Among the many heritages which present-day Harvard has received from the Eliot regime may be placed the large number of courses in the college catalogue which are given both to graduates and undergraduates. Their evolution from the system of free election and abolition of restraints, fostered by President Eliot, can readily be seen, and has ordinarily been considered a favorable development in our educational system. To anyone who considered the distinction between undergraduate and graduate objectives, however, the value of these courses appears less obvious. The distinction in many subjects in vital, and courses which lose sight of it tend to fall between two stools.
It is obvious that graduate study ought primarily to be a training in independent research, since the scholar's aim is not merely to master the present body of knowledge, but to increase it. Ideally, many courses, now open to graduates ought to exclude them, since such courses frequently take a year or half-year to dole out information which the student himself could assimilate in a fraction of that time. (History courses are notorious offenders in this respect.) At the worst, such courses ought to direct the graduate to fruitful subjects of original research; these are frequently remote from the main body of the subject. The undergraduate's aim, to the contrary, is more modest, and the task of the professor in to introduce him to the vital aspects of a given subject while avoiding the superficial gleaning of the survey course.
Certain courses, and exceptional professors are able to reconcile these diverse interests, but fundamentally they are able to reconcile these diverse interests., but fundamentally they are opposed. That opposition ought to be recognized. A careful study of courses now open to undergraduates and graduates would reveal some that should be listed "Primarily for graduates," others properly open to undergraduates only, and not a few which might profitable be dropped. In the latter category belong a large percentage of the survey courses, of which the college notoriously has a surplus. Such an arrangement would not bar properly qualified undergraduates from advanced courses any more than it does today. It would eliminate the ambiguity of purpose which clouds much lecturing here and help to raise its level substantially.