Universities And Social Advance -- By: A. A. Berle

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 065:258 (Apr 1908)
Article: Universities And Social Advance
Author: A. A. Berle


Universities And Social Advance

Rev. A. A. Berle

Professor William James, addressing the Association of American Alumnae at Radcliffe College in 1907, near the close of his address made use of these words :—

“It would be a pity if any future historian were to have to write words like these: ‘By the middle of the twentieth century the higher institutions of learning had lost all influence over public opinion in the United States. But the mission of raising the tone of democracy which they had proved themselves so lamentably unfitted to exert, was assumed with rare enthusiasm and prosecuted with extraordinary skill and success by a new educational power, and for the clarification of their human sympathies and elevation of their human preferences the people at large acquired the habit of resorting exclusively to the guidance of certain private literary adventures, commonly designated in the market by the affectionate name of ten-cent magazines.’”

If almost anybody but the most gifted man who has inhabited the college precincts of Cambridge for many years had made this speech, there would have been a contemptuous shrugging of shoulders on the part of the illuminati who reside there and thereabouts, implying another appeal to the galleries. And some did actually thus shrug their cultivated shoulders and sniff that anything or anybody could or should destroy their influence. But William James has in these many years created so large and powerful an influence and following that recent utterances of the apostle of a superior class1 seem like a belated survival of another age

beside the sane and human utterances of the psychologist who has discovered and dared to proclaim that humanity has a soul and a heart as well as a head. But Professor James’s utterance is itself a trifle late, and the historian of to-day, while not able to say just what this conjectural future historian might say, is able to affirm that the premier influence in the American mind is no longer that which springs from the universities and colleges, in spite of the enormous increase of their endowments and students. He is able to say that in the last fifteen years no single cherished American institution has lost much more in the public esteem than the university. He is able to say, that a distinct and growing chasm exists between the public mind and the university habit of mental approach which is sure to have lasting and determinate results in the development of American character and the democratization of American education; that sooner or later there will be a revolution of opinion on the subject of university education; and that the facts which are n...

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