Approximately two hundred seniors concentrating in the Division of Ancient and Modern Languages find the college year opening in a frantic combination of high pressure skimming of the world's greatest literatures and desperate cram sessions under Mt. Auburn Street tutelage. This jumble of postponed effort is the herald of next week's Authors examinations. It is not an ominous sign.
Like most attempts to improve educational systems, the Authors examinations were instituted with the support of a plausable theory. The study of any particular period of the world's literature requires, if it is to be at all thorough, some acquaintance with the outstanding masterpieces of other ages. To supply students with this background for their special fields the Authors examinations were made a part of the so-called Divisionals.
Coming, however, as they do in the fall of the last year in college these tests do not realize their purpose. Instead of providing a background they cap the scene with an anti-climax. They are too late.
Before the senior year most of men complete a major part of their concentration. They complete it without the benefit of the rich groundwork which the College considers necessary. The result is plain. Study of Bible, Shakespeare, and Authors degenerates to jumping over a barrier which stands before the degree. As such they are an example of a splendid theory abused by unwise practice.
The Authors examinations to be a vital part of a Harvard education must come when the preparation for them will accomplish its aims, when a study of the classics can precede other study, lay a foundation, give a comprehensive appreciation of the work to come. That time is the beginning of the Sophomore year.
With the Authors behind them Sophomores could commence their concentration with the poise that comes from understanding. The purpose of the examinations would be realized. Many factors, as the CRIMSON will later point out, combine to make the opening of the second year the ideal time for these examinations. The present state of affairs with outside tutoring and picayune spot questions only twists into a farce the "cultural background" which reads so nicely in the catalogues.