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Feeling Their Responsibility


(The Crimson invites all men in the University to submit signed communications of timely interest. It assumes no responsibility, however, for sentiments expressed under this head and reserves the right to exclude any whose publication would be palpably inappropriate.)

To the Editor of the CRIMSON:

I am much interested in your Tuesday's editorial of this week, and feel that I have something to say on this subject. I wish to make it clear at once that I am doing this in the spirit of a foreign student who has developed a profound respect and affection for this institution during his two years' stay here. It is the standpoint of a graduate student and as such I hope it is not entirely out of the scope that you have set out for discussion.

I have recently come to the conclusion that the essence of Harvard pedagogy is to treat all students as a kind of clay to be shaped into some preconceived pattern, which according to the notion of the polite society is the most desirable and represents the best of manhood. It is difficult to define what is "the best"; but it is easy to see that this is the reason why there are so many lectures, prescribed readings, examinations, etc. The students on the whole are expected to be able to repeat what the professors have told them in the class. The better this performance, the better is he considered as a student. Their achievements are judged more by the accuracy and quantity of their reproduction than their ability of doing, independent work. There is no doubt a great deal to be said for this system, and all those who come here as students are in need of a certain amount of discipline. But when it is carried too far there are these two inevitable tendencies: (1) that the students are so absorbed in following the trails of the professors, they hardly have any time left for their creative impulse to operate. By formulating this habit, they will undoubtedly in the course of time become perfect phonographic records, and will make no noise unless they are pinned; (2) or they get so bored with the endless requirements, that they decide not to suffer any discipline. Eventually they may spoil their whole life because of this. Good students will follow the first course; self-conceited students usually prefer the second alternative. Neither is highly desirable; both are not uncommon at Harvard.

So far as the Graduate School is concerned, I suggest these remedies: (1) treat them as human beings having each some idiosyncrasy rather than as just raw material to be reduced to a standard pattern; (2) less lectures, more independent research work so that they may have a sense of freedom: (3) less prescribed reading, more seminaries and free discussion.

The psychological climate under these conditions would be certainly more favorable for the development of the creative impulse of the different individuals. CHI LI 2G.

December 13, 1922.

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