The SCROLL of Phi Delta Theta for September,
Address of WILLIAM MATHER LEWIS,
Knox '00, President of Lafayette College.
Pearl Buck in her amazing story.
Dragon Seed, the story which so greatly
presents to us the heroism of the Chinese
people, tells of one old man in a Chinese
village, after the war had been devastating his country, and she says of him that
he was ill-fitted, ill-suited for those times.
She goes on to say that in the time when
everything went well, he was the leading
man of the village. The children looked
up to him and he was considered to be
a philosopher. He gave the leadership
they needed. "But," she said, "in this
time, when nothing goes well, he is entirely confused and helpless, and sits on
the doorstep hours at a time, seemingly
almost an imbecile."
Now there to me is a picture of the
situation in the American college, with
the American student and the American
administrator and all those who are interested in education and interested in
winning this war. My friends, if we are
not suited to this time, if we can't adjust ourselves in our thinking as students,
as professors, as administrators, as institutions, then in my judgment we are
not going to win the war, and I am not
afraid to make that statement, criticizing
as it may be. If we are not mentally and
morally and spiritually in a situation
where we can change front and meet the
new conditions in an all-out war, where
not only the military men and naval men
are needed, but where every man's ability
counts for one hundred per cent, then I
don't believe we are going to win.
At the time of the opening of the War
Between the States, my father was a senior
at Amherst College. He, with all the
other members of his class, rushed to
enlist. And then the Governor of Massachusetts, a very wise man, said, "Boys,
this is not going to be a ninety-day conflict. This is going to be a long, long
conflict between two groups of brave
and able people. There are going to be
enough private soldiers in the ranks. The
thing that we will need is trained officers.
I will send a retired officer to train you.
You go back and complete your work."
They did that, they went back. They
received their diplomas, and practically
every man in that group became a -etSnmissioned officer.
So, this matter of using the mind of
youth to the best advantage is nothing
new. But, on the other hand, let me say
as I tried to say the other morning, that
that individual who stays in college or
that institution who encourages him to
stay in college simply for selfish or institutional reasons is correspondingly unworthy. We must find out at this time
where we can do the most and go ahead
and do it.
Now we have been running in a rut in
the American college for a long time. We
are now having this accelerated program,
this three-year program, in most of our
institutions. I believe that out of that is
going to come a new idea of American
education. I have asked my colleagues all
over this country, "Why four years of
college? Why not three years, why not
five years?" And no one can explain. It
is a tradition from way back there. My
own feeling, young men, is this, that we
are holding you back from a professional
life about three years longer than we
should. I believe that the elementary
school work of America could be done in
seven years. I know perfectly well, as you
know, that the senior year of high school
and the freshman year of college are repetitious. I think that you can cut out three
years and have a mental maturity because
of harder and more insistent work than we
That is something to think about at
this time of accelerated programs. Perhaps we needed to be shaJten loose educationally from some of these things.
Certainly we have got to study the content of our courses. The average college
man, and I am talking about myself,
when we got into the Pacific struggle was
absolutely ignorant of Pacific geography,
of the philosophy of the Pacific nations,
of their economic and social backgrounds. Our eyes had been turned on
the old courses to Europe. In our modern