In his report for the passed year the Dean of the Graduate School treats at some length the subject of the requirements for the degree of A. M. As the rule now reads, anyone taking one year's additional courses at Cambridge, provided the courses are approved and passed with credit, can obtain a degree of A. M. This is a great improvement over the custom which lasted up to 1872 of allowing anyone taking an A. B. degree and paying a small fee to obtain without further study, the degree of Master of Arts. Under the old system an A. M. degree meant nothing more than that a man at graduation happened to have five dollars to spare. The change to a system of requiring one more year's residence at the University was as much as the opinion of the time would stand, but since then the provisions have been added that the courses must be of advanced grade and that they must be passed with high credit. Comparing the present system with that practised not long ago, one is so struck with the improvements made in the requirements that he is rather apt to stop there and not consider whether or no the regulations might be made so as to raise the standard higher. Vastly more significant as the present A. M. degree may be, it is still below what it should be, - a mark of rather extraordinary learning. Today the intelligent student can distribute the four extra courses required for his A. M. degree through his college course, and become a Master of Arts at the same time that he graduates. This makes the degree about the same in qualify but somewhat higher in quantity than the degree of A. B. The requirement that the courses must be of an advanced grade is all that prevents the student from adding one easy course to his list each year, get a good mark in it and graduate a Master of Arts. While a high grade of work may be assured by the above requirement, this great objection still holds that the work done may stand for nothing but bits of knowledge picked up from here and there. There is no requirement that the student shall be a master of any subject. Of course the A. M. degree should not demand such an extent of specialization as the degree of Ph. D., but nevertheless it ought to demand more than it does now in its character of an advanced degree of A. B. If some such system were introduced of preparing a thesis, such as is required for a Ph. D., it would do much towards doing away with generalities, and towards concentrating work in such a way as to make the student a real Master of one of the Arts.
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