The report of the committee on Instruction concerning the Reading Period contains too much material for adequate treatment in a single editorial. Little can be done except to call attention to the importance of this report; on it the future of the experiment was to stand or fall. To find that it is not only considered a success as far as it has gone, but also further development along the same lines, is heartening.
Naturally, the recommendations for improvement are the most open to discussion. The foremost of these are that the Reading Period should be long, that the reading should be supplementary to the course and, not take the place of omitted lectures, that the specific assignments should be very moderate in length, and that tutorial work should be merged with the chosen fields of study as far as possible. The most conspicuous aspect of these recommendations is the emphasis laid on the student who is interested in his work. Indeed, the whole trend of the investigation lies far from the position of forced education, far, even from the idea of education through a conscious stimulation by an instructor, tutor, or professor.
There is no danger that the ordinary, or below average student will be neglected; the opposite danger has been and is the earmark of American education. But the idle, or uninterested student will suffer if the recommendations are carried out. The slow, hard-working student, and the quick, expansive student will profit. The idle and the uninterested students are unproductive anyway; therefore the neglect will raise the standards, and do no great harm to them or to anyone else.
Although the report needs to be considered and treated in detail, there is little doubt that in its main clauses it is pointing the way to better solution of at least a few important problems in Harvard education.