Other countries often wonder why it is that in American colleges more honor is not paid to pure scholarship. In England the scholars are socially the best men in the universities, in general ranking even above the athletes. At Harvard, to be sure, scholarship is not despised, but it is admitted that the scholars do not receive the honor which they ought; and when they are respected it is usually for combining their scholarship with success in the outside interests which are looked upon more favorably by the undergraduates.
The main reason for this attitude is undoubtedly found in the foundations of American life today. The intellectually unsettled condition of the country and the life of restless activity which is about us in every class of society, are hardly conducive to quiet scholarly labor. But there must be special internal reasons affecting the case at Harvard. A CRIMSON editorial has pointed out the desirability of making a change in the method and time of election to Phi Beta Kappa. If the requirements for membership were defined, and if the terms of election were arranged so that the best scholars could make the society earlier in their course, there is no doubt but that the members, and through them, scholarship in general, would have greater prominence in undergraduate life. Secondly, the system of detailed marking at Harvard is not such as to encourage thinking in a broad way. It is often too much of a temptation to work for the mark alone, which of course defeats the end of true scholarship. Again, it is often said that in certain courses a man cannot know anything about the subject and get a good mark. Section men in the large courses are far too inclined to give credit to knowledge of details and to overlook a broad knowledge of the subject, such as a man would have to have in going up for his honor examination at Oxford. If, in the large courses especially, greater credit could be given to voluntary outside reading--which few men do now because they get no credit from their section men--and to ability to think rather than to write down details learned from memory, more men of broad intellectual sympathies might be found in First Group, and greater honor might be paid to the high stand scholars. Even if the trouble does lie in American life principally, a change will come sometime; but it is the colleges which must lead in that change. The popularity of scholarship at Harvard cannot come in a day, but it might be materially increased by a broader definition of the word scholarship and by a definition of the requirements of Phi Beta Kappa.