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AN OLD MASTER Copyright, 1893, by Harper & Brothers Copyright, 1921, by Woodrow Wilson Printed in the United States of America
AN OLD MASTER
HY has no one ever written on the art
of academic lecturing and its many notable triumphs? In some quarters new educational canons have spoken an emphatic condemnation of the college lecture, and it would seem to be high time to consider its value, as illustrative of an art about to be lost, if not as exemplary of forces to be retained, even if modified. Are not our college class-rooms, in being robbed of the old-time lecture, and getting instead a science-brief of data and bibliography, being deprived also of that literary atmosphere which once pervaded them? We are unquestionably gaining in thoroughness; but are we gaining in thoughtfulness? We are giving to many youths an insight, it may be profound, into specialties; but are we giving any of them a broad outlook?
There was too often a paralysis of dulness in the old lecture, or, rather, in the old lecturer; and written lectures, like history and fashion in dress, have an inveterate tendency to repeat
themselves; but on the contrary, there was often a wealth of power also in the studied discourse of strong men. Masters bent
Masters bent upon instructing and inspiring--and there were many such-had to penetrate that central secret of literature and spoken utterance—the secret of style. Their only instrument of conquest was the sword of penetrating speech. Some of the subtlest and most lasting effects of genuine oratory have gone forth from secluded lecture desks into the hearts of quiet groups of students; and it would seem to be good policy to endure much indifferent lecturing—watchful trustees might reduce it to a minimum-for the sake of leaving places open for the men who have in them the inestimable force of chastened eloquence. For one man who can impart an undying impulse there are several score, presupposing the requisite training, who can impart a method; and here is the well understood ground for the cumulating disfavor of college lecturing and the rapid substitution of "laboratory drill." But will not higher education be cut off from communion with the highest of all forces, the force of personal inspiration in the field of great themes of thought, if you interdict the literary method in the class-room?
I am not inclined to consume very many words in insisting on this point, for I believe that educators are now dealing more frankly