If the recently announced purpose of Harvard University to include a general examination among requirements for any degree from that institution is to be adopted by other schools and colleges, much that was lost when the elective system was adopted will have been restored.
For, after all, the world looks upon a college graduate as a man who should have certain superior qualifications, aside from a knowledge of his specialty, notwithstanding this is the "specialists' age." And the elective system, with the abolition of compulsory Greek and Latin, neglected certain general phases of training without which going to college fails to be the same as getting an education.
We jumped whole-heartedly, in our zeal for intellectual freedom, into demanding that the young mind be allowed to follow its own bent and select its own studies. Thoughtful educators have never been quite satisfied that they were in this way safeguarding common culture.
Especially in knowledge of the English language have our college graduates of the highly specialized years been lacking. The number of men with diplomas, even from our best universities, who cannot write a clear and sensible letter, who know little of spelling, and who are unable to speak a well arranged sentence, has seriously concerned constructive teachers.
And this in spite of required English, which was put forward as a necessary study when the undergraduate was no longer compelled to give time to Latin and Greek. English alone, it seems, has not been enough to fit students for thorough knowledge of their own language.
Those who deplored the loss of the old courses and the letting down of the requirements that foreign literatures be studied will see in the new educational movement a vindication of their oft-expressed fears. But whether the fault be due to what they say it is or not, the colleges will do well to demand of those taking diplomas that they measure up to what the world expects of men and women who have had college opportunities.
There is much to commend the Harvard general examination for the college graduate. --Des Moines Register.