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Coeducation And Marriage

( Originally Published 1907 )

"IN spite of all that Dr. Studevan has said on the value of contrast as a stimulus to mental development," said Miles O'Brien as he passed the Roquefort to Miss Ruth, "I came away from the university convinced by my five years of teaching co-eds that coeducation is a failure. Whatever may be the motives that actuate the young ladies in coming to the university, they soon divide into two well-defined groups. The members of one group work hard; they usually maintain a high class standing and injure their health. The members of the other group devote their chief attention to the young men. This results in cardiac enlargement rather than in cerebral development. And as to the young men, why of course it would be unreasonable to expect any young man with red blood in his veins to devote his evenings to physics, to higher mathematics, or to Roman law when there is a sweet young lady waiting to entertain him.

"Love and war may well go together, but the emotional disturbances evoked by love in the young man of twenty are far too great to permit of serious study. If our young men's minds are to be sufficiently developed during their college days to insure for them a successful career in life, I am afraid the young ladies will have to be banished from the university and love-making postponed until the school period is completed."

"Why should the young man in college de-vote all his evenings to physics or to Roman law?" demanded Miss Geddes. "Are mate rial prosperity and success in outwitting one's fellows the only things for which our young men should be trained in the colleges and universities? Their physical strength is developed on the ball field and in the gymnasium, and their minds are trained in the laboratory and in the classroom. Has the aesthetic element in their life no value? Should they so far neglect their moral and social life that they cannot afford an evening or two a week for their friends?"

"You are quite right," said Professor Shan-non; "the whole tendency of the time is toward an over-emphasis of the material side of life. Time was when men worked in order to live; today it would seem that the only value of life is dollars and cents. Art and literature, music and song, and the joys of home may only be indulged in during an occasional hour for which no other use can be found."

"Is not this tendency to overestimate the material side of life," asked Miss Ruth, "one of the greatest dangers threatening our social existence? I was much impressed with Professor Münsterberg's article on the American Woman, in The International Monthly for June, 1901."

"Let me get you the number," said Mr. O'Brien, "we have it here on the shelf."

"As I remember the article," said Miss Ruth, "he proves that the male portion of the community has practically lost its appreciation of all the higher things of life. Let me read you this page : " 'The public life that I have in mind is the public expression of the ideal energies, the striving for truth and beauty, for morality and religion, for education and social reform, and their embodiment, not in the home, but in the public consciousness. In Germany no one of these functions of public life is without the support and ennobling influence of active women, but decidedly the real bulk of the work is done by men; they alone give to it character and direction, and their controlling influence gives to this whole manifoldness of national aims its strenuousness and unity; to carry these into the millions of homes and to make them living factors in the family, is the great task of the women there. Here, on the other hand, the women are the real supporters of the ideal endeavors: in not a few fields, their influence is the decisive one; in all fields, this influence is felt, and the whole system tends ever more and more to push the men out and the women in. Theater managers claim that eighty-five per cent. of their patrons are women. No one can doubt that the same percentage would hold for those who attend art exhibitions, and even for those who read magazines and literary works in general, and we might as well continue with the same some-what arbitrary figure. Can we deny that there are about eighty-five per cent. of women among those who attend public lectures, or who go to concerts, among those who look after public charities and the work of the churches? I do not remember ever to have been in a German art exhibition where at least half of those present were not men, but I do remember art exhibitions in Boston, New York, and Chicago where according to my actual count the men in the hall were less than five per cent. of those present.' "

"Whatever may be said in extenuation of the conditions which Münsterberg portrays in that article," said Professor Shannon, "there are few who will challenge the truth of his statements. In a new country like ours it was to be expected, of course, that the men actively engaged in developing its wonderful physical resources would occasionally lose sight of the higher things; but we are in real danger when our schools and universities, which should hold aloft the lamp of truth and direct the attention of the young steadfastly toward culture and the real values of life, set up success in the mad race for wealth as their only standard. Even the churches seem to be forgetting the message which they were commissioned to preach to the world.

"The situation is truly alarming when a man so full of idealism as Mr. O'Brien op-poses coeducation on the ground that young men in college can not spare time for social intercourse. This argument pushed to its logical conclusion would do away with courtship and marriage. The stress is severer in the ten years that follow a young man's college days than in any other period of his life. If while at college he can not find time for court-ship, he will not be able to afford it until he is thirty-five years of age, and then it will be too late, because the inclination to marry will have been greatly diminished before that time. This is probably one of the reasons for the abnormally high percentage of bachelors among college graduates.

"But there are still more potent reasons to be urged against late marriages. Many religious communities hesitate to accept candidates after they are thirty years of age. Experience has proved that after this age a candidate can not readily adjust himself to the new mode of life. The experience of rail-roads and other large corporations leads them to adopt a similar course. They refuse to appoint to important positions men who are over thirty-five years of age.

