“The result is that our school curricula and the courses provided in our colleges have become a perfect miscellany, without order and without standard. It is time that we recognize the fact that education in the modern world has two distinct objects and that nobody can successfully pursue both of these objects.” - President Woodrow Wilson ’79

During the holidays President Wilson ’79 delivered three addresses in Indianapolis. On the evening of Dec. 27 he addressed the annual meeting of the Indiana State Teachers Association; on the 28th he was the guest at luncheon of the Princeton Alumni Association of Indiana, and that evening at the Prophylacum, as the guest of the Contemporary Club of Indianapolis, he spoke on “Ideals of Public Life.” These addresses were the occasion of several editorials in the Indiana press.  

An audience of 3000 welcomed President Wilson in Tomlinson Hall, where he addressed the Indiana teachers. Charles R. Williams ’75, editor of the Indianapolis News and President of the Princeton Alumni Association of Indiana, was chairman of the meeting. His introduction of Dr. Wilson was as follows:

For more than one hundred and sixty years Princeton has been a center of influence. Spiritually as well as literally it has been a city set upon a hill. I never hear its name without a stir of memory and a thrill of emotion; it has meant so much in the intellectual and religious life of America. I make no comparisons with other historic universities of our land; each has nobly filled its place. But I know more about Princeton and Princeton has my filial love. Never has it been a local or sectional institution; always it has drawn its students from all parts of the land. Never has it been content with intellectual attainment alone; always it has stood also for righteousness of life, for conscience in endeavor, for participation as a duty in the life and progress of the time. On its roster of professors and presidents you shall find the names of many of America’s distinguished philosophers and scholars, authors and investigators. It has sent forth its sons to be doers of the word, not idlers and mummers at the feast of life. They have adorned every field of public usefulness and of private enterprise, carrying with them the Princeton spirit of conscientious devotion to duty and to the higher and finer things of life.

In this last generation Princeton has grown through enlarged benefaction until in its physical equipment, alike in completeness and architectural beauty, it ranks among the greatest institutions in the world. But buildings and laboratories do not make a university. They are only the body – the outward and visible sign; it is the teaching force that constitutes the soul – the inner and spiritual grace; and it is the soul that Princeton is most interested in developing.

The great problem in every institution, whose numbers are large, is how to get direct and personal contact between teacher and student, the thing which counts most vitally in real education. To that problem Princeton is offering in its new preceptorial system the most promising practical solution that has yet been suggested – a solution which has evoked more discussion and attracted more attention in the last two or three years than any other movement in higher education. By many, competent to venture a prediction, it is regarded as likely to have a greater influence on American university development than anything that has been proposed since the elective system was introduced. Fundamentally it is a new and vivifying recognition that education is something vastly more than imparting information, important as that may be; - it is intellectual and ethical training, cultivation, discipline. It is not so much pouring in, as drawing out; not so much increasing knowledge as developing power. The man who is most responsible for this great new movement is the present President of Princeton – a most worthy successor of the famous men that he has followed in that position. Scholar, historian, political philosopher, orator, essayist, teacher, patriotic citizen, - each in eminent degree, - all his great powers are given to the higher service of his time and his country. Like Arnold of Rugby, he is to be numbered among the

Souls tempered with fire,

Fervent, heroic and good,

Helpers and friends of mankind

Like Arnold it is given to him to

Strengthen the wavering line,

Stablish, continue our march,

On the bound of the waste,

On, to the city of God.

I know of no one in America today who has a clearer conception of the present and pressing needs of our educational development, who is more earnestly, more determinedly and more intelligently laboring to make his educational ideals actualities, or who can speak to the teachers of this time with greater authority and power to inspire than the distinguished President of Princeton University, to whom it is now my great privilege to introduce you. Ladies and gentlemen, President Woodrow Wilson!

President Wilson’s Address

President Wilson’s address was in substance as follows:

We are allowing ourselves to be confused by a multitude of differing tasks and are following no single standard. The modern world is full of a multitude of interests for which it must care and for which each generation must be prepared. A course of education must be provided suited to fit each generation to take intelligent care of its own interests, multitudinous though they be.

But we have not sufficiently perceived that it is impossible by any single system of education to provide an education of that sort. It is not possible to prepare everybody for everything. And yet it is something like that that we are attempting, both in our schools and in our colleges. Every occupation, every interest, demands that the curriculum, both of the school and of the college, shall be represented in our education and supplied with the training necessary for it.

The result is that our school curricula and the courses provided in our colleges have become a perfect miscellany, without order and without standard. It is time that we recognize the fact that education in the modern world has two distinct objects and that nobody can successfully pursue both of these objects.

It is necessary that the majority of our youth, the vast majority, should be prepared for the mechanical tasks of the age, should be given a very definite mechanical skill and a very careful training alike in the principles and in the expert processes of modern industry.

A liberal education by which I mean an education which does not concentrate its education upon any particular occupation or interest, but seeks to give a general release of the faculties upon a broad scale, can not be within the reach of everybody. It must, of economical necessity, be reserved for a minority. Not because some are more worthy of it than others, or better fitted for it, but because duty demands that most of our youths should at a very early age apply themselves to money-making operations, and not many families can afford to give their young people the opportunity for a liberal training.

Yet it is clearly necessary that some, as many as possible, should have a liberal training; the leadership in affairs depends upon it, - intelligent direction of all enterprises and of all business, as well as all the higher, more complex and more difficult processes of thought.

The object of all education is discipline. The object of liberal education is not only discipline but enlightenment, and that kind of orientation which enables a man to see the great relations of things in the world of thought and affairs.

Discipline is always the primary object, and we are missing discipline itself because we do not concentrate upon anything. Discipline can not be caught in snatches and small pieces. It an be caught only by long attention to connected pieces of work. What our schools of every kind need, therefore, is simplification of curriculum, concentration, not dispersion.

It is not possible with our present crowded curriculum to give real discipline in any subject in any school. What we need, therefore, is, first of all, to differentiate our several kinds of schools. What we need, therefore, is, first of all, to differentiate our several kinds of school. The primary discipline, I take it, may be alike for all, but the secondary training should begin to seek some special object, either technical skill, special preparation for a particular occupation or a liberal training. The two can only, to a limited extent, be combined.

Beyond the secondary schools we already have schools of higher training, devoted to technology and to liberal culture, but even among them there is a confusion of object, which shows that we are very dim in our perception of exactly what it is that we seek, and confused as to means by which we seek it.

We are apt to have no definite choice of studies prescribed for the pupil, no systematic sequence of subjects and no systematic combination of subjects. It seems to me that we should now devote ourselves to three things:

A careful differentiation in the kinds of training we seek to give; a rigid simplification of each kind of training, and such a reordering of studies as will give them coherence.

The Alumni Luncheon

The Princeton alumni of Indianapolis gave President Wilson an enthusiastic reception at the University Club on Dec. 28, when he was their guest of honor at luncheon. President Williams ’75 was toastmaster and Dr. Wilson responded for the University. The other speakers were Henry D. Pierce ’68, Dr. Theodore Potter ’82, George L. Denny ’00, and Samuel D. McCoy ’03. In addition there were present Gaylord Hawkins ’01, C. De W. Meier ’02, Blythe Q. Hendricks ’02, L. W. Layton ’03, Alfred McC. Ogle ’04, A. L. Taggart ’04, J. H. statesman ’05, Douglas Pierce ’06, R. S. Barbee ’07, F. G. Appel ’07, and fifteen undergraduates.

This was originally published in the January 8, 1908 issue of PAW.