these pretty
and charming girls were going to live only twenty or twenty-five years at
the utmost, and had consequently no need of the wealthy interests that
should round out the full-grown woman's stature, making her younger in
feeling at forty than at twenty, and more lovely and admired at eighty than
at either.
Emerson in writing of beauty declares that "the secret of ugliness
consists not in irregular outline, but in being uninteresting. We love any
forms, however ugly, from which great qualities shine. If command,
eloquence, art, or invention exists in the most deformed person, all the
accidents that usually displease, please, and raise esteem and wonder
higher. Beauty without grace is the head without the body. Beauty without
expression tires." Of course such considerations can hardly come with full
force to the young girl herself, who feels aged at eighteen, and imagines
that the troubles and problems of life and thought are hers already. "Oh,
tell me to-night," cried a college freshman once to her President, "which is
the right side and which is the wrong side of this Andover question about
eschatology?" The young girl is impatient of open questions, and irritated
at her inability to answer them. Neither can she believe that the first

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headlong zest with which she throws herself into society, athletics, into
everything which comes in her way, can ever fail. But her elders know,
looking on, that our American girl, the commrade of her parents and of her
brothers and their friends, brought up from babyhood in the eager talk of
politics and society, of religious belief, of public action, of social
responsibility--that this typical girl, with her quick sympathies, her clear
head, her warm heart, her outreaching hands, will not permanently be
satisfied or self-respecting, though she have the prettiest dresses and hats
in town, or the most charming of dinners, dances, and teas. Unless there
comes to her, and comes early, the one chief happiness of life,--a marriage
of comradeship,--she must face for herself the question, "What shall I do
with my life?"
I recall a superb girl of twenty as I overtook her one winter morning
hurrying along Commonwealth Avenue. She spoke of a brilliant party at a
friend's the previous evening. "But, oh!" she cried, throwing up her hands
in a kind of hopeless impatience, "tell me what to do. My dancing days are
over!" I laughed at her, "Have you sprained your ankle?" But I saw I had
made a mistake when she added, "It is no laughing matter. I have been out
three years. I have not done what they expected of me," with a flush and a
shrug, "and there is a crowd of nice girls coming on this winter; and
anyway, I am so tired of going to teas and ball-games and assemblies! I
don't care the least in the world for foreign missions, and," with a stamp,
"I am not going slumming among the Italians. I have too much respect for
the Italians. And what shall I do with the rest of my life?" That was a frank
statement of what any girl of brains or conscience feels, with more or less
bitter distinctness, unless she marries early, or has some pressing work for
which she is well trained.
Yet even if that which is the profession of woman par excellence be
hers, how can she be perennially so interesting a companion to her
husband and children as if she had keen personal tastes, long her own, and
growing with her growth? Indeed, in that respect the condition of men is
almost the same as that of women. It would be quite the same were it not
for the fact that a man's business or profession is generally in itself a
means of growth, of education, of dignity. He leans his life against it. He

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builds his home in the shadow of it. It binds his days together in a kind of
natural piety and makes him advance in strength and nobility as he "fulfils
the common round, the daily task." And that is the reason why men in the
past, if they have been honorable men, have grown old better than women.
Men usually retain their ability longer, their mental alertness and
hospitality. They add fine quality to fine quality, passing from strength to
strength and preserving in old age whatever has been best in youth. It was
a sudden recognition of this fact which made a young friend of mine say
last winter, "I am not going to parties any more; the men best worth
talking with are too old to dance."
Even with the help of a permanent business or profession, however,
the most interesting men I know are those who have an avocation as well
as a vocation. I mean a taste or work quite apart from the business of life.
This revives, inspires, and cultivates them perpetually. It matters little
what it is, if only it is real and personal, is large enough to last, and
possesses the power of growth. .A young sea-captain from a New England
village on a long and lonely voyage falls upon a copy of Shelley. Appeal is
made to his fine but untrained mind, and the book of the boy poet becomes
the seaman's university. The wide world of poetry and of the other fine arts
is opened, and the Shelleyian specialist becomes a cultivated, original, and
charming man. A busy merchant loves flowers, and in all his free hours
studies them. Each new spring adds knowledge to his knowledge, and his
friends continually bring him their strange discoveries. With growing
wealth he cultivates rare and beautiful plants, and shares them with his
fortunate acquaintances. Happy the companion invited to a walk or a drive
with such observant eyes, such vivid talk! Because of this cheerful interest
in flowers, and this ingenious skill in dealing with them, the man himself
is interesting. All his powers are alert, and his judgment is valued in public
life and in private business. Or is it more exact to say that because he is
the kind of man who would insist upon having such interests outside his
daily work, he is still fresh and young and capable of growth at an age
when many other men are dull and old and certain that the time of decay is
at hand?
There are two reasons why women need to cultivate these large and

