Copyright
William Richards Castle William Roscoe Thayer.

The Harvard graduates' magazine online

. (page 62 of 103)
Online LibraryWilliam Richards Castle William Roscoe ThayerThe Harvard graduates' magazine → online text (page 62 of 103)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


fit into the ultimate purpose. To treat the single course as a self-sufficient
unit, complete in itself, is to run a danger of losing sight of the end in
the means thereto. In no other part of the University, in the require*
ments for no other degree, is the course, as a unit, complete in itself. In
the Law School, where the freedom of election is the greatest many
courses are required, and the rest all aim at a definite and narrowly cir-
cumscribed object, preparation for practice at the bar. In the Medical
and Divinity Schools general examinations on specific fields of knowledge
have been established — of which more will be said later. The same thing
has always been true of the doctorate of philosophy in the Graduate
School of Arts and Sciences ; and for the Master of Arts, which was
formerly attained by a sufficiently high grade in any four courses, it has
now been the rule for many years that the courses must form a consistent
whole, approved by some department of the Faculty.



Digitized by



Google



1916.] The President's Annual Report. 449

dmoemtration and distrOnUion. In the College the prohlem of mak-
ing the student, instead of the coarse, the onit in education is more diffi*
cult than in the other parts of the Uniyersity, because general education
is more intangible, more yague, less capable of precise analysis and defi-
nition, than -training for a profession. Nevertheless, in the College, some
significant steps haye been taken which tend in this direction. The first
was the requirement tliat every student must concentrate six of his seyen-
teen courses in some definite field, must distribute six moi-e among the
other subjects of knowledge, and must do so after consulting an instructor
appointed to advise him. The exact prescriptions may not be perfect, nor
in their final form. Experience may well lead to changes, but the intent
is goo<1,-to develop and expand the mind of the student as an individual,
as in himself the object of education. So far as the rule affects the care
with which the student selects his courses, there has certainly been a gain,
for there is no doubt that the requirement has made his choice more
thoughtful and serious than before. The Committee on the Choice of
Electives makes exceptions freely in the case of earnest students, and it
is a significant fact that, although the members of the Committee hold
yery diyergent views upon the principles inyolved, they are almost in-
variably unanimous on the question of allowing an exception in any par-
ticular case.

The rule of concentration, coupled with the provision that not more
than two of the six courses shall be of an elementary character, is in-
tended to compel eyery man to study some subject with thorough-
ness, and acquire a systematic knowledge thereof. Certain departments
haye so arranged their sequence of conrses that this result is fairly well
attained ; but in otliers where the offering is large, and the nature of
the subject is not (as it is in Mathematics, for example, or the physical
sciences) such Uiat a mastery of one thing is indispensable for the study
of another, it is still possible for a stndent to elect six courses in the out-
lying parts of the fiehl which haye little connection with one another and
do not form a systematic whole. This possibility is attractive to under-
graduates seeking easy courses, whose object is not so much to obtain as
to evade an education. Of late years, indeed, many easy courses have
been made more serious, whereby the minimum work which shirkers must
do for a degree has been sensibly raised, to the great benefit of the college
as an educational institution, and incidentally with the result of increas-
ing the respect for high achievement in college scholarship. As the require-
ments in yarious subjects are stiffened, it is interesting to observe the
flocking of students from one department to another.

Tutors. The second step in treating the student, instead of the course,
as the unit in education, was taken by the Division of History, Gov-



Digitized by



Google



450 The President's Annual Beport. [March,

ernment, and Economics, when, and with the approval of tlie Faculty,
it set ap the requirement of a general examination at graduation for
students concentrating in that division. The examination, which is en-
trusted to a committee representing the three depai-tments within the
division, b to be distinct from that in the coui-ses elected, and is to
include not only the ground covered in them, but also the general field
with which they have dealt, and the knowledge needed to connect them.
This is a marked departure from the plan of earning a degree by scor-
ing courses ; and it will take time to adjust men's conceptions of educa-
tion to a basis new to the American college, though familiar in every
European university. To assist tlie students in preparing themselves for
the general examination each of them, at the beginning of his Sophomore
year, is assigned to the charge of a tutor who confers with him about iiis
work and guides his reading outside of tiiat required in the courses. As
tlie plan could be applied only to men entering after it was established,
the first examinations will be held next spring, and then only for men
who graduate in thi*ee years. In the Divinity School, where the course
for the Masters and Doctors degrees is shorter, a general examination
has already been put into operation with gratifying results.

