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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

The Three Year Course.

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

The discussion concerning the three years'course at Harvard which again receives attention by the report of the committee of the overseers is lucidly set forth in the recently published pamphlet containing the address made by Professor Josiah Royce on June 28, 1890, at St. Paul before the Harvard Club of Minnesota.

The undergraduates, especially the members of the class of '91, who love class unity and have a respect for class traditions and customs which indicates a conservation not attributed to young men, are indeed loath to sanction any breaking up of the four years'period. No one, however, can fail to be impressed, even if not convinced, by Prof. Royce's exposition of the view entertained by, it is to be presumed, the majority of the faculty.

His address opens with a description of the Graduate Department. He sets forth the reasons which have led Harvard to take a more advanced position with regard to mental training than that of most American colleges. These have hitherto contented themselves with filling the mind with a superficial culture which finds vent in the platitudes of average commencement parts. The crying need in this country is for the development of the "modern scholar" in the true sense of the word. By means of the elective system and of advanced courses, Harvard is unabled to bring about in its graduate students ripe thought and well developed scholarships. The aim is attained by a vital and manly culture which enables each man to make use of his education as a means of entering into the active life of the nation at large by actual contact in public life and by conducting the work done in minor colleges.

Having demonstrated the advantages of advanced graduate work, Professor Royce proceeds to a more elaborate discussion of the proposed reduction to three years. He explains the working of the proposed system which seems to be rendered necessary in view of the relatively advanced age which statistics show to be the average one in each freshman class. He argues the need of a better distinction than is possible at Harvard at present between graduate and undergraduate work. As the present elective system has now brought together in the same lecture room undergraduates of all classes it is impossible to take such advantage of the maturity of the seniors as might otherwise be done to introduce into the undergraduate courses a professional tone.

Professor Royce, in closing, points out that the aim, is not to diminish the work required of a student but to encourage preparatory schools to anticipate what now forms the early part of the college course, so that if they are willing to send a man to college more advanced by half a year, Harvard is willing to compromise by giving him the other half year, that is by reducing the work from eighteen to sixteen courses. The closing thought is: "Harvard wants to produce scholars."

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