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abiding interests even more persistently than men. In the first place, they
have more leisure. They are indeed the only leisure class in the country,
the only large body of persons who are not called upon to win their daily
bread in direct wage-earning ways. As yet, fortunately, few men among us
have so little self-respect as to idle about our streets and drawing-rooms
because their fathers are rich enough to support them. We are not without
our unemployed poor; but roving tramps and idle clubmen are after all not
of large consequence. Our serious, non-producing classes are chiefly
women. It is the regular ambition of the chivalrous American to make all
the women who depend on him so comfortable that they need do nothing
for themselves. Machinery has taken nearly all the former occupations of
women out of the home into the shop and factory. Widespread wealth and
comfort, and the inherited theory that it is not well for the woman to earn
money so long as father or brothers can support her, have brought about a
condition of things in which there is social danger, unless with the larger
leisure are given high and enduring interests. To health especially there is
great danger, for nothing breaks down a woman's health like idleness and
its resulting ennui. More people, I am sure, are broken down nervously
because they are bored, than because they are overworked; and more still
go to pieces through fussiness, unwholesome living, worry over petty
details, and the daily disappointments which result from small and
superficial training. And then, besides the danger to health, there is the
danger to character. I need not dwell on the undermining influence which
men also feel when occupation is taken away and no absorbing private
interest fills the vacancy. The vices of luxurious city life are perhaps
hardly more destructive to character than is the slow deterioration of
barren country life. Though the conditions in the two cases are exactly
opposite, the trouble is often the same,--absence of noble interests. In the
city restless idleness organizes amusement; in the country deadly dulness
succeeds daily toil.
But there is a second reason why a girl should acquire for herself
strong and worthy interests. The regular occupations of women in their
homes are generally disconnected and of little educational value, at least
as those homes are at present conducted. Given the best will in the world,

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the daily doing of household details becomes a wearisome monotony if the
mere performance of them is all. To make drudgery divine a woman must
have a brain to plan and eyes to see how to "sweep a room as to God's
laws." Imagination and knowledge should be the hourly companions of
her who would make a fine art of each detail in kitchen and nursery. Too
long has the pin been the appropriate symbol of the average woman's life--
the pin, which only temporarily holds together things which may or may
not have any organic connection with one another. While undoubtedly
most women must spend the larger part of life in this modest pin-work,
holding together the little things of home and school and society and
church, it is also true, that cohesive work itself cannot be done well, even
in humble circumstances, except by the refined, the trained, the growing
woman. The smallest village, the plainest home, give ample space for the
resources of the trained college woman. And the reason why such homes
and such villages are so often barren of grace and variety is just because
these fine qualities have not ruled them. The higher graces of civilization
halt among us; dainty and finished ways of living give place to common
ways, while vulgar tastes, slatternly habits, clouds and despondency reign
in the house. Little children under five years of age die in needless
thousands because of the dull, unimaginative women on whom they
depend. Such women have been satisfied with just getting along, instead
of packing everything they do with brains, instead of studying the best
possible way of doing everything small or large; for there is always a best
way, whether of setting a table, of trimming a hat, or teaching a child to
read. And this taste for perfection can be cultivated; indeed, it must be
cultivated, if our standards of living are to be raised. There is now
scientific knowledge enough, there is money enough, to prevent the vast
majority of the evils which afflict our social organism, if mere knowledge
or wealth could avail; but the greater difficulty is to make intelligence,
character, good taste, unselfishness prevail.
What, then, are the interests which powerfully appeal to mind and
heart, and so are fitted to become the strengthening companions of a
woman's life? I shall mention only three, all of them such as are
elaborately fostered by college life. The first is the love of great literature.

