'Honors for All' Program To Take Effect This Fall
Pusey Establishes Special Fund To Implement Proposals of CEP
Beginning with the Class of '61, every student entering Harvard College will be considered a candidate for Honors. Details of the programs will be determined by the individual Departments.
Since the publication of General Education in a Free Society in the early post-war years, the process of educating Harvard undergraduates has moved, sometimes unsteadily, towards the utopian never-land where independent study is matched in excellence only by a scholarly and articulate expression of ideas, great and trivial.
With the resulting upgrading of the caliber of students admitted for study at Harvard, together with such innovations as course reduction and advanced placement, the University not only gave concrete recognition to undergraduate excellence, but also provided the means whereby such excellence could be developed and matured. By some indications, Harvard's experiments were successful. Intelligent young men came to Cambridge and found it good.
But by other signs, the bestowal of additional leisure time to talented students had worked against the University's broad goals. Too many, it seemed, spent too much time doing anything but study. The theatre revived and flourished, WHRB installed an FM transmitter, and the CRIMSON seriously attempted to match professional journalistic standards. Even the political organizations had time to stage one bizarre fiasco after another.
The more that busy students crammed a semester's work into a week-long reading period, the more these students called on the University to give them more time for independent study. Something seemed wrong about the entire situation, and the Faculty's powerful Committee on Educational Policy began an intensive study of Harvard undergraduate instruction.
Last February, the CEP, headed by Dean Bundy and Kenneth B. Murdock '16, Francis Lee Higginson Professor of English Literature, issued a short but significant report containing far-reaching proposals for amending Honors and non-Honors instruction. Guided by its belief that "many able students are not doing their best under existing conditions, because they are not sufficiently engaged or challenged," the Committee presented to the Faculty what has since been termed the "Honors for all" program.
Essential to this program is the assumption that all students at Harvard College shall be considered candidates for Honors until they prove otherwise either by failing a series of qualifying examinations or electing to pursue non-Honors studies. The Committee proposed that the first hurdle on the road to Honors be in the form of a "suitable test" administered at the end of the sophomore year and based on work accomplisred in sophomore group tutorial.
Students successfully passing this "test"--which has since been changed by a Faculty vote into some form of essay--would continue as Honors candidates, accomodated in most cases by individual tutorial during the junior year. The second round of qualifying examinations would come at the end of junior year in the form of a general examination encompassing "a broad knowledge of the techniques and methods in (a student's) field," tutorial work, and specific course material. Students who had failed their sophomore test would be permitted to take junior year qualifiers if they wished to try to regain entry into the Honors program.
Final determination of a student's Honors status would be based on course grades, tutorial work, a senior year general examination, and a senior thesis, which the CEP report termed "one of the most successful elements in our present educational practice."
The value of any of these proposals will in part depend on the value of tutorial; and with this in mind, the CEP recommended several measures designed to increase the importance of tutorial work. It was proposed that students receive grades for work done in tutorial, with these grades entered on the student's record. Moreover, the Committee felt that senior Faculty members, by devoting more time to tutorial, would improve the quality of instruction.
Coupled with these suggestions for upgrading tutorial at Harvard, the CEP further proposed an increase in the opportunities, if not time, for independent study. Fewer lectures, greater independent reading, and the replacement of written finals by an essay oral examination--together with more course reduction--were among the Committee's list of reforms.
If every student is considered to be a candidate for Honors until he by choice or otherwise withdraws from the program, the status of the non-Honors student becomes equally important, if not more delicate, than that of the Honors candidate. For if instruction in the College is geared to an "Honors for all" program, some room must be found for those who in fact are not among the "all."
Being an Honors candidate is, for some students eminently qualified to do Honors work, not necessarily a goal at all; and the University is quite aware of the fact that it must accomodate intelligent, creative students who wish to benefit from the advantages of independent study and individual tutorial offered by the Honors program yet evade the sometimes restrictive requirements incumbent upon Honors candidates to fulfill. Accomodation, in this respect, is primarily a question of working out complicated administrative details and Departmental rulings.
The serious problem is the role of the genuinely non-Honors student in a College committed to the Honorable way of life. This is a role played, to extend an analogy, by the boy at Princeton in an artificial "100 per cent" Bicker. For the CEP, the problem is one of accomodating the intellectual, not the social, misfit.
This dilemma was dealt with by the CEP, which suggested that the various Departments and Houses co-operate in offering voluntary sessions which would would make non-Honors juniors "interested in the aspects of their field of concentration which touch them as men and as members of a community." This suggestion, which to many appeared to be a plea for some type of sugar-coated vocational training, at least had the merit of supporting the abolition of compulsory non-Honors junior tutorial.
But in doing away with what had long been an intellectual blight, a mockery of any attempt to put meaning in the word "tutorial," the CEP offered as a replacement a program of dubious merit. Whereas the final status of non-Honors tutorial is still in doubt--since each Department will have its own way of dealing with it--it is at least obvious that in time some genuine content will be given non-Honors tutorial.
Also in doubt is the entire question of independent study and increased senior Faculty participation in tutorial. But doubt remains, not because the Faculty has been hesitant about adopting the CEP's recommendations, but because these recommendations must first be made into concrete reforms by each Department. And here a great latitude for the exercise both of wisdom and wit exists.
The new experiment has hardly begun, but as each Department initiates its reforms one will soon be able to evaluate in a more sober maner the program which marks the start of a new wave of educational reform at Harvard. On this score, two factors--one unfortunate, one heartening--emerge as serious facets of the new look of Harvard education.
Since education requires students, and the broad provisions of the CEP's report require outstanding, academically motivated students, the processes whereby Harvard selects her undergraduates will in time and by necessity come under closer and more critical scrutiny. Already it is clear that an obvious hypocrisy is perpetrated by the Admissions Office's enduring attachment to the man of "character" as opposed to the grind. Too often the men of "character" turn out to be merely pleasant fellows who are intellectually alone at Harvard.
If Harvard is to commit herself to an "Honors for all" program, in all fairness to the undergraduates she has the obligation to accept only those most likely to benefit from Honors work. It is a hard choice to make between the athlete and the grind, but this choice is the test of the University's seriousness of intent relative to upgrading Harvard education.
The heartening factor concerns money, and it will take a great deal of it to finance the program outlined by the CEP report. A recent gift of $100,000 from Procter and Gamble to the Program for Harvard College has been ear-marked for the Honors Program Fund, and this hopefully is the first of many steps towards financing what in future years may prove to be the most significant development in education since education became General