CSG 2.0 Excerpts – Hyde’s 1906 Offer

The Offer of the College

In September of 1972, after I had hoisted my belongings up to my fourth floor Bowdoin College dormitory room, I found this formally printed statement waiting on my desk:

The Offer of the College
To be at home in all lands and all ages;
To count Nature a familiar acquaintance,
And Art an intimate friend;
To gain a standard for the appreciation of others’ work
And the criticism of your own;
To carry the keys of the world’s library in your pocket,
And feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake;
To make hosts of friends…
Who are to be leaders in all walks of life;
To lose yourself in generous enthusiasms
And cooperate with others for common ends—
This is the offer of the college for the best four years of your life.

This brilliant piece was written by William DeWitt Hyde, president of Bowdoin from 1885 through 1917.  I’d like to tell you that I read Hyde’s piece, pondered it deeply, and discussed it at length that freshman year with my peers, all of whom also received it on their desks.  I did not.  But 40+ years later it has a deep meaning to me, especially given that one of my daughters has recently graduated from the same institution and received the benefit of the same offer.  May this same offer visit your children during their college years and beyond.

In order for your child to gain the full value of the offer of his or her college, I urge you to step aside and allow it to happen.  Hopefully, as a parent, you have already stepped aside while your children have experienced both success and failure.  If this is true, then I congratulate you for advancing against the wind of the prevailing culture.  If not, well, I hope the following pages will assist you in taking this critical step in your parenting.

And one more thing for those who count themselves among the stepped aside group:  Well… there’s no nice way to say this… It could also be that you’re bullshitting yourself.  I’ve observed that kids have nothing on parents when it comes to maintaining high levels of self-deception.  I’ve known many, many parents who have espoused the belief that they had “let go” of their children despite the fact that no innocent bystander would think so.

Regardless of where you fall, it is my hope that the 5 Rules for Parents, when added to the 5 Rules for Students, will offer a 1-2 punch for your family for “the best four years of your life” and for many years to come.

Onward,  Malcolm Gauld