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I do not mean that use of books by which a man may get what is called a
good education and so be better qualified for the battle of life, nor do I
mention books in their character as reservoirs of knowledge, books which
we need for special purposes, and which are no longer of consequence
when our purpose with them is served. I have in mind the great books,
especially the great poets, books to be adopted as a resource and a solace.
The chief reason why so many people do not know how to make comrades
of such books is because they have come to them too late. We have in this
country enormous numbers of readers, probably a larger number who read,
and who read many hours in the week, than has ever been known
elsewhere in the world. But what do these millions read besides the
newspapers? Possibly a denominational religious weekly and another
journal of fashion or business. Then come the thousands who read the best
magazines, and whatever else is for the moment popular in novels and
poetry-- the last dialect story, the fashionable poem, the questionable but
talked-of novel. Let a violent attack be made on the decency of a new
story and instantly, if only it is clever, its author becomes famous.
But the fashions in reading of a restless race--the women too idle, the
men too heavily worked--I will not discuss here. Let light literature be
devourered by our populace as his drug is taken by the opium-eater, and
with a similar narcotic effect. We can only seek out the children, and hope
by giving them from babyhood bits of the noblest literature, to prepare
them for the great opportunities of mature life. I urge, therefore, reading as
a mental stimulus, as a solace in trouble, a perpetual source of delight; and
I would point out that we must not delay to make the great friendships that
await us on the library shelves until sickness shuts the door on the outer
world, or death enters the home and silences the voices that once helped to
make these friendships sweet. If Homer and Shakespeare and Wordsworth
and Browning are to have meaning for us when we need them most, it will
be because they come to us as old familiar friends whose influences have
permeated the glad and busy days before. The last time I heard James
Russell Lowell talk to college girls, he said,--for he was too ill to say
many words--"I have only this one message to leave with you. In all your
work in college never lose sight of the reason why you have come here. It

WHY GO TO COLLEGE?
16
is not that you may get something by which to earn your bread, but that
every mouthful of bread may be the sweeter to your taste."
And this is the power possessed by the mighty dead,--men of every
time and nation, whose voices death cannot silence, who are waiting even
at the poor man's elbow, whose illuminating words may be had for the
price of a day's work in the kitchen or the street, for lack of love of whom
many a luxurious home is a dull and solitary spot, breeding misery and
vice. Now the modern college is especially equipped to introduce its
students to such literature. The library is at last understood to be the heart
of the college. The modern librarian is not the keeper of books, as was his
predecessor, but the distributer of them, and the guide to their resources,
proud when he increases the use of his treasures. Every language, ancient
or modern, which contains a literature is now taught in college. Its history
is examined, its philology, its masterpieces, and more than ever is English
literature studied and loved. There is now every opportunity for the
college student to become an expert in the use of his own tongue and pen.
What other men painfully strive for he can enjoy to the full with
comparatively little effort.
But there is a second invigorating interest to which college training
introduces its student. I mean the study of nature, intimacy with the
strange and beautiful world in which we live. "Nature never did betray the
heart that loved her," sang her poet high priest. When the world has been
too much with us, nothing else is so refreshing to tired eyes and mind as
woods and water, and an intelligent knowledge of the life within them. For
a generation past there has been a well-nigh universal turning of the
population toward the cities. In 1840 only nine per cent of our people lived
in cities of 8,000 inhabitants or more. Now more than a third of us are
found in cities. But the electric-car, the telephone, the bicycle, still keep
avenues to the country open. Certain it is that city people feel a growing
hunger for the country, particularly when grass begins to grow. This is a
healthy taste, and must increase the general knowledge and love of nature.
Fortunate are the little children in those schools whose teachers know and
love the world in which they live. Their young eyes are early opened to the
beauty of birds and trees and plants. Not only should we expect our girls

WHY GO TO COLLEGE?
17
to have a feeling for the fine sunset or the wide-reaching panorama of field
and water, but to know something also about the less obvious aspects of
nature, its structure, its methods of work, and the endless diversity of its
parts. No one can have read Matthew Arnold's letters to his wife, his
mother, and his sister, without being struck by the immense enjoyment he
took throughout his singularly simple and hard-working life in flowers and
trees and rivers. The English lake country had given him this happy
inheritance, with everywhere its sound of running water and its wealth of
greenery. There is a close connection between the marvellous unbroken
line of English song, and the passionate love of the Englishman for a home
in the midst of birds, trees, and green fields.
"The world is so full of a number of things, That I think we should all
be as happy as kings,"
is the opinion of everybody who knows nature as did Robert Louis
Stevenson. And so our college student may begin to know it. Let her enter
the laboratories and investigate for herself. Let her make her delicate
experiments with the blowpipe or the balance; let her track mysterious life
from one hiding-place to another; let her "name all the birds without a
gun," and make intimates of flower and fish and butterfly--and she is dull
indeed if breezy tastes do not follow her through life, and forbid any of her
days to be empty of intelligent enjoyment. "Keep your years beautiful;
make your own atmosphere," was the parting advice of my college
president, himself a living illustration of what he said.
But it is a short step from the love of the complex and engaging world
in which we live to the love of our comrades in it. Accordingly the third
precious interest to be cultivated by the college student is an interest in
people. The scholar today is not a being who dwells apart in his cloister,
the monk's successor; he is a leader of the thoughts and conduct of men.
So the new subjects which stand beside the classics and mathematics of
medieval culture are history, economics, ethics, and sociology. Although
these subjects are as yet merely in the making, thousands of students are
flocking to their investigation, and are going out to try their tentative
knowledge in College Settlements and City Missions and Children's Aid
Societies. The best instincts of generous youth are becoming enlisted in

