The Path to Public Service at SEAS
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In spite of the appalling number of prominent educators who preach faith without works by emptily applauding the idea of humanizing learning, evidence grows daily in the University that means for accomplishment are going hand in hand with a realization of the need. The tutorial system extends itself to the department of mathematics. Candidates for distinction are allowed much greater liberty. Tutors are installed in the Yard dormitories with the express purpose of coming in closer contact with their charges not at all as proctors, but on a footing of human acquaintanceship and common possession of intellectual interests. Not the least welcome feature of President Lowell's annual report was its decided indication that, building on the tutorial system as a foundation, the University is feeling its way toward this academic will-of-the-wisp.
Efforts so far have been directed generally toward taking the curse of pedantic dust off valuable and fruitful knowledge by stifling the preparatory school distinction between master and pupil; and the resourses that lie in contact between students dealing in the same fields have been neglected to some extent, although the example of European universities proves that, properly directed, such contacts are as fertile as any between the student and even the most sympathetic tutor. The group meetings in which overworked tutors take refuge are, as yet, the only places where undergraduates of the same intellectual tastes, as indicated by their concentrations, have an opportunity to meet one another in a situation conducive to profitable discussion.
A possible means of throwing students with common interests together lies in the extended use of small special libraries, dealing only with the materials of one field of study and serving as scholastic headquarters for every undergraduate dealing with these materials. The great English universities, whence proceeded the inspiration for the tutorial system, also exemplify this other excellent method of breathing the breath of life into learning. Neither is the University without its object lessons. Concentrators in Fine Arts come to regard the Fogg Museum as a human and satisfactorily personal place for academic work. The Lowell and Child Memorial Libraries and the Farnsworth Room are evidence that special collections of books are not impossible. The vast silences of great reading rooms and the anatomical appearance of glass-floored shadowy stacks do not provide an atmosphere where knowledge will easily lend itself to being humanized. Here may be another case where American universities can wisely look abroad for counsel.
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