• U.S.

Education: P. B. K. Snubbed

2 minute read

In this era of efficiency, particularly noticeable within the last five years, wearers of the Phi Beta Kappa key no longer hang their heads, mumble self-consciously, fumble with their vest pockets. They are proud to possess the key. They know that the key Has come into its own. Undergraduates have always voted, insincerely, that they would rather win it than a football letter. But only lately have potent business executives preferred to hire P. B. K. men. For example, Walter Sherman Gifford, president of the American Telephone and Telegraph Co., recently announced the results of a survey showing that “men from the first tenth of their college classes [equivalent of P. B. K. rank] have four times the chance of those from the lowest third to stand in the highest tenth salary group” (TIME, April 30).

Last week, however, a dissenting voice, loud, strong, was raised. It belonged to burly Thomas Williams Slocum, 61, textile potentate, sportsman, clubman, orator, onetime (1924-27) president of the Harvard Club of Manhattan. He was a big man in his class at Harvard (1890), but not a P. B. K. man. His dissent, entitled “Fools Trespass When Angels Keep Off the Grass,” appearing in the Harvard Advocate, did not bother with statistics. He did not try to prove ; he knew. ‘ He simply wielded his own bludgeon: “The Phi Beta Kappa men have apparently disappeared, and those who gave little promise in their studies at college seem to keep the Harvard flag flying and have taken important positions in the community. . . .

“Never in the history of Harvard was so much stress put upon the knowledge acquired from books as at present. It would seem that the authorities believe that study will thoroughly fit a man for all the problems of life. Some of us know the great benefits arising from so-called ‘outside activities’—a hard, close game calling on brain as well as body for all there is and then some; a stiff pull on the river and a lost race, and also that sympathy for the man supposed to be responsible, which will help carry on in after life as nothing else can.”

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