"The psychology underlying both of these cases is the same. Such regulations constitute a practical recognition of the fact that the plastic period of man's life ends in his thirtieth or thirty-fifth year. And if a woman finds it impossible to adjust herself to the conditions of a nun's life after she is thirty and a man finds it difficult or impossible to succeed in a new line of business after he has reached thirty-five, how can we expect them to rise above the gross material things of life if the development of the heart and of the aesthetic faculties be delayed until after this period? And above all, how can we expect two human beings to blend into the unity of a single life at the age of thirty who up to this time have been so engrossed in the material things of life as to be unable to afford even an occasional hour to satisfy the promptings of the heart?

"It is a very significant fact that the increase in the number of divorces is in some direct ratio to the average age at which people marry. To delay marriage until man has first won a position in the world is to render true marriage impossible. Marriage should be the preparation for life's work and not its termination."

"That is an argument worthy of a bachelor," said Mr. Eaton. "I believe I have heard it said that old maids have the best children in the world and that a doctor never takes his own medicine. Father Tom always used to say that it was an unfair division of labor to have the same man do the practicing and the preaching. But if Professor Shannon had to dig up the coin to support three or four young men in college, to set them up in business, and to furnish their offices, and to pay for style for the first ten or twelve years while the young professionals are waiting for clients, he would probably not be in any hurry to become a grandfather. No practical young man with a proper amount of self-respect will think of marrying until he has made a position for himself which will enable him to support a wife. There is truth in the old saying, ' When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out through the window.' Running a home in these days is too serious an undertaking for youngsters. Let the young men and young women enjoy life and freedom while they can, the burdens and responsibilities will come soon enough."

"Father Tom should be here tonight," said the Doctor; "his preaching of the Gospel of Christ doesn't seem to have made a Christian of Mr. Eaton. The argument to which we have just listened is conclusive if we accept the gospel of Mammon instead of the Gospel of Christ. `All these things will I give thee if falling down thou wilt adore me.' But how can we square such a line of reasoning with the precepts of the Master? 'Do ye good, therefore, hoping for nothing thereby.' 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice and all these things will be added unto you.' 'What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world if he lose his own soul?' 'See the lilies of the field how they toil not and neither do they spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.' `The life is more than the meat, the body more than the raiment.' We shall have to ask Father Tom to preach a series of sermons for the special benefit of some of his parishioners.

"But apart from the teaching of the Master, I am afraid we shall find that such arguments as that put forth by Mr. Eaton run counter to the evidence furnished us by sociology and psychology. What great happiness has ever come to men who make the acquisition of wealth their chief business of life? I know many poor men who would not care to change places with some of the multi-millionaires who have recently come before the public.

"I suppose none of us would find it difficult to call to mind men who, like the fool in the gospel, 'laid up much treasure for many years,' and when they turned to enjoy their wealth they were confronted with the sentence on the wall, `Fool, this day thy soul shall be demanded of thee. When one of these men would build a home for himself he must employ another's brain to design it for him. The decoration of its interior reflects no thought of his; even the private library is selected by another's taste. The house is a prison, not a home. He is as great a stranger in the bosom of his own family as he is in the new mansion constructed by his dollars. After all, we can no more change the seasons of a man's life than we can control the seasons of the year.

As he sows in the springtime of life so shall he reap in its autumn.

"During childhood and adolescence all achievement derives its value from its relationship to the members of the home group. During the twenties the ties which bound the members of the home group into a solidarity of thought, action and aspiration gradually disappear. If the members of the family are held together after this it is by artificial restraints. This is nature's way of dispersing the children and leading them to build homes of their own. But if new family ties are not formed while the old ties are disintegrating, the individual is likely to remain for the rest of his days a solitary wanderer on the face of the earth. From twenty to thirty is the period of greatest fecundity; it is the termination of the plastic period of life; it is the time within which God has set His decree that man should take unto himself a wife and that 'they shall be two in one flesh,' and that 'they shall increase and multiply and fill the earth.' "Granting the desirability of early marriages," said Miss Ruth, "wouldn't it be well for some one to collect the facts in the case, so as to ascertain the effect of coeducation on the marrying age? In some of our universities we have had coeducation for more than a generation and it should not be difficult to tabulate the results.

"Professor Münsterberg and many others seem to be of the opinion that coeducation does not promote early marriage. He has many suggestive passages on the subject in this article. Here, for instance, is one: " 'I take for granted that no American girl loses in attractiveness by passing through a college, or through other forms of the higher and the highest education. But we have only to look at the case from the other side, and we shall find ourselves at once at the true source of the calamity. The woman has not become less attractive as regards marriage; but has not marriage become less attractive to the woman? and long before the Freshman year did not the outer influences begin to impelin that direction? Does it not begin in every country school where the girls sit on the same bench with the boys, and discover, a long, long time too early, how stupid those boys are? Coeducation, on the whole unknown in Germany, has many desirable features; it strengthens the girls; it refines the boys ; it creates a comradeship between the two sexes which decreases sexual tension in the years of development; but these factors make, at the same time, for an indifference toward the other sex, toward a disillusionism, which must show in the end.' "

"The effects of coeducation and of higher education on marriage and on home life," said Dr. Studevan, "are today subjects of profound interest to every student of sociology, but the hour is so late that I, at least, shall have to forego the pleasure of further discussion until our next meeting."

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