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President Coffman, of the University of Minnesota, makes a statement which perhaps represents with considerable justice the present attitude toward the tests:
I would not for a minute speak disrespectfully of intelligence testing, but those who are the members of this cult have in some instances claimed that, by a series of intelligence tests, it is possible for them to determine in a few minutes of time what students can profit by a university and even what vocation they should follow.
The conclusion stated, somewhat humorously, is that because of innate perversity or obstinacy of mind many of us are not entirely convinced. The use of psychological tests for purposes of sectioning is admitted generally, however, to be of value, even though the ability of the test to avoid injustice to the individual is not admitted. The test makes no or insufficient allowance for extraordinary ambition and industry. Students who would be excluded upon the basis of a psychological test, if this were the method of determining admission to college, have, under the restricted application of the test to sectioning, an opportunity to overcome poor records upon the test by means of extra effort. If the test has been wrong in rating them, the injustice can be repaired. In general, educators appear to feel that the psychological test can not yet be trusted to determine the limits of educability and kind of educability, yet its usefulness is admitted, even by sober-minded men who are not carried away by a new experimental process.
One of the charges brought against colleges and universities is that they are overorganized. A multiplicity of schools, of departments, and of courses offered are of necessity confusing to the immature student. He comes from an institution where his work has been very largely prescribed and almost altogether carried on under the immediate direction of his instructors. When he finds his new institution made up of a number of schools which bid more or less independently for his patronage, and of an even larger series of departments magnifying the worth and importance of their subjects, it is a difficult problem for a freshman to understand the relationship existing between the bodies of knowledge which these schools and departments represent. He is likely to go through college with the idea that the department or school which he chooses upon ground of initial interest or personal suggestion represents the whole or nearly the whole body of knowledge required of an educated man.
To overcome the difficulties of the student and to mitigate the effects of departmental mindedness, as distinguished in the phrase of Dr. R. L. Kelley, from curriculum mindedness, institutions have followed the lead of Columbia University in offering special orientation courses for freshmen. Just as freshman week is intended to orient the student in his new administrative and social environment, the orientation course is intended to orient him in the fields of knowledge which are spread before him in the college curricula. The orientation course is intended to unify the material of the curriculum; to constitute what may be called, following the terminology of vocational education, a pre-educational course. More specifically, it is intended to train the student to think and to introduce him to a general survey of the nature of the world and of man. Committee G of the American Association of University Professors has issued a study of such courses offered by Amherst, Antioch, Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, Leland Stanford, Missouri, Princeton, Rutgers, and Williams.
One institution at least, Reed College, has carried this idea further; the college course is intended as an orientation one, but orientation in life rather than in college is sought. Of course, colleges have always made the claim that this was their purpose. Reed seems to have attacked the problem from a somewhat fresh standpoint and without the restraints of traditional organization. The criticism so frequently directed against the colleges, that the attitude of instruction is chronological rather than functional, applies in many cases to the work of the orientation courses. Even at Reed, for instance, the first two years of work are directed to providing an historical background. This method of approach is also the one frequently adopted by the freshmen orientation courses. Historical interest usually develops in a student only after a considerable body of information has been accumulated with no or little chronological unification. Desire to unify and coordinate through the agency of time or logical classification is a comparatively late development. The filing system comes after accumulation of correspondence. Although it may require a high order of genius to relate instruction material to the familiar life of the entering college student, some element of such relationship is always introduced by good teachers. In this way only can reality be given to knowledge and intellectual attainments. The present orientation courses, excellent as they are under the limitations of chronological approach, might be greatly strengthened if more systematically and consciously related to student experience.
The attitude of college and university administrations indicated by class sectioning and orientation courses implies changed methods in the later part of the college course. Measures of the kind already described are in large part preliminary to meeting other general criticisms of college work. It is charged that the colleges do not
develop a high type of scholarship. The Phi Beta Kappa Society of the upper Hudson has been sending out speakers to talk to college students about scholarship, since it is maintained that they have very little opportunity to hear about scholarship and great opportunity to hear about athletics and money-making. It is charged that the processes of college are machinelike and that under the formal standards set up education tends to become more interested in meeting formal standards than in education itself. It is asserted that the work of the regional and national standardizing agencies contributes to destruction of individual aims and institutional character.
In the attempt to meet these and similar criticisms institutions have during the biennium considered carefully matters of curriculum revision, and watched with interest surveys of special fields of instruction such as those conducted by the American Classical League, Modern Language Association, and the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education. They have even begun to plan to take definite steps toward the development of better college teaching. Systems of providing special honors and distinctions to induce interest on the part of students in scholarship and in work have made considerable growth. More striking, perhaps, than any of these attempts is the development of honors courses and the tendency to recognize the value of comprehensive examinations. Each of these measures is worthy of consideration. Comment upon proposals with reference to improvement and economy in graduate work will also be discussed before turning to problems of social and college life.
