100 STEPS TO A DEGREE
Little St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, only a fraction of the size of this college, should nevertheless be of interest to Harvard students this year because of an experiment in education which is the exact opposite of the system here. Backed by President Hutchins of Chicago University, this institution is launching a compulsory curriculum based on the "Hundred Great Books" which, according to its authorities, are the foundation of all our knowledge and culture. It is, roughly, a chronological study of the arts and sciences of the ages, conforming to its supporters' idea of what is the basis for a modern education, and raging temporally from Homer's Iliad to Freud's Principles of Hysteria. There is no latitude of choice, each student being compelled to study four languages, Latin, Greek, French and German, besides the required sciences, mathematics, music, and theology, considered as a speculative science.
This curriculum is interesting if only as a complete antithesis in theory to the self-determination and liberality of choice offered here. Undoubtedly this arbitrary scheme of education will be unpopular with radicals and liberals. Many will support President Conant's statement in 1936 that he was "not enthusiastic about an education which is administered by a force pump," and the dread word Fascist may even be read into it.
The chief about that will occur to many, however, will concern the practicability of a program which has sprung, so to speak, fully armed from the head of Dr. Hutchins. The sceptic can reasonably be allowed his questions as to the maturity of this sudden revival of medieval scholasticism, and raised eyebrows must be expected at such parts of the curriculum as the public dissection of an animal, whose modern practice might be slightly straining a tradition. But Harvard should vigilantly watch this departure in education in this small laboratory and be ready to use anything practical which may come of it.