Supervision of courses selected. A third step haft been taken this autumn
by a vote of tlie Faculty providing that the courses elected by a student
for concentration in History and Literature must be appi*oved by the
Committee on Degrees with Distinction in that field. Tliis has always
been true of candidates for distinction under this committee, and in fact
the field is one that would present little unity if the courses chosen were
unrelated. But that the combination of courses by other students should
require approval is an innovation which shows that in a subject where
the liberty of choice is peculiarly liable to abuse, the Faculty is pre-
pared to require a consistent program of study, with a view to giving
students an education rational as a whole. Moreover, departments and
committees, which do not wish to limit the choice of the students concentrat-
ing in their field to combinations of courses approved by them beforehand,
sometimes take charge of his work in the subject and really overaee it at
every stage. They do, in fact, act as his advisers and can often do so better
than the instructor specially appointed to advise him. The adviser so ap-
pointed frequently takes a very careful interest in the development of a
man's work throughout his coUege course, and whenever a man shows on
entering college any strong special interest, Prof essor Parker always tries
to appoint for him an adviser who will sympathize with that interest
Nevertheless, the departments and committees which pay close attention
to the choice of courses by each man concentrating in their field add much
to the thoroughness of his education, and have adopted a principle that



Digitized by



Google



1916.] The President's Annual Seport. 451

might with profit be more widely extended. It would be well if every
department insisted on having a list, not merely of candidates for dis*
tinction, bat of all students concentrating in its special field.

Another departure from the practice of counting by courses is the re-
quirement that every stndent shall be able to read ordinary French or
German at sight, and show it by doing so orally. This has proved to be
a very different thing from taking and passing a course. It is a test of
capacity acquired, not of tasks performed. It is in this one subject a
measure of the man and of his education, not a unit of credit accumu-
lated. Not less important is the Committee on the Use of English by
Students, appointed in consequence of a request from the Board of Over-
seers. The investigation by that body showed that students who had done
their required English composition often could not or would not express
themselves creditably in their later written work. A man who cannot
write his mother tongue grammatically, lucidly, and with a reasonably fair
style, or who does not think it worth while to do so, is not an educated
man no matter how many courses he may have scored, or how proficient
he may be in a special field. In this connection it may be noted that the
sup^vision of the use of English applies to the Graduate School as well
as to the College.

All tliese changes are in a direction away from the mechanical view of
education which is the bane of the American system. We see that view
displayed everywhere, prominently at the present day in efforts to
raise the standard of pre-medical training. This is commonly expressed
in terms of courses taken and credits obtained, not of knowledge acquired.
If a young man has passed a course and learned little or nothing, or
forgotten all he knew, he fulfils the requirement; but if he has mas-
tered the subject in any other way, and can prove it by examination, it
avails him notliing. Counting the credits scored in courses is, no doubt,
the easiest way to apply a. requirement, but it is not a sound system of
education. What a man is, what knowledge he possesses, and what use
he can make of it, is the real measure of his education. All persons who
desire to improve the American system from the common school upward
ought to strive not to lose sight of the end in the means, not to let the
machinery divert attention from the product.

Military training. One cannot leave the subject of the College without
considering a matter prominent in men's minds at the present day — that
of military training. Our colleges are obviously not military schools and
cannot properly make themselves such. But it does not follow that they
ought to treat preparation for national defense as a student activity with
wliich they have no concern. The experience of the present war seems
to have shown that in a conntiy that has not universal compulsory service



Digitized by



Google



452 ITie President's Annual Report. [March,

of some kind one of the most pressing needs in case of war is an ample
supply of trained officers, and there is no better material for thb porpose
than the students in our colleges. Moreover, the aim of a country which
desires to remain at peace, but must be ready to defend itself, should be
to train a large body of junior officers who can look forward to no career
in the army, and can have no wish for war, yet who will be able to take
their places in the field when needed. The best way of reaching such a
result, and the one least wasteful to the taxpayer and to the men them«
seWes, is to give a sufficient training to college students who will there-
after be engaged in civil professions and bosiness. If this is the duty of
the State the colleges onght to promote it so far as they properly can.

It would be wis^ for our civilian colleges to leave drill entirely to the
summer camps and the militia, and confine such military instruction as
may be given in term time to those elements of an officer's duty which
are appropriate to a college curriculum. There are many of these which
are quite as well adapted for intellectual study as other subjects taught
in college. Such are : military history, including the changes in tactics
caused by the increased range and precision of weapons ; the functions
of infantry, cavalry, artillery, and aircraft in modem war ; the taking
advantage of terrain in war, and the use of topog^raphical maps ; the con-
struction of field defenses and tlie methods of attacking them ; the mech-
anism of moving larg^ bodies of troops ; mobilization, with the collection
and distribution of supplies. All these things can be taught like other
college subjects, by lectures, reading, discussion and laboratory work, the
last including problems with maps and, as in the case of Geology, field
work in the neighboring country. A couple of courses on these subjects
following a couple of summers at tlie camps should be enough to qualify
a man of ordinary capacity to be enrolled as a subaltern in the reserve.