WHY GO TO COLLEGE?
18
these living themes. And why should our daughters remain aloof from the
most absorbing work of modern city life, work quite as fascinating to
young women as to young men? During many years of listening to college
sermons and public lectures in Wellesley, I always noticed a quickened
attention in the audience whenever the discussion touched politics or
theology. These are, after all, the permanent and peremptory interests, and
they should be given their full place in a healthy and vigorous life.
But if that life includes a love of books, of nature, of people, it will
naturally turn to enlarged conceptions of religion--my sixth and last gift of
college life. In his first sermon as Master of Balliol College, Dr. Jowett
spoke of the college, "First as a place of education, secondly as a place of
society, thirdly as a place of religion." He observed that "men of very great
ability often fail in life because they are unable to play their part with
effect. They are shy, awkward, self-conscious, deficient in manners, faults
which are as ruinous as vices." The supreme end of college training, he
said, "is usefulness in after life." Similarly, when the city of Cambridge
celebrated in Harvard's Memorial Hall the life and death of the gallant
young ex-governor of Massachusetts, William E. Russell, men did well to
hang above his portrait some wise words he has lately said, "Never forget
the everlasting difference between making a living and making a life."
That he himself never forgot; and it was well to remind citizens and
students of it, as they stood there facing too the ancient words all Harvard
men face when they take their college degrees and go out into the world,
"They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they
that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." Good
words these to go out from college with. The girls of Wellesley gather
every morning at chapel to bow their heads together for a moment before
they scatter among the libraries and lecture-rooms and begin the
experiments of the new day. And always their college motto meets the
eyes that are raised to its penetrating message, "Not to be ministered unto,
but to minister." How many a young heart has loyally responded, "And to
give life a ransom for many." That is the "Wellesley spirit;" and the same
sweet spirit of devout service has gone forth from all our college halls. In
any of them one may catch the echo of Whittier's noble psalm,--

WHY GO TO COLLEGE?
19
"O Lord and Master of us all Whate'er our name or sign, We own Thy
sway, we hear Thy call, We test our lives by Thine."
That is the supreme test of life,--its consecrated serviceableness. The
Master of Balliol was right; the brave men and women who founded our
schools and colleges were not wrong. "For Christ and the Church"
universities were set up in the wilderness of New England; for the large
service of the State they have been founded and maintained at public cost
in every section of the country where men have settled, from the
Alleghanies across the prairies and Rocky Mountains down to the Golden
Gate. Founded primarily as seats of learning, their techers have been not
only scientists and linguists, philosophers and historians, but men and
women of holy purposes, sound patriotism, courageous convictions,
refined and noble tastes. Set as these teachers have been upon a hill, their
light has at no period of our country's history been hid. They have formed
a large factor in our civilization, and in their own beautiful characters have
continually shown us how to combine religion and life, the ideal and
practical, the human and the divine.
Such are some of the larger influences to be had from college life. It is
true all the good gifts I have named may be secured without the aid of the
college. We all know young men and women who have had no college
training, who are as cultivated, rational, resourceful, and happy as any
people we know, who excel in every one of these particulars the college
graduates about them. I believe they often bitterly regret the lack of a
college education. And we see young men and women going through
college deaf and blind to their great chances there, and afterwards
curiously careless and wasteful of the best things in life. While all this is
true, it is true too that to the open-minded and ambitious boy or girl of
moderate health, ability, self-control, and studiousness, a college course
offers the most attractive, easy, and probable way of securing happiness
and health, good friends and high ideals, permanent interests of a noble
kind, and large capacity for usefulness in the world. It has been well said
that the ability to see great things large and little things small is the final
test of education. The foes of life, especially of women's lives, are caprice,
wearisome incapacity and petty judgments. From these oppressive foes we

WHY GO TO COLLEGE?
20
long to escape to the rule of right reason, where all things are possible, and
life becomes a glory instead of a grind. No college, with the best teachers
and collections in the world, can by its own power impart all this to any
woman. But if one has set her face in that direction, where else can she
find so many hands reached out to help, so many encouraging voices in
the air, so many favoring influences filling the days and nights?

 

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