William Lyon Phelps, in a recent magazine article, looks back fifty years to his won college career, and then deplores the passing of the good old days. Though ready enough to admit the great advances in education since then, and even the superiority in most respects of the modern college, he chooses to direct attention to the precious something which has dropped out of college life in the transition from '83 to '33. He would like to recapture "something of the old monastic spirit of college life, something of its isolation, something of its intimacy."
Desirable as it might be to turn the present college into an Old Heidelberg, it cannot be done in all the respects of which Dr. Phelps speaks. College education has become too practical to isolate it from the affairs of the world; and especially is this the case where college Professors desert their class-rooms, almost while lectures are in progress, to tackle the practical and very difficult problems of economics and finance and social relations. The college is now an integral part of the machinery for doing the work of the world, and as such it can no longer be simply a house by the side of the road, but must be the recipient of all the little impulses travelling from the outer world of strife. A monastic solitude is foreign to the new status which the college has come to occupy.
That other loss, the loss of solidarity of college sentiment, and of intimacy, and the opportunity to make close friendships, would certainly be a grievous one, were it a fact. There is, however, too, much of a tendency to regard these as lost merely because a college has grown larger. And there is the corresponding attempt to redeem the loss by reducing the College to small units where greater intimacy may effect closer friendships. While House Plans do help to restore "these infinitely precious things," still it must not be overlooked that the basis of close friendships consists not in people occupying the same hotel, but in their doing things together. The classroom and the athletic field will always to be the great basis of friendships, regardless of whether it is the Yale of 1883, or the Harvard of 1933.