THE PROPOSED Core Curriculum is a long overdue move in the direction of academic consolidation at Harvard, but it does fail only because it fails to go far enough toward establishing a prescribed syllabus for freshmen.
The objection to the Core as an illiberal measure is a specious one. Although a faculty-penned syllabus would probably exclude broadening courses on topics of concern to many students such as Afro-American history, there is no reason to expect that students not already involved in such areas will spend course time on them within a curriculum free of restrictions. Without restrictions, students will pursue their inclinations until classes become homogeneous, at which point confrontation and discourse will cease.
The Core promises to give the school an academic center. Under General Education, the Harvard undergraduat's experience has been a bizarre series of isolations: students are segregated into diverse courses, departments, Houses and activities, which no common center relieves. The Core would provide a fund of shared intellectual experience which does not now exist.
There are at least three different motivations behind students' curricula at Harvard: getting A's, getting into professional schools, and getting educated. So long as the last of these dominates, the Core will have support.