Worried that the house of Harvard may be in a state of disorder similar to that of the secondary schools, Dean Hanford considers in his annual report a new plan of concentration for the Plan B student. He recognizes that like most colleges, Harvard, in striving to educate the scholarly and non-scholarly at the same time, faces a dichotomy almost insoluble. Perhaps, he says, the traditional system encourages too much specialization from the men who prefer a general education to a degree with honors. Yet he points out that the needs of those preparing for graduate study and those merely wanting an A.B. are to a large extent interwoven; and concludes that rather than substitute an alternative plan of study, which would overthrow the principle of concentration that each should be "provided with comprehensive knowledge and systematic training in a particular field," the present plan can be successfully revised. This consideration is all pertinent, since in these troublous times the undergraduate, whether scholarly or not, is seriously questioning the value of his education in the light of his future.
At first it should be made clear that Harvard is fundamentally a liberal arts college, not a vocational school; we do not come here for the training per se, but rather for the effects it may produce. Therefore, it makes slight difference what field is picked for concentration or what courses are selected for distribution. And no one should care if we intend to be a lawyer or a shoe salesman.
It seems that Harvard will always have the non-scholarly as well as the scholarly student. Undoubtedly the C man has a place; he is the spine of the extra-curricular activities, which in their way are as essential to college life as the curriculum. It is usually the C man who desires a broad education, but it is doubtful whether he would sacrifice concentration and tutorial-regardless of how little time he gives them-for a backward system based merely on course credits. No matter how intellectually incurious is a student, he prefers personal to mob instruction in theory, though he may detest it in fact. For a degree lecturing is easier than tutorial, yet for an ideal some individual consideration is superior to none. Thus the C man wants a compromise between the two; he does not object to tutorial if at the same time he can have excellent lecturing. For this reason Dean Hanford's suggestion has great appeal-that the traditional scheme may in part be adjusted to those disliking specialization by improving the courses taken primarily for distribution purposes and by providing a large number of stimulating lectures.
But this proposed reform blesses more than the C man; it is a true antitoxin for overspecialization, it resurrects the ideal of "knowing a little about a lot," and above all stresses good teaching. When Dean Hanford recalls great names like Bliss Perry, Norton, and Palmer, he unintentionally brings to mind the scarcity of such men in present-day Harvard. With teachers who can stimulate from the platform as well as in the study the 'University will more closely approximate a broad, liberal education than by any other means.
In any study of broadness the idea of survey courses enters. Despite the dangers of superficiality proved to some degree by Chicago University, survey courses are practical for a plan of study which, because of the failure of the secondary schools, must teach the fundamental ideas of the world. It is even possible to design survey courses, so that they will do more than skim the surface.
And armed with good teaching, survey courses, and the principle of concentration Harvard has a fair chance of reconciling its twofold educational aim: the training of both the scholar and the man of action.