- Introduction: inseparable essentials of a college education: a harbor for the fatigued
- The charm of the common room: the atmosphere of freedom and equality
- Features of a modern common room
- Its educative value
- Demerits of the common room
The idea of the common room came to our country from Oxford where it is meant for the follows to retire after dinner. It has now become an inseparable essential of college education everywhere in the world. Every college worth the name must have a common room, large or small, where the students may repair for rest and recreation during their off periods. A modern collegian may well suffer to study under a thatched roof. He may even do without a brilliant staff of teachers. But he can never go without a common room. Its want gives him the pain of suffocation and makes college life appear dull and dreary. A college without a common room is comparable to a sea without a harbor. As the navigators must have a harbor here and there to take rest and refuel his vessel, so the student also must escape into the common room from time to time in order to relax his mind and body and make them fit for further work. The principal charm of the common room lies in its atmosphere of freedom and equality. It is a realm of variety and free choice.
Here the student’s action is guided by his own free will and restrained by his own good sense as also the force of public opinion. Within its four walls, every student is equal in status to every other student. Be it a game, a fun, a discussion or a heated debate, the freshers and the seniors participate in its on a footing of absolute equality. Here, again, the student can breathe freely after hours of confinement and formal behavior in the class-room, the laboratory or the Library. The common room gives him a feeling of maturity and self-importance, which he is denied elsewhere under the eyes of his teachers and superiors. There are the reasons why the attraction of the common room is so irresistible to the students in general.
Various are the features and provisions of a modern common room. As its chief end is to provide relaxation to the fatigued mind and body, the common room makes provision for as many avenues of recreation as the college funds permit. Various indoor games, notably carom and table-tennis, feature prominently and occupy nearly half the hall. While some play on, others hang around, awaiting their turn to come or as sheer on-lookers. Another large slice of the room, generally in the middle, is occupied by a sizeable table, which is littered with newspapers, periodicals, and magazines of different varieties, both local and foreign. A large number of visitors are always clustering around the table. Some glance over the pages listlessly while others read everything with interest and earnestness.
In one corner of the room may be found a radio, catering news, songs, and recitals. On top of all, groups of students scattered all over the hall, both standing and sitting, carry on discussions. Some are talking on sports, some on cinema, others on politics, while some others are dissecting a Professor or even a popular girl. Everything tabled for discussion finds its ready supporters and opponents. True to its tradition of freedom and equality, questions are unhesitatingly asked and ungrudgingly answered; funs are liberally catered and heartily enjoyed; issues are discussed without bar and views are given without reserve, but nothing is allowed to go unchallenged or swallowed. without a grain of salt, be it the opinion of the wisest man of the age. Thus time in the common room, the students’ paradise, glides on. When one group quits attending a class, another follows in the wake, keeping the room always full and lively as long as the college hours continue.
Though essentially meant to provide recreative occupation to the students in their off-periods, the common room is not without educative and other utilities. It cannot be said with certainty that the common room teaches any less than the classroom. It is here that the student reads newspapers and periodicals which keeps him in regular touch with the wide world outside his academic promises. It is again here that thc abstract learning of the class room gains a footing of reality through the frcc exchange of views and informations on many vital aspects of life. No where clse so freely as in the common room can the student open his mind, have his questions answered, problems solved and doubts removed by way of holding discussion with his fellow-students. In short, what the classroom begins may be said to receive perfection in the common room.
There is no denying that the common room has its demerits. The youthful mind has a natural inclination towards amusement and an aversion to the rigours of study. The common room may, therefore, lead to the destruction of many a carcer. But such demerits are associated with every useful institution which cannot be rejected on that account alone. Further students who are too fecble to resist the temptation of the dark side of the common room may well be left out of consideration. Even if the common room docs not exist, such weaklings will find many worse things to lead them astray.
In conclusion, it is a pity that most of our colleges do not lay due emphasis on the maintenance of a standard common room. It arises firstly out of their pecuniary handicaps and secondly from a faulty notion of education. All concerned should remember, in this connexion, the statement of Prof. Roger W. Holmes of Harvard University, that “the most valuable things that happened in college usually happened in our dormitories”. What he attributes to the dormitory, mutatis mutandis, applies to the common room with greater emphasis.
A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on.