REVIEW of REVIEW

Maturity Has the Edge on Youth

Youth More Quick, More Glib, But Maturity Grasps Problem With Equal Ease and Superior Judgment

FREDERICK B. ROBINSON January 15 1923
REVIEW of REVIEW

Maturity Has the Edge on Youth

Youth More Quick, More Glib, But Maturity Grasps Problem With Equal Ease and Superior Judgment

FREDERICK B. ROBINSON January 15 1923

Maturity Has the Edge on Youth

REVIEW of REVIEW

Youth More Quick, More Glib, But Maturity Grasps Problem With Equal Ease and Superior Judgment

FREDERICK B. ROBINSON

THE INDIVIDUAL between forty and sixty years of age—who, as Du Maurier says, has ‘ceased to hunt the moon'—is normally at the height of intellectual judgment. If health and optimism and determination remain, he has a marked strategic advantage over immature youth.” So declares Frederick B. Robinson, Ph. D., in an interview with Merle Crowell, appearing in the American Magazine. “Comparing youth with middle age,” says Dean Robinson, “I find that there is hardly a subject in our curriculum that the average mature mind will not grasp with equal ease and with superior understanding. Take two men of equal intelligence, one forty-five and one twenty, both in good health and with good habits, both free from hampering worries, and turn them loose on a newsubject in which they are both interested. One finds immediately that the man of age and experience has the advantage.” The young man, he admits, often gives an impression of mental agility. He seems to “catch onto” things more promptly; he is ready with a glib answer. The mature man is feeling his way. He insists on knowing—he “refuses to accept labels when he is not sure of the contents of the bottle.” Dean Robinson finds that the middle aged man “mulls over things and thinks them out for himself.” Still, there are variations in mental agility at middle age that must be accounted for:— I have been fortunate enough to know many men of achievement in industrial life and in the arts and sciences. Almost without exception I have found them to be more eager and effective “students” at forty or fifty than they ever were in their school days. On the other hand, I have seen young men and women start out with plenty of promise, only to wither on the branch as middle age came on. Most of them followed the “camel” theory, and some of them were victims of the general delusion that after a man passes thirtyfive or forty his mind is not capable of grasping new subjects with the celerity of youth.

Lack of mental curiosity and lack of optimism and will power, he contends, are the main causes for some men ceasing to enlarge their knowledge and mental efficiency at middle age. He offers proofs that came under his personal observation: Age has a peculiar advantage in the socalled “practical” branches of knowiedge —those that are tied up directly with everyday business and professional experience. I recall vividly the case of a lawyer who had been graduated from a high school many years beforeand who entered our collegiate night course at the age of thirty-eight. He had come from a family in which culture had always been spelled with a capital C. For years he had lamented the fact that he was not a college graduate and could not write “A. B.” after his name. He won his degree, and, incidentally, gave usa most interesting record of the operations of a mature mind.

In history—where his experience and observations were of great value—he

achieved a rank of 100 per cent, and he approximated the same mark in the related subjects of government and political science. In philosophy and ethics, two subjects that maturity is particularly fitted to cope with, his ratings were also excellent. In higher mathematics, which had scant practical bearing on his life work he dropped into a great gulf. Indeed, he barely managed to pass his first-year course. Most young students would have been satisfied merely to “get through” but this man possessed the directed purpose of maturity. Voluntarily he reviewed this course and came out the second time with a considerably higher rating.

An illuminating commentary on his quest for the official seal of culture was that in such purely cultural subjects as Latin his marks were low. In the branches of science that dealt with mere facts and their theoretical manipulation he was a commonplace student, but in the practical application of science to the world of industry he did exceptionally well.

Five years ago our night collegiate course was completed by a man holding an important managerial position in the shipping industry. He was about sixty years old and had two daughters who were college graduates. His previous scholastic training had been terminated in the spring of 1874. when he left high school. Finishing our course with flying colors, he went from our halls a cum laude graduate with the golden key of Phi Beta Kappa. His adventures in education corresponded closely with those of the man whose case I have just cited.

Although he won marks of from 95 to 100 in nearly every subject, his poorest showing was made in those studies which were purely academic and remote^ from daily life. His lowest mark was in advanced algebra, which was for him merely a disciplinary subject unassociated with anything practical. In Latin and German, cultural subjects, he was considerably below his average, but in French his rank was high. This was probably because the World War was in progress in the fields of France and he was intensely interested in everything that threw a light on it. In philosophy, ethics, civil government,

history, and allied subjects his marks were of the highest.

In the matter of grammar, Dean Robinson believes that an uneducated man at middle age might not pick up correct speech as readily as a youth, because of the tendency of speech to become a fixed habit, but in the study of new languages, history, geography, literature, philosophy and business methods he finds that the man of middle age has much the advantage over young fellows in their twenties. The man of middle age, he contends, provided he has not allowed himself “to go stale,” is supremely equipped for any undertaking. All history gives us proof of this. He refers to the analysis made some years ago by W. A. Newman Dorland of the activities of four hundred of the world’s most famous men, which showed that these men, on the average, produced their master work at fifty years of age and that most of them were working with unabated vigor until long past that age. Few of these men demonstrated mental activity along the lines in which they be-

came famous until an average age of twenty-four.

Dean Robinson concludes:—

Every man has intellectual self-determination. No tyrant can wrest it from him; no political marplot can juggle the boundaries of his mental conquests. If he allows his ambitions to lag, his machinery to rust in the potential prime of their powers, he has only himself to blame. It was a wise analyst who divided the mental working life of man into four decades: From twenty to thirty, the

bronze age; from thirty to forty, the silver age; from forty to fifty, the gold age; from fifty to sixty the iron age.

In his youth a man has two or three mental searchlights to play on any object whose recesses he would lay bare. Experience, observation, and ripened maturity add light after light. By the time he has reached middle age he should have a battery of forty searchlights in place of the small cluster of his youth. He is wise who will keep them trimmed and burning, and direct them with a steady hand.