Harvard-An Intellectual Factory?
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
"Harvard College exists for the student who wants to become a liberally educated man. It is not the place for a student who is interested only in preparing as fast as possible for business or a specialized occupation such as agriculture, accounting or journalism. It is a college for those who feel the need for a broad understanding of their world, and for an enriched cultural life."
The above brief, but excellent, raison d'etre of Harvard College was extracted from a recent "Official Register of Harvard University" (Aug.1960). A second extraction from the "Register," which is, like the first, valuable and relevant to the current Doty Committee controvrsy, is, "... the heart if Harvard tradition is freedom... [One] aspect is academic freedom, the freedom of the faculty to search for truth as they see it. The Harvard seal is Veritas. [Another] aspect is freedom for the student."
One might keep the above quotations in mind when he considers the question of "depth" versus "breadth" in a Harvard education, that is, in a liberal education. With regard to this question one might also recall that the founders of Harvard aimed ultimately at "the advancement of all literature and artes and Sciences." This "liberal ideal" burgeoned into President Abbot Lawrence Lowell's "a little of everything and something well." President Conant continued to foster this ideal and embodied it in his General Education Program.
Are we now to understand that this ideal must yield to the goal of specialization? Is Newman's "Idea of a University" now outmoded--is "Useful Knowledge" to supplant "Liberal Knowledge?" Will Harvard now dilute the humanistic ideal of "a Knowledge, which is desirable, though nothing come of it, as being of itself a treasure, and a sufficient remuneration of years of labor" by stressing vocational training through specialization? Is it now time to de-emphasize a tradition which fostered greatness in men such as Emerson, Thoreau, T.S. Eliot, William James, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, and John Kennedy?
Hopefully, Harvard will not allow itself to degenerate into an intellectual factory capable of nothing more than spewing out a myriad of narrow-minded technicians and pedants. Hopefully, the scholars who swarm into and out smoked-filled rooms to discuss the Doty Report will not fail to notice the inscription which ornaments the backs of their little black chairs--Veritas.
Harvard, especially in this Nuclear Age, must continue to produce that nucleus of liberally educated men which forms a core of greatness and an elite of leaders in a nation (and in a world) whose very existence depends upon men of vision.
Those who would have more "depth" in their education, at the expense of "breadth," should not attend Harvard. Those who would be "led by the hand" and told what courses to take should not attend Harvard. However, those who would be liberally educated in order that they might best serve themselves and their fellow man are welcome at Harvard. Those who would seek the Truth by endeavoring to synthesize a liberal knowledge of natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities are welcome at Harvard.
The current controversy over the Doty Report is not a transient item of interest; it is a crucial debate which may permanently alter the course of Harvard education. It is not a casual modification of curriculum which is at stake, but, rather, a critical (though perhaps unintentional) deviation from the traditional goal of Harvard education--the liberally educated man.
Those who can must prevent specialization from dominating Harvard education! Thomas M. Weich '66