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The repeated assertions of the University authorities that have followed upon the conclusion or commencement of each succeeding Reading Period to the effect that unquestioned success has crowned this educational adventure are at least open to suspicion.
The only tangible facts upon which such--conclusions are to be drawn are necessarily limited. Aside from information based upon widely varied personal experience, the accessible facts are limited to a check-up or attendance in Widener over the particular period in question.
The numbers invading the Reading Room of Widener have without question been sufficient to support the contention that the capacity of the library is being severely taxed, or the assertion that no similar adventure in the recent educational development of the University has met with such persistently good results.
One fact has not been taken into consideration, namely: the assignment of reading during the reading period. Required reading, covering as often as not, work that formerly was undertaken by the lecturer on the platform, has been in part responsible for the industrious atmosphere of the Reading Room. It has not been possible in every case for the head of the course to slice two periods of two to three weeks each from the accustomed syllabus. It has thus become necessary that the reading period complement the preceding lectures in finishing up the normal demands of the syllabus. What was hailed as a period of freedom for the pursuit of individual interests in a particular field, has been widely distorted in many courses.
In theory at least, required reading should not find any place in the picture; that is, if the principle upon which the entire adventure was founded, is to be adhered to. For this oasis originally carried with it the promise of freedom to delve into the hidden recesses" of a particular subject, in which time had not allowed the opportunity for further investigation or browsing in allied fields.
In practice the advisability of going the whole hog in offering independence and full responsibility to the student may indeed be frowned upon. . .and with considerable reason. Nor are the professors to be criticized for the inability or unwillingness to grant this academic entre-acte. But by the same tokens the enthusiastic assertions of the college authorities in support and praise of the reading period should wait upon a broader investigation of the facts.
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