"By speaking up for General Education, I'm beginning to feel like Harry Truman defending the New Deal," John H. Finley, Jr., Master of Eliot House, said yesterday.
Explaining his belief in a compulsory Gen Ed program, Finley drew parallels between the evolution of the education and government: "Hutchins at Chicago broke down the departments to build a college, just like Mussolini broke up the corporations to consolidate Italy."
The results in both cases were disastrous, Finley said, "and Harvard like Roosevelt, learned from the disasters. Under Conant we mixed unity and diversity and came up with a real New Deal of a Gen Ed program. Now all these fellow on the Faculty are trying to breaking it up."
Finley termed Giles Constable '50, Associate professor of History, who favors making Gen Ed courses voluntary, an "Engine Charlie Wilson, an Adam Smith in the time of Keynes. He wants to pass a right-to-work law when what we need is a stronger Wagner Act."
Author of much of the Doty Report, Finley expressed surprise that the Faculty was even considering abolition of the Gen Ed requirement. "We on the Doty Committee forgot about the whole generation of the Faculty that can't remember how bad things were before the Redbook," he said.
Finley warned that the Constable proposal would sound the "death knell of general education. In 25 years there would be no more Walds or Beers to Carry the program on. Departmental pressures would become too great, forcing all the good teaching fellows back into specialization. No one would care about Freshmen anymore."
The master of Eliot House urged the Faculty to affirm its commitment to compulsory gen ad, even if it simultaneously rejected the Doty Report. Under such circumstances, he reasoned, a revised version of the present Gen Ed Committee could devise a new program in consultation with the Committee on Educational Policy.
Finley attacked what he called the "cult of speciaization." Characterizing one of the key probems of today as "male energy between the ages of 20 and 30," he noted that only the very talented could hope to get ahead in those years by using merely the knowledge gained through their field of concentration. "Most young men get their first job because they know how to do a specific things, but after that, specialized knowledge is less important than catholicity of outlook, the ability to read and write well, to make friends and meet women."
"Life Is Long"
Though not claiming that Gen Ed could teach all these things, Finley suggested that a required program "at least tells the undergraduate that life is very long and can't possibly be handled only by learning this or that esoteric subject."
Finley admitted that times have changed radically since the Redbook was written. "We thought than that there was a core of knowledge everyone should share." Now, no one can agree on what to include in the core, but the concept of should knowledge is not outdated, he insisted. "The various Gen Ed courses still represent different angles of approach to certain common topics. Students compare and mix these angles in conversation. The great 'chamber of sharing' is no longer the lecture hall, but the dining hall, but at least sharing takes place," Finley declared.
For Conversation to fill this purpose, however, "there must be some resonance between the courses," Finley observed. "The introductory departmental courses, with only a few exceptions, don't have this resonance."
Finley made some of his opinions known at last week's Faculty meeting where he received a long ovation, but the Professor refused last night to assess the significance of the applause.