Geyser University Professor Henry Rosovsky stressed the need for a liberal arts education last night after a Mather House dinner celebrating Harvard's 350th birthday.
Colleges must establish a broad-based general education which is essential to understanding the world as well as oneself, Rosovsky said to about 70 listeners in the Mather House dining hall.
In a preface to his talk, the former dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences defended the undergraduate 350th celebrations.
Quoting a Harvard Crimson Sept. 30 editorial entitled "An Unhappy Birthday," Rosovsky rebutted criticisms of this week's events celebrating the 350th.
Rosovsky read aloud an excerpt from the editorial that said, "The 'presence of distinguished alumni and affiliates in the houses,' so pompously promoted for the 350th, is supposed to be an everyday occurrence. The fact that it takes a very special occasion indeed to bring Henry Rosovsky to Mather House offers an honest but ironic commentary on the distance between undergraduates and Harvard's elder elite."
"If I came to Mather House every night, they would show me the door," said Rosovsky, who will be acting president for three months during President Derek C. Bok's sabbatical next semester.
Rosovsky said the Crimson editorial lacked "humility, humanity, and humor," which he called important elements of liberal education.
Rosovsky, who is also a member of the seven-man Harvard Corporation, Harvard's chief governing body, outlined five assumptions essential for establishing an effective educational system in his address:
. Education must fit the times in which we live.
. One must beware of "academic Bolsheviks"--those who insist on our following their views without question.
. Education should offer a large degree of free choice.
. Theories, rather than specific information, should be emphasized.
. Education should prepare students to be flexible when choosing a career later in life.
Rosovsky ended his speech by enumerating standards he said people must meet in order to earn the title of "being educated."
In addition to being able to communicate one's ideas effectively, "an educated person must also be able to make discriminating moral choices, cannot be unaware of other cultures and other times, and have critical appreciation of the ways we gain knowledge and understanding," he said.
"An educated person has to have good manners," said Rosovsky. "He has to be able to distinguish between what is junk and what has quality."
In a half-hour question and answer session following his talk, Rosovsky described the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' standards for tenuring professors.
"There are professors at Harvard who are so brilliant that it doesn't matter if they can teach," he said. But, he added, Harvard also has professors who are devoted and capable teachers, who compensate for those whose strengths lie outside the classroom.