A plan of this kind requires cooperation between the collies and the
national military authorities. The government must maintain the camps
on the necessary scale ; supply the officers for instruction there, as well
as for teachers — though by no means the only teachers — in the college
courses. It must also frame a comprehensive plan of training which will
be elastic enough to be adapted to the curriculum of the college ; and it
must give a recognition in the form of a list of reserve officers to men
who have finished the training satisfactorily. The colleges, on their party
must recognize the training in some way ; for the courses of instrnction
in term time must clearly be under the supervision of the college author-
ities, and if they are to be of real value they must be treated as seriously
as otlier courses. The training received in the camps or elsewhere is an
essential basis for the courses in military science which supplement it If
it must not of necessity precede them in time, it had better do so, and



Digitized by



Google



1916.] 2%e Presidenfs Annual Seport. 453

may well be treated as a needful preparation for those courses. Acting
upon this principle, the Faculty has recently voted that a course in mili-
tary science to be given by officers of the army during the second half of
the current year may be counted for a degree, but only by students who
have attended one of the five-week summer camps, or had sufficient train-
ing in the militia. The efiFect of this in encouraging undergraduates to
attend the camps is much the same as it would be if the camp, coupled
with academic instruction in term time, were treated as the equivalent
of a college course. The difference is merely one of form, and yet the
form is not unimportant. The precedent of counting anything involving
a considerable amount of physical training is avoided ; and with it possi-
ble difficulties in the future when the demand for military preparedness
is less insistent^and a demand for encouraging something else has arisen.
In treating the camps as a required preliminary for profiting by the
courses in military science, we are acting on a safe principle that involves
no danger of being extended beyond the case to which it is applied.

The Library, The most notable change in the aspect of the Univer-
sity within the year has been wrought by the completion of the Harry
Elkins Widener Memorial Library ; but the contribution thereby made
to its working power as a seat of learning has not been less significant.
During the summer, with rare administrative skill, the books were trans-
ferred to the new building and rearranged upon the shelves, the cata-
logue improved, and the whole library put into working order. The far
grreater ease and comfort in using the collections was reflected at once,
both by the larger number of books used in the Reading Room, and by
the larger number taken from the building. And yet the principal ad-
vance made in the new university library has been due to the facilities
for using the books in the stack itself by members of the instructing staff
and advanced students. There are about sixty private rooms for the pro-
fessors in immediate contact with the stacks ; and the open stalls in the
stacks, with windows and places for table and chair, number nearly three
hundred. Such an ample provision for work among the books exists in
no other library in the world ; and the relief from the intolerable condi-
tions in Gore Hall cannot be without effect on the productiveness of our
scholars. In the old conditions scholarly work was done under gi'ave dif-
ficulties ; but the professors' rooms in the new building, so apportioned
as to be as near as possible to the collections a man will chiefly use, fur-
nish all that a scholar could desire. The instructing staff look forward
to, and the friends of die University expect, an era of productiveness
greater than was possible when our scholars were hampered by the res
angusta domi.

Oraduate fellowships. But it is not only among the instructing staff that



Digitized by



Google



464 5^6 President's Annual Report. [March,

we ought to foster productive scholarship. The habit of writing ought to
begin young ; younger than is usually the case in America. Contrary to
the common impression, writing becomes more difficult the longer it is
put off. As a man grows older he becomes more fastidious, more self-
distrustful, less ready to grapple with a large theme, less ready to put
pen to paper until he knows all about a subject, which no one can ever
do. A certain crudity of youth is inseparable from early and g^at pro-
ductiveness, and ought not to be too much repressed. It would seem that
American Graduate Schools do sometimes, quite unintentionally, repress
it too much, by prolonging the period of study too long. Real capacity
for truly productive work is, no doubt, rare even among learned scholars,
but where it exists it might perhaps be more encouraged, and encouraged
younger, than it is today. Perhaps fellowships, like thosp in the English
universities, or like those in the Fondatian Thiers in Paris, might be
created with good results. The holders of such fellowships ought not to
be members of any school, because the atmosphere of a school is essen-
tially that of study, and the atmosphere of study is not the same as that
of production. The fellows would, of course, be in close contact with the
professors, and go to them for criticism and advice ; but that is not the
same thing as studying under them, or working up under their direction
a thesis for a degree. It assumes that the period of study under tutelage
has passed, and the period of independent work has begun ; and this
means a subtle but real change of attitude. It may be too early to devise
any plan of this kind, but it seems to be worth consideration.

