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The section of the report of the Student Council's Committee on Education which suggests that divisionals or generals for distinction candidates be brought forward to the Junior year, if not so interesting to the outside world as the more sensational proposal, concerning the division of the college into smaller units, is fully as interesting to the undergraduate. For these general examinations have assumed a place of major importance in the life of the college. That they are necessary expressions of the Harvard system of education has long been admitted both by those members of the faculty whose interest is the training and cultural development of the undergraduate mind and by those members of the student body whose prime interest is that training and development. However, there has grown with the stalwart persistence of a ripening truth a definite belief that these examinations are crowding and confusing the life of the senior candidate for distinction. This has, for the most part, been the result of the close time contact of the distinction thesis required by most departments, with these examinations. And it is to cure this ill that the committee has made its suggestion.
Nor is the plan either trivial, or inadequate. By removing what must always remain little more than the culminating expression of fact-knowledge, the ambitious scholar is thus able to spend his senior year in work sufficiently individual to justify his continuance in the college. Such a means of proving his acquaintance with scholarship is too near the under class of preparatory method. That it is needed as a justification for further work in a less frigid manner is obvious--as obvious as the fact that the senior candidate for distinction has passed beyond the desire for such expression of accomplishment. Freed from the necessity of developing his academic interest, under the new plan he is able to concentrate on what no one in his particular category can deem other than the summit of his undergraduate endeavor along scholarly lines.
So it is evident that the person for whom this idea has been formulated cannot but appreciate the chance to enjoy its incorporation into the university system. It is the less purposive person whom this plan does not particularly help. Uncertain as to his proper concentration, interested in multifarious activities necessary to his development, he does not have sufficient time in his sophomore and junior years to gain a sufficiently comprehensive understanding of such a field, for instance, as English literature. Though the plan allows him to become a candidate for distinction in his senior year, to do practically what is done under the present system, it does not save him from losing those delights of a cultural and intellectual nature which a less strenuous senior year would allow. Thus it is evident that, though the plan does offer panacea for present ills to one kind of student, it does not do so for all.
This, however, need not be considered in any way a reason for denying the full benefit which will accrue from the existence of junior divisionals, on the contrary it merely reveals the truth that the plan is not a be all end all but really one more movement in the right direction, as far as Harvard undergraduate education is concerned. That the plan is, in the category of its own helpfulness, wise and essentially necessary is true. One can only hope that in the ramifications which develop from its function, some method may be devised whereby every undergraduate who, early or late, appreciates what the college can give him in cultural and intellectual understanding, is allowed that freedom from routine entanglements, which alone can promote true cultural and intellectual advancement.
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