Economics A took a progressive step in assigning the more able students 'to special sections, but the limit of improvement is by no means reached by this action. The total lack of lectures continues to present an inadequacy. Formerly, regular lectures were given, but it was found that this system was not successful. Accordingly the more efficient section-meeting was substituted, with a reservation for the use of the lecture at any time. The purpose of this reservation, which was to allow a change in cases where it seemed best, has not been realized.
Many topics are not successfully expounded in section-meetings. Among them are "Socialism", "Labor Unions", "Population", "Large Fortunes", and "Taxation". These subjects demand a general and coordinated knowledge and are not so complicated that the student need be free to ask questions. The interruptions and diverting queries of the discussion groups break the continuity of the explanation and thus defeat any attempt that the instructor may make to present the clear and coordinated explanation that is necessary.
Furthermore, these topics are not suitable to discussion in class. Curiously enough, they are all subjects on which many people have definite convictions which amount almost to a mania. In each section there are liable to be some such people. These turn the class from intelligent discussion to the expression of personal and often unsound views. All the time spent in this is practically wasted as far as learning economics is concerned.
The lecture, on the other hand, is eminently well suited to these topics. It has none of the disadvantages of the section-meeting and has particular advantages of its own. The lecturer is of course, more able than the section-man. His greater experience enables him to give the coordinated explanation that is required and, at the same time, hold the interest of the students without wasting time in useless discussion. The use of the lecture would give more comprehensive presentations of these topics and save time for more detailed discussion of the complicated material in the section-meetings.
This change does not demand any complete revision of the course. Nor does it involve the abolition of section-meetings through the greater part of it where they have worked so well. All that is required to make Economics A more effective is the revival in certain cases of an institution that has fallen into disuse.