Last fall the CRIMSON pointed out some obvious defects in the present system of Phi Beta Kappa selections. The fact that all but twenty-five members are chosen long before the results of their-tutorial work may be estimated was brought forward in support of a plan which would postpone these elections until the end of the Senior year. It was taken for granted that the twenty-five men chosen under the present rule at the end of their. College course would be selected largely on the basis of the honors gained in their field. The growing emphasis upon tutorial work and non-course study seemed to demand that excellence in this sort of work should be rewarded by Phi Beta Kappa to the fullest extent allowed by the existing rules.
To many persons who have hoped that the Phi Beta Kappa Society might stand for a scholarship higher than that attainable by the mere grinding out of course grades, its conduct in the Spring elections has brought a very rude awakening. When there were but two days left until the final announcement of honors by the faculty the Phi Beta Kappa Society met and elected the last twenty-five men from the Class of 1929.
It is only too obvious that not the slightest effort has been made by the Society to keep up with the changes in educational method at Harvard. Founded at a time when all scholastic success was measured by isolated course grades, this organization has continued on the ancient theory that what was good enough for our grandfathers is good enough for us. The present result of this policy has without question left the Phi Beta Kappa Society with a somewhat foolish grin on its scholarly features. After all, anyone who knows anything about what Harvard has of late years been trying to offer in the way of an education will know where to direct his smile when he sees a man stride across the platform to receive his degree with a summa or a high magna but looks in vain for any flash of gold dangling from his watch chain.
It will be well if those in charge of future elections have seen these smiles and realize that they express a somewhat tolerant amusement which is far more dangerous to an organization's prestige than any more intense feeling ever can be. Popular recognition of the value of tutorial work has become far too general among Harvard men for them to bother with any very vigorous attack upon a society which still places its emphasis upon a form of effort which has always been the delight of a certain serious sort of adolescent mind.