It seems to be generally accepted that it is the function of the college to train the common citizen. If this is true, too much laboratory work, too much research, too much methodology and technique may develop in a college a kind of training which defeats the purpose. What the general run of students need is content material useful in common life, and instruction whose aim is presentation of information in a way that will develop intelligence and a judicial spirit in matters of ordinary experience. In other words, the curriculum should prepare the student to function in the life that he will live after he leaves college. Colleges have always maintained, perhaps, that these were the purposes of their work. The most common method which has been adopted to insure a reasonable unity and relationship between the several subjects studied by a student, and to insure that his course contains all those elements which should enter into the educated consciousness of the common man, has been the grouping of subjects as a guide for the student in the construction of his curriculum. Grouping of subjects has not been very strictly observed, however, either by students or by the colleges, and little functional unification has resulted. It is still possible for the student to take chemistry without arriving at an understanding of the scientific method. He may still specialize to an extent that leaves him after college an uneducated man in the sense that his knowledge is unrelated to large areas of human activity and interest.
In this connection several interesting experiments have been made which give students or a committee of students an opportunity to suggest curriculum changes. In the second semester of 1923 Vassar organized a student curriculum committee whose work continued in 1924, and its suggestions have been regarded by the faculty as of real value. The students of the College of the City of New York have worked seriously upon this college administrative problem, and their suggestions are of interest in that they appear to indicate that students themselves feel the need for simplification, high standards of scholarship, and what used to be known as an “ all-round” education. They recommended that extra credits for high marks be dropped, that Latin and Greek be reduced to the status of electives, that the third-year language requirement for the A. B. degree be abolished, that the language requirement for the social science degree be increased, that required military training be abolished, and that final examinations for “A” students be eliminated. Their suggestion that the requirements for the bachelor of science degree include one year each of psychology, philosophy, English literature, and the history of science, indicates that they recognize the undesirability of too great specialization. They also recognize the basic place of good health in any educational program by the proposal that recreation activities be required of upper classmen as well as of lower.
An important suggestion, which would imply rather thoroughgoing revision of present curriculum practices, is that instruction be developed functionally upon the basis of student grouping in accordance with their dominant interests. The growth of international study groups among college students upon a noncredit basis would seem to point to a certain degree of utility and practicality in this proposal. Voluntary clubs formed to study international relations exist in 85 or 90 colleges. The Institute of International Education, which is largely responsible for this devolopment, has proposed that orientation courses in foreign relations be developed as a result of this work, but study of this kind is more closely related to the proposal to develop functional credit courses upon the basis of group interest, than to the orientation idea. International relations is but one of many subjects of interest to which students in groups of considerable size are willing to give time and work. The possible value to formulation of college work of such mental initiative on the part of students is undoubtedly worthy of further thought, but administrative and practical difficulties are so obvious that outside the range covered by free electives, colleges will probably find adoption of the plan inapplicable.
An outstanding and courageous attempt to free the traditional curriculum from some of the old standards has been made by the University of Delaware. This plan contemplates that a group of junior students shall study a year abroad and receive credit at Delaware for the work done France is selected as the place for the first experiment. Students, under the direction of a member of the resident faculty of the university, leave the United States in July and remain until July of the following year. They follow a very intensive course of language study in France and take up residence at one of the French universities. Each student lives while in residence in a French family, so that French must be spoken.
President Hullihen reports that the greatest obstacle to the plan has been the credit difficulty. Foreign courses do not exactly correspond to work in America. It would seem that the careful restrictions placed upon students to insure that they have the benefits of real study, real language work, and travel under most advantageous conditions for acquisition of knowledge should justify acceptance of a year of such work as the equivalent of nine months' residence in an American institution. The fact that this is not the case seems to bear out the charge that interest in units of credit rather than in education is one of the characteristics of American colleges and universities.
Delaware has adopted, in addition to careful planning and supervision of the work abroad, two important methods and safeguards to avoid criticism which may arise because of the departure from the formal traditional standards of American college education. Juniors are selected for the experiment in order that the faculty will have an opportunity to observe the students when they return to the university as seniors. It is proposed also to substitute for the foreign examinations an examination of the comprehensive type now made familiar and respectable by the development of honors ('ourses.
No doubt the presence in the student body of those who have had the privilege of this foreign study will inspire many first or second year students to qualify for admission to later foreign-study groups. President Hullihen states that the plan has already had a distinct effect in providing a direct objective for the students of the University of Delaware. Another advantage of the plan which is an