THE OFFICIAL VAGABOND
The "snap course", target of not a little opprobrium in educational magazines and dean's offices, has at last come into its own. Naming thus a new kind of course that will be part of the reorganized Columbia curriculum, an action vaguely suggestive of giving a dog a bad name, Dean Herbert E. Hawkes of the college announced at a dinner of Columbia alumni that in his judgement "snap courses serve an excellent purpose." Such a statement, it would seem, would have few farther flung associations than that with the cultivated tastes of the student vagabond of Harvard. But closer examination reveals a similarity of educational ideas that is more than superficial.
At Columbia "snap courses" will take the form of lectures, at which there will be no academic requirement other than punctiliousness in attendance. Half credit only is given for such a course, but in the Columbia system of rating courses this will make the "snap course" on a par with the laboratory course. A man will be permitted "to include one, or possibly two such courses in his program."
Sitting in on courses by the student who does as much or little other work in the course as he wishes, a custom of old and honorable standing at Harvard, is gaining in identity when it is given official status at Columbia. The desire of Harvard men for breadth in culture, as well as depth, is what has given the "Student Vagabond" position in the columns of the CRIMSON. His presence has made it possible in a degree to correlate the studies in different fields, to fit the art, the music and the literature of a period into a complementary whole, rather than one that might have to be patched together by scraps of old notes and elusive recollections. And Dean Hawkes says out his faith in such glimpsing of Parnassus in his phrase "A student can learn a great deal by sitting two or three times a week at the feet of a master of literature and science, without doing outside reading or other work."
The nature of the Harvard curriculum has made such official sanction unnecessary to make this kind of study an institution. One may regret that the credit system, the greatest flaw in the American educational scheme, should taint the orthodox amateurism of the vagabonding student, but it may also be interpreted as a cheerful token of growth.