Scholastic, 1910

Jul 26, 2013

Notre Dame Scholastic


One day a visitor to the University, who had just placed his two sons in the Preparatory department, watched the students file out of the refectories and separate for their various residence halls. He was silent for a little while, and then said to an official who stood with him: "How do you run this place?" The official answered: "It runs itself." Literally, of course, Notre Dame does not run itself; nor did the official in question wish to give such an impression.  But in a sense, and in a very strictly accepted sense, Notre Dame runs itself from the first week classes begin till the rank and file of the students have passed beyond the gates in June. It is true to say that every institution, from a small candy, factory to a complicated railway system, runs itself—must run itself to a great extent. Directors, presidents, vice-presidents, superintendents and lesser officials without number exist and are necessary, but of themselves they cannot run a business. They can exercise vigilance, but they are not omnipresent; they can direct, but other hands must execute; they can secure skilled mechanics and every nicest device for swift and sure execution, but neither all these, nor salary nor a minimum of working hours will in themselves secure the most efficient service and the surest results. Every institution to be run successfully must be propelled by conscience. Sometimes they call it "honor," "honesty," "righteousness," "sincerity." After all, a name is not so important. The idea is the main concern. Let it be called "conscience," "honor," "honesty," "righteousness," "sincerity;" if it connotes thinking right, acting right, doing right in every circumstance that may arise, the word is a matter of usage. Notre Dame has a conscientious staff of officials from the President to the youngest Prefect that puts away the Minims' stack of toys in the game rooms. They are “on the job," as the saying goes, from twelve to sixteen hours of the twenty-four. They do not get much pleasure out of life in the ordinary use of that word. The pleasure they get is that which comes from the happiness one finds in doing well the work that falls to one's lot. Two are a party to every contract. And in the contract to make an institution like Notre Dame run with a minimum of friction we find the required two. There is the relatively small force of those who govern in comparison with the immense number of those who are governed. The work of the governing force is twofold. The first and more immediate is to maintain discipline, to secure efficient teaching and serious study. The second is less apparent but much more important, and may be called the foundation of the first. It is to educate the conscience, to impress the student with the idea of responsibility, honesty, decency; to make him feel that he is not one apart; that his interests are bound up with the interests of the University; that his life is a part of her life; that he is a member of a great family, and that what he does is of concern to all. He is reminded that his college life is the seeding time, and that if he sows in idleness he will reap in ignorance. This is not done merely in the opening discourse at the beginning of the school year. It is preached in the Sunday sermon, it is repeated in a more familiar way in the Christian Doctrine classes every morning. In the personal, private talk, repeated as often as found necessary, it is brought to the attention of the individual student. And for the Catholic boy there is the more intimate word of counsel in the monthly confession. The results that follow are crystallized into what we call "spirit." And, by the way, this is not the popularly accepted package which is labeled "college life." To many, college life suggests rah rah boys run riot after a football game, — anarchists in little gone beyond the bounds of rule.  Rather it means a fine loyalty to ideals and traditions, a sense of responsibility for the honor of Alma Mater; the following out a line of conduct so uniformly correct, it will cause no worry to superiors, and will not prove a false road to the young. It means an eye always open for what is brightest and best in the development of the institution. It shuns the over-critical attitude of one who stands apart. The student who is trained to this spirit is not like some passenger in a sleeping car whose one purpose is to reach the end of his journey as soon as possible, and meantime grumbles over every delay and every slightest inattention. The journey ended, he thanks his star of destiny and forgets the sleeping car. To the student who has caught this spirit referred to, his school is a home around which are gathered tender associations. And while, when the time comes, he too is glad to see the end of his journey, yet he carries with him memories that linger with him through the after years.  What creates this spirit which nearly every Notre Dame student catches after a few months of residence at the University? The question has been partially answered already. But like many another big question its complete answer will admit of divisions. One division has already been suggested in what may broadly be called educating the conscience. The second results from the intimate relations existing between the students and teachers. The students and teachers live together; and this oneness of life begets friendship, comradeship, which you will look for in vain where they live apart and meet only in the classroom two or three times a week. Ideals are formed from the lives men live rather than from what they teach; from what they say in quiet conversation, rather than from what they announce in measured phrases from the lecture stand. At Notre Dame, priests, religious and high-minded laymen commingle with the students in their daily life. Religious who teach them are responsible for their wellbeing in their various dormitories. Lay teachers live in these dormitories also. So it happens all these men are  acquainted not only with what students do in class, but with what they do outside of class. They are not only able to give them work to prepare, but they are enabled to see they prepare it, and to give them methods of preparation when necessary. On the campus at play, in their excursions through the country,

in their short morning and evening walks, in their society meetings, in their summer picnics, priests and religious are with them and take part in their conversation and even in their games. The most desirable result of this relationship is the doing away with that aloofness which so many mistake for respect. The individual who has to keep aloof to secure respect misses golden opportunities for teaching high lessons which can never be taught so well otherwise. Those who have experience with students understand how important is sympathy. An element of friendship, or fellowship, must enter if the work is to be agreeable as well as profitable. Not all lessons are gathered from the pages of a textbook; not all problems are worked out mathematically on the blackboard. Encouragement that will stimulate to newer effort, sympathy that will soften the sting of failure,—these are as necessary to the student's advancement as ability to communicate instruction. Notre Dame has no high wall constructed by tradition to keep apart the student from the teacher. And experience has shown the wisdom of this policy. If golden lessons may be taught in social companionship the student is entitled to them. He who as a teacher can give no lesson beyond that which he reads from the manuscript of his lecture is not alive to the opportunities which his position affords. The third reason for the existence of this spirit is the fellowship which exists among the students themselves. There are no fraternities to create an exclusive, privileged class.

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