In the attic of Busch-Reisinger Museum the University hides one of its poorest relations-the department of public speaking. With a shoe-string budget and but one permanent staff member, the speech department is on a starvation diet which seems encouraged, if not planned, by the University.
Most liberal arts colleges have for years recognized the importance of speech training in college education. Many engineering and technical schools, realizing the scientist's difficulty in making himself understood, have also required speech courses of all students. Harvard's own speech program is shoddy in comparison. While good written expression is given the utmost concern here, general teaching of clear, concise speech habits is almost neglected. The University offers only three courses in public speaking. One of these cannot be taken for credit; another is limited to fifteen members. None of these courses, all taught under the English Department, may count either for concentration in English or for upper-level distribution requirements.
Inadequate as the present program is, the University has recently made inroads on the speech staff's time. One of its three members now advises the Debate Council while another teaches pulpit delivery at the Divinity School. Both these new duties are worthy additions to the University's program, but the department's staff should be increased accordingly.
The present system is unsatisfactory not only for students who wish to become competent, effective group speakers. Inadequate provision is made for those with faulty speech habits or impediments. Associate Professor Frederick Packard would like to record each freshman's voice and make recommendations for speech training where it is needed. But the department has neither men nor money to do so. Surely speech tests must be at least as important as the battery of reading, writing, swimming, and jumping tests which now confront each freshman.
The present policy of deemphasis might be understandable if speech instruction were merely a technical matter, devoid of intellectual content and purpose. But speech training is more than technique. Students enrolled in "English Q: Public Speaking; Principles and Practice," for instance, often spend more time researching speeches than they do for papers in other courses. If written expression merits a required course and forty section men, surely public speaking deserves at least encouragement.