As Professor Hurlbut intimates, there is a connection between the present system of concentration and distribution and the apparently large percentage of Freshmen on probation; but it is doubtful if the connection is the one which he mentions. It often works out, of course, that men are forced to take courses to satisfy distribution requirements in which they have not the slightest interest. And it is true that the necessity of covering certain specified fields prevents in some measure the exploring of other enticing fields, in the true amateur spirit. But the difficulties which have so attenuated the ranks of the Freshmen are to be found elsewhere than in lack of interest; a real curiosity or thirst for knowledge is rarely aroused before the second or third year anyhow, and the Freshman would probably be equally uninterested in whatever he chanced to take.
A much more potent cause of the present hardships of the first year is the fact that everyone is urged and advised to "get off" his distribution at once so that his last few years may be spent on courses in his concentration group in preparation for divisionals. Distribution, as everybody knows, usually involves taking three introductory, or general courses in the outside fields--quite additional to the necessary modern language courses and English A. Probably two of these introductory courses, such as History 1 or Mathematics C, are taken in the Freshman year; and whatever else may be said of them, they are not "snap courses". An "elementary" course does not mean an easy course; it is often one of the hardest, and unfortunately often one of the most uninteresting. One is taught the rudiments without learning enough really to appreciate or to enjoy the subject matter.
The fact that the human impulse to swallow these bitter pills at once in creases the difficulty of the first year to the breaking point is not, nevertheless, a sound argument for condemning the whole concentration and distribution scheme. In theory, the ideal of a balanced general knowledge of the most important subjects with a deeper, more specialized knowledge of one is extremely good. And if, for reasons which might be obviated more easily than a substitute ideal discovered, the practical application is at fault, the ideal itself need not be discarded. Rather should efforts be turned toward preventing the first-year man from swamping himself with heavy general courses, which seem to bring disaster. One must recognize, of course, that the introductory courses have to come before any specialization; and if only one general course is to be taken in the Freshman year this implies that the field of concentration is known in advance. But until students have, by graduate emancipation, learned to stand on their own feet, the free elective system can hardly produce anything but the old chaos. Until that time, the present concentration plan, more wisely applied in the choice of freshman subjects, and modified with regard to the time of fulfilling requirements in distribution and languages, will prove more completely satisfactory.