President Lowell in his annual report for 1917-18 has sounded the key-note of Harvard's policy for undergraduate education:
"The college years are not the time to form highly trained specialists; that comes later; the main object of the undergraduate should be to acquire habits of intellectual application, of clear and accurate thought, and of lucid expression."
Such a program strikes to the very heart of all education and opens the way to the much contended question: What should the college seek to accomplish? Should it train the individual in special attainment or should it cultivate that elasticity of mind and broadness of outlook which distinguish the student from the artisan? In President Lowell's understanding, the development of the mind as a whole is its object, a mind sympathetic and without prejudice, which from its long practice in jumping intellectual hurdles will better adjust itself to the changing needs of the time and more easily follow the path of truth through the labyrinth of ignorance and bewilderment. The mind is to be trained to follow things to their logical conclusion, to seek for the truth from its original sources; and, above all, to weigh in the scales of mature deliberation the puzzling questions of the day, and to see in their true proportion, through the discerning eyes of wisdom, those problems which present to the unpractised mind a mass of baffling confusion.
Yet directly opposite to this conception we find President Hadley planning for Yale a course of instruction which makes specialization its cardinal principle. A series of pre-professional studies will be required of the first- or second-year undergraduate. In taking up these subjects before the close of his college career, the student will be enabled to complete his professional training sooner. This is distinctly contrary to our conception of college education. On the one hand we find Yale embarking upon a system of early professionalism, and on the other hand we find Harvard clinging to the doctrine of "liberal education."
We cannot but wonder whether the proposed early specialization will give a college man that subtlety of mind and ease of adjustment which a wider distribution seeks to accomplish. We question whether a one-track mind would not result, an intellect which has but one interest and one accomplishment. What the University seeks to develop by its laissez faire policy is the versatility of mind which will embrace many fields, which eagerly gives ear to new opinions, which analyses, and holds dear its criterion of right and wrong.
We still maintain our conception of the college. But what could be more fitting than that the two great American universities should differ? For they are sister institutions, and the family which has but one idea is indeed to be pitied.