Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

or less extent have resulted in an accumulation of facts that are of great value in determining the expediency of this method of intel. lectual discipline. Regarding the worth of this system, educators hold theories most diverse. These theories are, of course, of use,in cases, of the most abundant use; but they are of comparatively small use in respect to those points of inquiry in which actual experience has proved either their narrowness or their superiority. The system of co-education was introduced into the University of Michigan after a period of thirty years in which this justly famous institution had devoted itself to the training of young men exclusively. Before reaching the decision of opening its doors to young women, it sought advice from the most distinguished educators. Several of the opinions thus evoked were of those who had made no trial of co-education, and their opinions were, with scarcely an exception, antagonistic to the movement. Some said it would be “demoralizing"; some feared it would result in a “corruption of manners and morals”; some argued that “the delicacy of female character would be destroyed ”; some apprehended serious weakening of the health of female students. But the doors were opened. The experiment was tried. For more than a decade the system has been pursued, and none of these evils that were prophesied have occurred as the result of co-education.

A reason for co-education that might be urged in advance of any trial of the system, and yet one which practice has found to be valid, is its economy of means and forces. A professor can lecture to a hundred as well as to fifty students. Libraries and laboratories once established can be used by a larger nnmber without a correspondingly larger expense. It is this fact of economy to which President Eliot refers when, in expressing his opinion that young men and women from fifteen to twenty years of age are not "best educated in intimate association,” he yet acknowledges that this “method may nevertheless be justifiable in a community which cannot afford anything better.”

Not seldom is it asserted that colleges educate their students away from and above the life which the majority will be obliged to follow. Without acknowledging the truth of the remark, it is yet clear that there is less peril of this result under the method of co-education. For students are thus kept citizens of a collegiate world which is more similar to the active world in which, after graduation, they will live. The testimony of President Fairchild of Oberlin College upon this point, as upon all points regarding co-education, is of great worth, He writes :

“ It can hardly be doubted that young people educated under such conditions are kept in harmony with society at large, and are prepared to appreciate the responsibilities of life, and to enter upon its work. They will not lack sympathy with the popular feeling, or an apprehension of the common interests. They are naturally educated in relation with the work of life, and will not require a readjustment. This seems a matter of grave importance, and we can scarcely be mistaken as to the happy results attained. If we are not utterly deceived by our position, our students naturally and readily find their work in the work in the world, because they have been trained in sympathy with the world." :

The question of the health of women who pursue a course of study on the same terms as men is of extreme importance. The argument of Dr. Edward H. Clarke in his Sex in Education; or, a Fair Chance for the Girls, would tend to show the inexpediency of subjecting women to that method of intellectual training, which men pursue. But testimonies collected from many institutions in which the method has had a long and fair trial form the strongest evidence for a contrary conclusion.

In 1882 the President of Oberlin College writes as follows:

“Our impression has been, from a general observation of the facts, that our young women endure the strain of a course of study as well as the young men ; i.e., where they have had the same or equal preparation. In the case of young women who come into the advanced literary and philosophical studies of the course, without the full discipline of previous classiccal study, there are indications of nervous anxiety at times, which is undesirable and unwholesome. Hitherto, our arrangement of courses has brought young women into these advanced classes under this disadvantage. They have held their place in scholarship, but not always in health. My personal opinion is that the apprehension of failure in the classroom takes a stronger hold upon young women than young men. The young women are in general very sensitive about falling behind." ;

President Angell of Michigan University bore the following explicit and comprehensive testimony: “Women have been here since 1870, and have done every kind of work successfully and without injury to character or health.” 3

Professor Lee of St. Lawrence University writes, in 1882:

“Our College has been in operation for seventeen years. The propor-tion of male and female students has been about as two to one, -that is, one-third ladies.

1 Orton's Liberal Education of Women, p. 245. 2 EDUCATION, Vol. III., No. 5, p. 506.

8 Ibid., p. 509.

“Their mental and physical condition when they entered was about the same as other young ladies of the same age and social position, though probably in most cases a little better. Their health had generally been good, and their mental training not very systematic or extensive. On entering college they are put down to hard and systematic work, and kept so all through the four years' course.

“Their health has generally improved during their college course. There have been exceptions, but these have been few. Systematic study has tended to improve their health. We have had but one death among the lady students while they were connected with the college, and very little sickness. At the close of their college course they have appeared healthy and robust, and have entered upon their work of teaching or other occupations requiring mental exertion, with every prospect of holding cut well, also, as to scholarship and in the higher branches.—as Latin, Greek, political economy, the calculus, mental and moral philosophy,-have ranked as high as the gentlemen, and in some cases higher.

