Since the passage of the CEP proposals last spring, the question of non-honors tutorial has tended to degenerate into debates over the relative importance of Houses and departments, controversy on the concessions which can be allowed to non-honors students, and, in general, procrastinating argument. Yet the issue remains essentially unchanged: will the College recognize the existence of students who, while not interested in meeting honors requirements, can and will benefit from working in small groups on individualized subject matter?
Many students drop out of honors not merely because of mere laziness or incompetence; they rebel at the increasing specialization some departments require and in general would like an academic framework which leaves more time for general reading or study. The CEP proposals have tended to produce a polarization of undergraduates into honors and non-honors groups which unfortunately lumps this middle segment of students with scholastic reprobates. It is heartening to see that in the past two weeks plans have been advanced which together contain all the elements needed for a non-honors program which satisfies the needs of the serious student.
A primary realization has been that the program should not be compulsory. It was the compulsory nature of the old non-honors plan as much as anything else that destroyed it, prompting every department but one to drop it as soon as the Faculty permitted.
As great a contribution to a sound program, however, has been the recognition that its organization must be inter-departmental and preferably House-oriented. The failure of the old non-honors program may in large part be attributed to its attempt to channel back into the department students who had rejected honors to escape the confines of departmentalization.
Recent proposals contain elements which provide a good foundation for a non-honors program. In both junior and senior years a tutorial group would be offered which would meet once a week. There would be many such groups, each combining the five fields of Economics, English, Government, History, and Social Relations, in a different and possibly unique way. The particular combinations would be decided beforehand by a committee drawn from these five departments which at present do not have non-honors tutorial programs.
Such a tutorial, extending over the entire year, would count as an additional half course in the manner of General Education A. Offering credit would provide encouragement without coercion; students would not have to enroll, but those who did would be likely to keep up with their work. A student's doing well in such a group could be an argument for his re-admission to honors and full-credit Tutorial 99 within his department, if he wanted. Otherwise, it is possible that the committee could, on the basis of a generally distinguished record and a long essay, as well as some sort of general examinations, give a degree with honors.
The inter-departmental committee itself could provide a basis for further desirable synthesis of fields; under its aegis interested honors students might work out cross-departmental programs of concentration.
The organization of a strong non-honors program transcending departmental lines is a necessary complement to the CEP's honors program, Such a non-honors plan would be a major step in encouraging a large segment of undergraduates to seek the benefits of a tutorial program in addition to eliminating the increasingly sharp bifurcation of honors and non-honors students.