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Shortening the Grammar-School Course.


The New England Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools, which met at Harvard nearly four weeks ago to discuss courses of study preparatory to college, have recommended the following changes in the grammar-school course:

1. The introduction of elementary natural history into the earlier years of the programme as a substantial subject, to be taught by demonstrations and practical exercises rather than from books.

2. The introduction of elementary physics into the later years of the programme as a substantial subject, to be taught by the experimental or laboratory method, and to include exact weighing and measuring by the pupils themselves.

3. The introduction of elementary algebra at an age not later than 12 years.

4. The introduction of elementary plain geometry at an age not later than 13 years.

5. The offering of opportunity to study French, or German, or Latin, or any two of these languages, from and after the age of 10 years.

In order to make room for the new studies a reduction of the time devoted to arithmetic, geography and English grammar has been advised.

President Elliot considers the changes entirely advisable. He thinks that routine work is too characteristic of the present grammar-school system due to the prescribed courses almost entirely, rather than to any fault of the teachers. The prescriptions of the course prevent a bright boy from advancing faster than any other. He may of course attain a higher rank but he must stay in the same division with the dull boy. In consequence under this compulsory system the dull boy lowers the age of matriculation of the whole class. These new changes will reward the work of all with due promotion and the brighter boys will not be chained down and made to wait for the rest.

The first of the five changes. President Eliot says, does not mean the mere introduction of natural history, for this has been done already in many cases, but the changing it into a thorough study, with considerable time devoted to it. The second of the five changes provides that laboratory work shall be performed by the children themselves, which is not prescribed even in the schools that have adopted teaching by experiments. President Eliot advocates the remaining changes as well, and says that the plan needed in the schools is practically the Harvard elective system. If children have a liking for a certain line of study they should not be kept from it. All can do the same amount of work as now, and at the same time have the opportunity to develop their particular abilities.

President Capen, of Tufts, advocates the change and believes that they will prove their wisdom by shortening the time needed in either the school or college course: by giving the student who finishes his education in the public school a better and more thorough culture; and by preparing students more competently for admission to college.

Rev. Dr. W. E. Huntington, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Boston University, thinks that this attempt to make students think more, and study facts from books less is most judicious.

In fact the general sentiment seems to be that the new changes would be most helpful to the schools, and through them to the colleges and professional schools.

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