Considering the almost universal approval with which the publication of the rank list was received in September, it is interesting to note the opinion expressed in the communication printed in another column of this issue. It represents quite another view of the matter.
On first sight the arguments sound convincing enough; a second reading, however, reveals a misunderstanding of the facts. Until the time of President Eliot the attitude of the University was not, as Mr. Haskell assumes, that "the college was selling certain commodities and the purchaser had the right to make his own selections". On the contrary every student has to take exactly the same prescribed courses; and the freedom of choice was anything but "liberal". In more recent years, the increased freedom has indeed been accompanied by a "paternalism", which Mr. Haskell seems to decry, but which is nothing compared with the Paternalism--with a capital P--which existed before the recent innovations. The publication of the Dean's List and of the Rank List is in the same category as the Freshman Dormitories, the Senior advisors and, above all, compulsory Freshman athletics.
Not only is this "new" policy far from new, but furthermore it is doubtful whether paternalism at Harvard is an absolute evil. A liberal tradition is all very well; but it implies a general degree of maturity in the students considerably higher than that which we know to exist now. Far too many men enter college as "prep. school" students, and far too many remain such for two and three years, to render advisable an entirely liberal attitude towards them. And if a certain degree of paternalism is effective in maturing these men, it does not on the other hand work any great harm to those who do not require it. The Rank List, for example, may serve to stimulate the man who has the wrong idea of the value of studies; it does not affect for good or evil his "education" as he sees it. It concerns only his scholastic standing, and that, certainly, the College has every right to make known.