The board of overseers is singularly unfortunate in its committees. A few weeks ago, the continuance of compulsory prayers was recommended partially on the grounds of "expediency," and last Wednesday, a special committee on instruction in written English handed in a report quite as striking as the other. The overseers voted, from this report, that "this board, with no intention of criticising the gentlemen in charge of the English department, hereby expresses its opinion that more extended instruction should be given in written English; that to this end they recommend that the number of exercises in written English be increased, and that every effort be made to render the course of instruction in written English more systematic and progressive." It is difficult to see how with "no in tention of criticising" the English department, the committee could recommend that "every effort be made to render the course of instruction in written English more systematic and progressive." Certainly if the instruction be not "systematic and progressive," the instructors ought to be criticised; but if on the contrary, as the report states, the committee do not wish to censure the instructors, the insinuation that the course in English is not "systematic and progressive" is to say the least grutuitous. We submit that if criticism be necessary, it ought not to be made by insinuation, nor through the columns of the public press.
We have been all the more surprised at this report since it seems to us that the most casual examination of facts will show that the instruction is both "systematic and progressive." For the past few years the work in written English, both prescribed and elective, has been of a constantly higher grade, and the increasing interest of the students in this work is strong evidence that the instruction has been successful. While we are by no means certain that at to prescribe class themes is the best way to teach men to write, we believe that the present instructors are getting the best result possible out of such a scheme. A comparison of the work done to-day, and the care shown in its criticism, with that of five or ten years ago will go far to justify our statement. Under the circumstances, we feel compelled to assert that the report accepted by the overseers is not only misleading, but is thoroughly unfounded on facts.