The Path to Public Service at SEAS
Should Supreme Court Justices Have Term Limits? That ‘Would Be Fine,’ Breyer Says at Harvard IOP Forum
Harvard Right to Life Hosts Anti-Abortion Event With Students For Life President
Harvard Researchers Debunk Popular Sleep Myths in New Study
Journalists Discuss Trump’s Effect on the GOP at Harvard IOP Forum
It is a platitude to observe that Harvard education is formalistic. The use of the German lecture system, an unwieldy student body, and countless mechanical cogs, many of them admittedly necessary to insure the smooth running of a large university, make the practical application of unimpeded scholarship difficult.
Such a cog, and a quite useless one, is the system of hour examinations. The only intelligent brief to be held for the institution is its benefit to the Freshman, acting as a check on his proclivities to let daily assignments slide before Midyears, or rather, before the next set of hours in December. For the upperclassman, taking four courses, immersed in his tutorial work and, in his Senior year, preparing for Divisionals, even perhaps, laying plans for his thesis, the whole mess of irritating formal quizzes is an insult to his supposed maturity and, what is considerably more important, an absolute injury to constant intelligent study.
Professors in large lecture courses are opposed to the hours, if only because of the complicated machinery involved; section men, if they insist, are easily able to test ability by one or a series of informal tests. The only excuse ever offered to conscientious objectors is the necessity to retain some disciplinary check on the student. In a university where even the faculty upholds liberalism to a point amounting almost to a fetish, where paternalism never rears its ugly head, and where a premium is placed on individual responsibility, the system of hour examinations is a paradox; a conflict between fine theory and actual practice. Since they mean nothing, their abolition, except possibly for the first year, would remove from Harvard another petty trace of secondary school education.
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.