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Against Three Years' Course.


We invite all members of the University to contribute to this column, but we are not responsible for the sentiments expressed. Every communication must be accompanied by the name of the writer.

To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

Sirs:--The three years' course is a matter of such importance that it seems to me astonishing that your recent editorial dealing therewith has not as yet called forth any reply. I have no desire to defend all the statements of that article in the New York Sun which was the subject of your attack, and which you describe as "a few mistaken assumptions and several chains of false reasoning." The Sun may be totally mistaken in what it says concerning the graduate departments, but it seems to have phrased not only in "readable," but also in reasonable fashion some objections to the three years' course which ought to be brought to the attention of every man interested in the welfare of the College.

The three years' plan has the tremendous advantage of being sanctioned and advocated by President Eliot, whose word is deservedly regarded as authoritative in matters pertaining to education. Nevertheless, the President would undoubtedly welcome any honest expression of opposition to his opinion. That such opposition exists in the minds of a number of those undergraduates who have at all considered the matter, seems to me certain. It should not be forgotten that when the President says that competent men ought to attain the bachelor's degree in three years, most parents (who have a disinclination to consider their sons incompetent) will expect their boys to take this opportunity. Unless, therefore, it becomes evident that among the undergraduates, who are in a favorable position to observe the effects of the three-year system, there is considerable position to the plan, most Freshmen (who also have a pardonable objection to being considered incompetent) will consider it their duty to graduate in three years.

The error on which the three-year idea is based seems to be that the degree of Bachelor of Arts simply denotes that its holder has done the work of seventeen courses. If that were true, the three-year plan would have no opponents. What the degree has hitherto meant, however, is that its holder, if he is a "competent" man, has lived for four years an academic life, in which he has pursued liberal studies with some success, in which he has had an opportunity to partake in one or more of the College activities, and in which he has had time to develop his character, his knowledge of men, and his knowledge of books. In other words, the "competent" four-year man has had the good fortune to attain culture.

What will the "competent" man, who has fallen before the strong temptation of the three-year idea, attain? As a Freshman, he will have to take six courses; as a Sophomore, six; as a so called Senior, five. Academic regulations being unfortunately unable to provide more than twenty-four hours in each day, how will he use his time? If the amount of work hitherto required in the courses is not to be lessened, your "competent" man must do one of two things: either he must do College work of a lower grade, or, what perhaps would be worse, he must neglect those outside interests, social, athletic, or literary, which are the invaluable complement of liberal studies.

One other way out of the dilemma exists: the instructors may reduce the quantity or the quality of work required. That way will hardly be taken: Dean Briggs, if I remember rightly, recently gave to the New York graduates the assurance that the standard of the A. B. degree would not be lowered. But if scholarship is not to be cheapened, something else is going to suffer. The inestimable educative value--using educative in its noblest sense,--of a Senior year with four courses and plenty of time for those other occupations which bring maturity of mind and breadth of culture, will be exchanged for a year of hard, professional, specialized study in Law, Medical, or Graduate School, where the unfortunate three-year graduate may not even have time enough to regret that he has neglected a great opportunity in pursuing that Three Year Idea which seems to be an academic incarnation of the national Spirit of Haste. To such a spirit, the chance which Harvard College has,--the chance to make her graduates the intellectual aristocracy of the nation,--ought not to be sacrificed. E. B., 1903.

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