The Divinity School affiliations. The Divinity School has within the
year progressed farther on its new path. In the last repoii; the ag^ree-
ment with the Episcopal Theological School for better cooperation, and
for the opening of all courses without charge to each other's students,
was set forth. It was pointed out that tlie three affiliated Schools, with-
out in the least surrendering their distinctive aims in training young men
for the ministry, were all gainers by the agreement. During the past
year the Theological School of Boston University suggested an agree-
ment similar to that made with the Episcopal Theological School. Tlie
proposal was welcomed by the Faculty of Divinity, which necessarily
gave it, however, a somewhat different form. The Divinity Schools of
Harvard and Andover charge their students a tuition fee of one hundred
and fifty dollars, and in making the new agreement the Episcopal Theo-
logical School raised its tuition fee to the same point. But the School of
Boston University does not in practice charge such a fee, and therefore
it would be manifestly unjust to allow its students to take gratuitously
courses for which the students in the other three Schools are obliged to
pay. On the other hand, it was felt that it would not be unfair to admit



Digitized by



Google



1916.] The President's Annual Report. 455

without charge students whose grade of scholarship is such that if they
applied for adomsion to our Divinity School they would be awarded
scholarships coveiing the tuition. A grade of eighty-five per cent in the
work of two years in the School of Boston University was taken by mu-
tual consent as a rough measure of such standing and the agreement was
drawn accordingly.

The agreements open to the students of the different schools all the
courses under the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as well as those under
the Faculty of Divinity ; and no doubt many of the courses taken will
not be primarily designed for divinity students, but will be on subjects,
philosophic, social, economic and historical, with which the younger
generation of clergymen feel a need of being familiar. This is as it
should be, and it is one of the main attractions of a connection with a
great university to the separate divinity schools in its neighborhood. To-
gether with the quality of our own divinity staff, it has enabled our
School to take a position as the nucleus for a system of scholarly instruc-
tion of a high grade, conducted with the aid of a group of denomina-
tional institutions. This position is the highest to which a Faculty of Divin-
ity can aspire, and in our case it can be achieved without giving up the
older function of training young men for ordinary parish work. The
prospect has given a decided impulse to the energy of the School.

An important part of the plan is the administration of the higher de-
gree of Master of Divinity and Doctor of Theology. The qualification
for these, as indeed is now the case for Bachelors of Theology, is not the
completion of a fixed number of courses, but a general examination upon
a field of knowledge approved in advance by the Faculty, courses of in-
struction being a means thereto, not an end in themselves. The general
examination has proved a satisfactory test of capacity and attainment,
and the degrees so conferred have already won a notable standing. Two
of the three men who obtained the doctor's degree last June, and one of
the two on whom the master's degree was conferred, have already been
appointed to full professorships in this country or in Canada.

The Law School. Apart from the grievous loss sustained by the death
of Dean Thayer, there has been little change in the prosperity of the
Law School. The only serious difficulty under which it labors is the small
size of the instructing staff compared with the large number of students.
The ratio of professors to students is less than it was twenty or thirty
years ago. In 1883, the School had five professors and 165 students, or
one instructor to 29 students ; in 1894-95, eight professors (with three
lecturers giving special courses) and 353 students, or one full-time in-
structor to 44 students. Last year it had ten professors (with five lectur-
ers giving special courses) and 730 students, or one full-time instructor



Digitized by



Google



456 The President's Annual Report. [March,

to every 73 students; and that with a variety of courses that has been
much enlarged. One does not, of course, expect to increase tlie instruct-
ing staff in proportion to the growth in students ; but when we remember
that the professors in the Law School have no assistants, and do the whole
work of their courses, reading all the examination books themselves, it
is not surprising that with so large a number of students they are very
hard worked. The fact is that the School has a comparatively small en-
dowment, more than two thii*ds of its revenue coming from tuition fees.
It is hoped that before lung a larger endowment may be raised.

The Medical School. There is no doubt that the reputation of the
Medical School and of its staff has been growing steadily throughout the
country. In its body of instructors and its connections within and out-
side of tlie University it has elements of strength for new fields of medi-
cine that could, with greater resources, be developed more fully than
anywhere else on this continent

The School of Business Administration, The School of Business Ad-
ministration has incraased in numbers and in usefulness. A second chair,
that of Transportation, has been endowed by friends of Mr. James J.
Hill and worthily named after him. To increase the value of the School
in this field he has himself given $125,000 since the opening of the current
academic year. Thus by three generous gifts the School is beginning to
acquire tlie endowment it needs for permanent maintenance. Its methods
of instruction are being followed in other institutions, and its forms of ac-
counting adopted by industnal concerns — good evidence that it is on
the right road for the application of economic science to actual business.

The Bussey Institution, In the last report it was stated that the
work in Forestry had been divided, instruction in Lumbering being placed
in the School for Business Administration, while research in Forestry is
conducted in connection with the Bussey. This last Institution, whose work
consists wlioUy of research and the instruction of a few advanced students
in branches of zo5logy and botany that touch agriculture, has been organ-



Online LibraryWilliam Richards Castle William Roscoe ThayerThe Harvard graduates' magazine → online text (page 62 of 103)