"I cannot say that there is any great difference in the effect of study and exercise upon the male and female students. Neither seem to be injured at all by continuous study. Both are made stronger in body and mind. I may also add that the mental occupations upon which our graduates enter after leaving our college tend to increase the strength and activity of body and mind of the lady students.” 1

President Bascom of University of Wisconsin, after making a thorough study of this question, thus writes in a recent report:

“Though my conviction has been, previous to the report, that the health of the young women, as a whole, was better than that of the young men, and that there were striking instances of graduation with robust strength, I am striving to test this opinion by facts, so far with the following results. All excuses for ill-health are given by me. The exact number of students in our collegiate and dependent courses is 357. Of this number 93 are young women, ,-a trifle more than one-quarter. During the past eight weeks, the most trying weeks in the year for students, there have been 155 days of absence from ill-health on the part of young men, and 18 on the part of young women. The young women should have lost, according to their numbers, 54 days, or three times as many as they have actually lost. The :students were not aware that any such registration was being made. It may be felt that the young men are less conscientious in pleading ill-health than the young women, and this is doubtless true ; but I sharply question a young man, and rarely ask any questions of a young women. I explain the facts in this way. The young men are not accustomed to confinement, and though sun-browned and apparently robust, they do not endure the violent transition as well as women. Study is more congenial to the habits of young women, and the visiting committee are certainly mistaken in supposing that they have to work harder in accomplishing their tasks. The reverse is true. In addition to the above bill of ill-health against the young men, a correspondingly large number of them have been compelled, from the same cause, to leave the University altogether.

1 Ibid., p. 506.

“A second showing of the registration, which I had not contemplated, but one very interesting, is this : the absences of the young women are almost exclusively in the lower classes. Of the eighteen, two are in the Sub-Freshman, fourteen in the Freshman, one in the Sophomore, one in the Junior, and none in the Senior. The absences of the young men are evenly distributed, on the other hand, through the entire course. women do not, then, seem to deteriorate with us in health, but quite the opposite. I do not belong to the number of those who set lightly by health, - I would not sacrifice any measure of it for scholarship; but it has long seemed to me plain that a young woman who withdraws herself from society and gives herself judiciously to a college course is far better circumstanced in reference to health than the great majority of her sex." ;

The young

These testimonies might be multiplied, but sufficient have been adduced to prove that women entering college as well fitted as men, under conditions as favorable to the preservation of health as those under which men are placed, graduate with constitutions as vigorous as those of the men. Indeed, the evidence indicates that the physical vigor of women constantly increases throughout the college course. The scholarship of the women, moreover, is excellent. They maintain at least as high a rank as their brother-students. The fear that their admission would lower the scholastic dividends has proved to be utterly without foundation. In the public schools it is generally acknowledged that girls are better scholars than boys. The same relative standing continues in the college. It is, however, to be said that the natural ability of the young women is probably higher than that of the young men; for only the women of intellectual natures seek a collegiate training, and young men of all grades of ability go, or are driven, to college. In reference to this question of scholsrship President White of Cornell University wrote at a time when, under the proposed opening of that University to women. he was studying the system of co-education in other colleges :

“If it be said that the presence of women will tend to lower the standard of scholarship, or at all events to keep the Faculty from steadily raising it, it may be answered at once that all the facts observed are in opposition to this view. The letters received by the Committee, and their own recent observations in the class-rooms, show beyond a doubt that the young women are at least equals of the young men in collegiate studies. As already stated, the best Greek scholar among the thirteen hundred students of the University of Michigan, a few years since, the best mathematical scholar in one of the largest classes of that institution to-day, and several among the highest in natural science and in the general courses of study, are young women.

1 Ibid. quoted, p. 509-10.

“It has been argued that the want of accuracy and point, the sloppiness' of much of the scholarship in some of the never colleges, is due to the admission of women. The facts observed by the Committee seem to prove that this argument is based on the mistake of concomitancy for cause. If 'sloppiness' and want of point are inadmissible anywhere, it is in translation from the more vigorous and concise ancient and modern authors. Now, the most concise and vigorous rendering from the most concise and vigorous of all, -Tacitus himself, -was given by a young lady at Oberlin College. Nor did the Committee notice any better work in the most difficult of the great modern languages than that of some young women at Antioch College.”

The long and varied experience of the president of Oberlin College is in the line of President White's observation. Dr. Fairchild remarks :

“We find no difference in ability to maintain themselves (women students) in the recitation-room. Under the circumstances, I shall be excused for referring to my own individual experience, which has been somewhat varied. The first eight years of my work as a teacher was in the department of the ancient languages,-Latin, Greek, and Hebrew,—the next eleven in mathematics, abstract and applied; the last eight in philosophical and ethical studies. In all these studies my classes have included young women as well as young men, and I have never observed any

difference between them in performance in the recitation. The strong and the weak scholars are equally distributed between the sexes.

“In this statement I do not imply that I see no difference between the normal male and female mind as to taste for particular studies. I have no doubt of the existence of such differences ; but they do not appear in the the ability as pupils to comprehend and express the truth. A few days since, on a visit to the University of Michigan, I attended a recitation in Thucydides. So far as could be judged from a single exercise, in which there were many excellent performances, the daughter of the Professor of Greek, the only young lady under the wing of the University, led the class. But it did not strike me as an anomaly; I had often seen such things.”

President Edward Orton, of Antioch College, bears similar testimony:

“As to the intellectual result of co-education, I have seen nothing to warrant the belief that the general average of scholarship is lowered by it.

« AnteriorContinuar »