"Proposed Athletic Reforms". -- Under this heading the Harvard Alumni Bulletin of January 2 calls attention to the following resolutions unanimously adopted at the recent meeting of the National Collegiate Athletic Association in New York: "It was deliberately recorded as the opinion of the Association that physical training and athletics are an essential part of education, and that in every college or university the department of physical training and athletics should be recognized as a department of collegiate instruction, directly responsible, like other departments of instruction, to the institution itself."
That a far reaching decision like this should be unanimously adopted by a national collegiate organization comprising some hundred or more institutions is conclusive evidence that "the world 'do move." Coming from an organization that was expressly convened a few years ago (1905) for the purpose of doing away with all forms of collegiate athletics, football in particular, the conversion is almost startling.
Favors College Credit For Athletics.
But certainly Harvard ought not to be surprised if some of the 3,500 pupils who have been to the Harvard Summer School of Physical Education, have been teaching what they were taught here in Cambridge, and in-as-much as many of them have had an opportunity to supplement the ideals and theories imbibed here with from ten to twenty years' practical experience in dealing with physical training and athletics, perhaps they are justified in adopting the resolution referred to. As a matter of fact the majority of the colleges throughout the country have long recognized the importance of physical training, in theory at least, and made attendance at the gymnasiums more or less compulsory. This would be absolutely necessary if physical training and athletics were to be put on the same footing as the work of other departments. Moreover if attendance upon gymnastics or athletics were compulsory, participation in these exercises should be required, and if required, credit should be given for the effort made, the work done, and the results attained. Otherwise attendance would be a farce. Here is the rub, and when the proposition is made, we are met with the query: "would you have gymnastics and athletics ranked on the same scale as Latin or Greek or any other academic subject"? If not what becomes of the elective system? If students were allowed to substitute a physical course--so called--for an academic one, would they not all choose a physical course, and thus lower the standard for a degree? Concerning the value of any single academic course when compared with a course in gymnastics or athletics as a preparation for a life's work at this thing I do not care to express an opinion. But as a practical scheme for introducing required physical courses into an elective system it seems, to me this objection could be easily over-come. If at the present time the college requires the candidate for an A.B. or S.B. degree to pass in studies amounting to sixteen courses--add two more courses making eighteen, stating that two of these courses must be in some form of physical activity which may be elected under proper restrictions.
Would Offer Large Field of Courses.
Such an arrangement as this would enable the college to carry on regular systematic courses of instruction in all branches of gymnastics and athletics in which every student could have an opportunity to participate at stated intervals.
This plan would call for our endowment of several hundred thousand dollars to pay for extra instructors and an expenditure of considerable money for equipment. But considering the results that could be attained the investment would be worth while.
All preliminary athletic contests, group games, class and intramural races, and formal gymnastic displays might be left with the regularly appointed instructors to arrange--but all final athletic contests and intercollegiate matches and games may best be left with the student athletic organizations to manage under the supervision of an athletic committee as at present constituted. No college, in my opinion, can consistently require its students to engage in strenuous athletic contests with students from another college.
Entrance into violent athletic contests in which there is always some danger of injury, must be a matter of the student's own choosing. All that the college can reasonably be expected to do, is to see that every man who enters is at least organically sound, and in fairly good physical condition.
In this respect the college might even go a step further in imitation of the ancient Greeks, and see that every man who desires to enter an athletic contest spends at least three months in preparatory training. By so doing many of the heart strains and other physical disorders found in the recent draft examinations would be avoided.