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Education: What For?

2 minute read

When Political Scientist Benjamin Fletcher Wright of Harvard University was appointed president of Smith College (TIME, March 21), he had a reservation: he was afraid he did not know enough about women’s education. “I’ve got to do some homework,” said he. Last week at his inauguration (which coincided with Smith’s 75th anniversary celebration), President Wright showed how far his homework had taken him. He jumped right into the biggest question of all: What should women be educated for?

A liberal education was all right as far as it went, but Wright thought something more needed to be added. Said he: “the place of women in the present scheme of things is confused and unstable . . . We must constantly bear in mind, however, that the great majority of women who attend college will marry and have children, and that for most of them their home will be the focus of their lives.” Neither women students nor their colleges could ignore the warnings “that the American home is not so satisfactory a place … as it should be.”

The job of the women’s colleges was clear to Smith’s new president: they must thoroughly investigate “the role of women in contemporary life,” and perhaps change their curricula accordingly. The “older and more firmly established” colleges had been slow to do so. “I can see no justification,” said he, “for allowing the newer and frankly experimental colleges to take the initiative in making the investigations and the trials which may seem to be called for.”

Exactly what he intended to do, Wright did not say. Smith expected there were some experiments ahead.

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