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The Report of the Overseers' Committee on the Tutorial System, in the current issue of the Harvard Alumni Bulletin, is admirable. That the System is one of the most vital and significant aspects in the university is a belief held by many. At the same time, there is no question that there is room for considerable improvement, and now that the System has become well established, constructive criticism such as that contained in the Report is immensely valuable. However, it is unfortunate that in suggesting methods of economy within the System, the Committee develops considerable attention to the possibility of doubling up students under one tutor.
Such a remedy strikes at what has become to be the particular virtue of the Tutorial System, the intimate relationship it develops between an eager and an advanced mind. Precisely because no two men are alike, the method and approach of one cannot help differing from that of another. Even if students were grouped so that the two intended to work together did so congenially and at approximately the same speed, and with generally similar thoroughness, they will have lost the benefits of intimacy with the instructor. In the personal friendship which frequently arises between tutor and tutee is something so valuable, be it ever so intangible, that to sacrifice it without first considering all alternatives would amount to injustice to the System itself.
Doubtless a few students could be paired successfully, but these would be the exception to prove the rule. For it is questionable how much a man learns in a book that will remain with him a decade or so after graduation. But what any man remembers is those with whom he has come into close contact. The closer the contact, the longer, and more vivid, the remembrance. The Tutorial System fills two functions: academic and, for want of a better name, social. To jeopardize the latter, which in the long run is the more valuable, would be a false and actually crippling economy.
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