Perhaps the best criterion of an educated man is his ability to express his ideas clearly and forcefully in writing. Ability to write well may come to some men naturally, but to most it is an acquired art, and one which can be kept up only by pretty constant use. By compelling every Freshman who has not anticipated it, to take English A, Harvard demands a certain minimum proficiency in composition. To those who do well in this first course--get an A or a B--there are several opportunities for further work in composition Sophomore year. Those who only get D are also well cared for. English D for them is obligatory. For the C men in English A there is almost no chance for composition the following year. English 31, the only possibility, is primarily a Freshman course and open to Sophomores only with the consent of the instructor.
The result of this somewhat extraordinary condition in the English department is that the C man, who presumably needs a course in composition more than the honor man must go without. It is true that he may wait a year and then be eligible to take courses in composition, but the lack of practice for a year, and the probable development of a particular interest in some other line of work does much to decide him to get along as best he can with what English he knows.
The value of a composition course comes primarily from practice. If the average student is not a good writer of English it is probably because he has not had enough practice. It might be that, even if an intermediary course in composition between English A and English 22 were instituted, all who need it might not enroll, but this is hardly a valid reason for not establishing such a course. There are many who feel that the present facilities are inadequate. The opening of a course in English composition designed primarily to afford an opportunity for men to practice writing under careful supervision, even if they have not been honor men in English A, would appeal to a great many. It should have the result of materially increasing the standard of writing ability among those who do not naturally incline in that way.