Although the American Civilization Plan has not "inculcated the virus of self-education" among students, it has planted a germ of defeatism in its sponsors. Lack of support by upperclassmen has tempted the professors-in-charge to shelve the entire House phase of the Plan. And this week's meeting of the Committee may end in a decision to let all but the Yardlings go uncivilized.
President Conant's brainchild needs nourishment. Its father recommended the study of "our national cultural history," hunted up money to pay expenses, then left it to take care of itself. Now, after three years, the American Civilization Plan is not yet a grown infant; indeed it is little more than a foetus.
Nor is the fault with the Plan's nurses. The present chairman has instituted an essay contest and sponsored several well attended lectures; the Freshman Counsellor has interested over a hundred students; and the House meetings have not been entirely devoid of success.
But at the same time the Committee perceives that most of the undergraduates participating are in History and Literature--men for whom the Plan was not primarily intended; while on the other hand, non-concentrators have generally stayed away. Moreover, no one has taken a serious crack at the reading list drawn up with great care in 1936. And the job of the "teaching fellows" is almost all fellowship.
Among the Freshmen, however, the Plan this year has been an undeniable success. So successful, in fact, that by contrast the upperclass counselorships seem almost a waste. Yet abandoning them--all too easy--would be unnecessary surrender. For there is a definite reason why the 1943 Counsellor has been kept busy. Through an informal alliance between the American Civilization Plan and English A, he has encouraged Freshmen to acquaint themselves with the President's educational offspring. If the Committee combines the House program with upperclass courses in similar fashion, all may not yet be lost.
Connecting the American Civilization Plan, even informally, with course work is admittedly a retreat from President Conant's original ideal. But only in this fashion can the neglected Plan, dying now, be saved. A doctor, not an undertaker, is called for.