“The effects of learning are its real tests, the real tests alike of its validity and of its efficacy. The mind can be driven, but that is not life. Life is voluntary or unconscious. It is breathed in out of a sustaining atmosphere. It is shaped by environment. It is habitual, continuous, productive. It does not consist in tasks performed, but in power gained and enhanced. It cannot be communicated in class-rooms if its aim and end is the class-room. Instruction is not its source, but only its incidental means and medium.

“Here is the key to the whole matter: the object of the college, as we have known and used and loved it in America, is not scholarship (except for the few, and for them only by way of introduction and first orientation), but the intellectual and spiritual life. Its life and discipline are meant to be a process of preparation, not a process of information. By the intellectual and spiritual life I mean the life which enables the mind to comprehend and make proper use of the modern world and all its opportunities. The object of a liberal training is not learning, but discipline and the enlightenment of the mind. The educated man is to be discovered by his point of view, by the temper of his mind, by his attitude towards life and his fair way of thinking. He can see, he can discriminate, he can combine ideas and perceive whither they lead; he has insight and comprehension. His mind is a practiced instrument of appreciation. He is more apt to contribute light than heat to a discussion, and will oftener than another show the power of uniting the elements of a difficult subject in a whole view; he has the knowledge of the world which no one can have who knows only his own generation or only his own task.”

“It is not the whip that makes men, but the lure of things worthy to be loved. And so we feel that we are entitled to be full of hope in regard to the increasing intellectual life of Princeton. For, gentlemen, I am covetous for Princeton of all the glory that there is, and the chief glory of a university is always intellectual glory. The chief glory of a university is always intellectual glory. The chief glory of a university is the leadership of the nation in the things that attach to the highest ambitions that nations can set themselves…

“Now, young men…have freer hands than other men in the generation, cleaner hands and freer hands than anybody else. And when one asks one’s self what sort of education these men should have in order to carry what will be the young man’s burden for many a day to come, it seems to me evident that the education they receive should not be such as to catch them at once in the web of the complicated interests which they must touch without prejudice and without favor. To put it in plainer, less abstract terms, if you merely train men for business, they are immersed in the business, so far as their thoughts are concerned, throughout their education, and are committed to the prejudices of their occupations before even they enter upon them…If you never teach him [the student] any ideal except the ideal of making a living, there will be no voice within him, he will know no other ideal.

“I believe, therefore, that there must be some universities in this country which undertake to teach men the life that is in them, by teaching them the truths of pure philosophy, and that literature which is the permanent voice and song of the human spirit, letting them know that they are not going a lonesome journey, but that generations of men behind them are crying them on to do better things than they could otherwise even attempt, and that generations beyond them are beckoning them on to a day of happier things. There must be found in the halls of the true university this eternal voice of the human race that can never be drowned as long as men remember what the race has hoped and purposed.”

“I have sometimes said to the men I knew best in the University that it did not make so very much difference with me what a man read, but it did not seem to me that any man had the title to call himself a university man who was not a reading man, who merely gathered the transitory impressions of the day in which he lived and did not put himself into the main currents of thought that flow out of the old centuries into the new, that constitute the pulse and life of the race. Men are in universities in order to come into contact with the vital forces that have always beat through the centuries in making civilization and in making thought, and if they do not voluntarily put themselves into contact with those forces, those forces are of no avail to them. For what a man reluctantly receives he does not retain, and it does not constitute any part of his life…”

“College is a place of initiation. Its effect are atmospheric. They are wrought by impression, by association, by emulation…If young gentlemen get from their years at college only manliness, esprit de corps, a release of their social gifts, a training in give and take, a catholic taste in men, and the standards of true sportsmen, they have gained much, but they have not gained what a college should give them. It should give them insight into the things of the mind and of the spirit, a sense of having lived and formed their friendships amidst the gardens of the mind where grows the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a consciousness of having taken on them the vows of true enlightenment and of having undergone the discipline, never to be shaken off, of those who seek wisdom in candor, with faithful labour and travail of spirit.”

“The system of preceptorial instruction which we are about to elaborate at Princeton is no new or novel notion of our own, but based upon almost universal experience, upon what every teacher must have found out for himself, whether by way of interpreting his failures or of interpreting his successes; he always gets his best results by direct, persona, intimate intercourse with his pupils, not as a class but as individuals…

“But the system involves much more than a change of method…The subject matter of their [the students’] studies is not to be the lectures of their professors or the handful of textbooks, the narrow round of technical exercises set for them under the ordinary methods, but the reading which they should do for themselves in order to get a real first-hand command of the leading ideas, principles and processes of the subjects which they are studying. Their exercises with their preceptors are not to be recitations, but conferences, in which, by means of any methods of report or discussion that may prove serviceable and satisfactory, the preceptors may test, guide and stimulate their reading. The governing idea is to be that they are getting up subjects – getting them up with the assistance of lecturers, libraries and a body of preceptors who are their guides, philosophers and friends. The process is intended to be one of reading, comparing, reflecting; not cramming, but daily methodical study…

“They [the preceptors] will not, however, be a body of men segregated and set apart from the general body of the faculty…The fundamental object of the system would be defeated if any sharp line of division were drawn in the faculty between the several kinds of teachers, for the fundamental object is to draw faculty and undergraduates together into a common body of students, old and young, among whom a real community of interest, pursuit and feeling will prevail.”

This was originally published in the January 13, 1956 issue of PAW.