Many upperclassmen, and even some men who have already graduated, have recently received printed notices informing them that they have been reported for faulty use of English, and that, should they again be reported, they will be required to take disciplinary work in "English F". Many seniors with honor marks in composition courses have been warned, and one student in the Theological School, who took his degree "summa cum laude", writes on receiving the notice that he hopes to have corrected the errors of his youth, but that his handwriting is still abominable. Hence he indulges in some excusable sarcasm on a typewriter, at the expense of the "Committee on the Use of English by Students". Many men have been warned because of mistakes in grammar reported by some examination corrector in their freshman year.
In sending out these notices, the committee has acted fairly--desiring not to conscript students into the course without warning. But the result has been to cause a good deal of misunderstanding, and much just criticism. The threat of a new course of any kind which may be imposed on undergraduates at the mere whim of some section men or examination correctors is severe. Almost all men make careless mistakes of commission and omission while writing under pressure in an examination; it is not thereby proved that they are in need of a disciplinary course in English Composition.
But there remains the problem of the man who is really deficient in the use of English. Logically such men, unless they are foreign students, should never have been admitted to Harvard. "The well-educated man" President Eliot once said "is the man who knows how to use his own language well." And last year, incorporating the spirit of this remark in its report, the Faculty Committee on methods of sifting candidates for admission to the University recommended "the exclusion of candidates who cannot write acceptable English, with the understanding that this rule shall not apply to those for whom English is a foreign tongue." Certainly if this recommendation is adopted there will be no cause in the future, whatever may be the situation at present, for any disciplinary English F.
But even under present conditions there seems little excuse for its existence except as an elective course for foreign students. Every undergraduate has either passed English A or English D or is taking one of these two courses. If he has been admitted to Harvard and has passed his English A requirement, it must be humiliating to the pride of the College to feel that he is in need of English F. If he is taking English A or English D there is no excuse for adding English F to his burdens.