THE DEAN'S CORNER -- November 1926

Dean 0. J. Ferguson


 If I should ask any student what particular difficulties he is experiencing today, he would undoubtedly be able to give me a list drawn from all of the studies upon his present curriculum.  Mathematics 1 is too advanced and presumes too good a preparation in algebra. As one fellow told me, "I never had logarithms before."  mechanical drawing, his hand is unsteady, his lines wobble, and his lines overrun. In His theme writing is a sore trial to him—to say nothing of its effect upon his instructor. Oh, yes! Each day is full of difficulties!  Would he could avoid them!

Nor should I have a very different reply from a man out in the field of engineering practice. His calculations show the impossibility of the proposed design. The contractor on a certain job has not lived up to the specifications.  Materials have been delayed.

Young and old, little or big, we all have difficulties, ranging themselves in the mathematician's infinite series. And some of these series do not seem to be converging! What can we do about it? How can we avoid the annoyance of these obstructions? Why not peacefully settle down to a policy of sly side-stepping? Or, butter yet, let's adopt that great American principle called “Pass the Buck." Oh, yes! Just imagine what a happy, contented, peaceful, free, even, steady, humdrum existence we might—Um.

Umm. "Humdrum"—who: said "humdrum" ? Perhaps there's the rub!

But aren't difficulties exasperating and disturbing to one's mind ? Don't they obtrude into everything like sore thumbs? Aren't they exciting and insistent of solution? Don't they demand attention? Don't they make us work, whereas an easier existence is distinctly possible and more to our liking?

I'll have to admit I don't like that little taste I had of the word humdrum, a moment ago. Nothing could be more sodden, more deadening, than a humdrum life. No ups and downs, no bumps, no joys, no difficulties, no victories. What a Jelly-like existence!

Without these variations, in fact without DIFFICULTIES, we never could experience the thrill of VICTORY. And the joy of victory is pretty well gauged by the intensity of the effort required to overcome the difficulties in our way. It is an experience common to us all to have our chests swell with pride because we have done a really hard job. The harder it was, the more chesty we get, and the more we brag about it. "I did it," we crow, "but I'll bet you can't!"

We began that a long time ago. We don't remember it, but our fond parents can recall the proud expressions on our faces when we first stood on end and watched the world sway back and forth around us. Somehow, somewhere, daily since those beginnings, we've had more or less of the same pride in the overcoming of difficulties. Such successes are the only measure we have of our abilities. They are more than that. They are the only means we have of developing strength of muscle, mind or moral fibre.

This struggle is not to be counted as a solemn, wearisome duty. The sadness in. a performance of duty comes from failure to foresee the joy of the success. Did you ever stop to think that every game you ever played appealed to you because it roused your sense of desire to do something difficult? Sports in every field are nothing else.   Contests between individuals or between teams—individual effort in setting new marks—what else are they?

Isn't it about time we realized how much "play" there is in "work"—how much downright fun we can get out of the greatest of difficulties?

  O.J. Ferguson