Education Goes to War

A Harvard education in the last war meant drilling, ditch-jumping, and bayonet practice. "Business as usual" was still an uncoined phrase, but people spoke of English and philosophy and even economics and government as unpatriotic luxuries. When this war came, increasing mechanization meant that Harvard could not again become a training camp, and students turned to specialized technical courses, or waited for the draft to catch up with them. Preparing the University for war seemed to mean turning it into a trade school. For immediate usefulness the broad highway to learning looked suspiciously like a blind alley.

The announcement of the Army's enlisted reserve plan, to complement the Navy's V-1 program, and President Conant's suggestion for federal scholarships to give future officers a college education has changed this picture completely. Once scorned "cultural" subjects are now recognized as vital weapons. And with this change in attitude on the part of the Armed Forces, we must change our own attitude as well. We cannot afford to neglect the broad common content of our education, since we have seen that it is at last equally as important as electronics or industrial administration. Prospective infantry lieutenants who have come here to learn to think clearly and to acquire perspective must not be sidetracked into the mere memorization of facts, however practical.

The report of the Student Council Committee on Education, released last night, is particularly timely, then, since it deals primarily with just these problems of preserving a liberal education in war-time, by means of improved and integrated tutorial, and changes in concentration requirements. The report deserves careful consideration and study, not as an attempt to lessen the impact of the conflict, but as the core of the University's contribution to the war effort, and to education after the war.