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Admirable for its completeness the recent report of the Overseers Committee on the tutorial system embodies one suggestion which If wrongly interpreted, may have serious and for reaching effects of a retrogressive nature. Its suggestion to restrict tutorial work to men of sufficient "capacity and willingness" may be unwise if group rating and course grades are to be used as the critical of a student's capacity.
There are obviously many men who profit considerably by this work who are not candidates for honors either because they lack the necessary group rating or because they have no desire to be candidates. Further, there are numerous instances of men who have become candidates for honors after period of one or two years of ineligibility. If they had been denied tutorial work during this period it would have greatly increased the burden of both tutor and tutee when they did become candidates. It is also likely that the independent work with a tutor very often inspires a student with greater interest in his field and gives him an impetus to try for honors. A group rating, moreover, below group four does not "ipso facto" indicate that a student is incapable of or uninterested in doing work with a tutor. When the committee says there are a large number of below average students who have not "been brought to the point where they are able to take their studies into their own hands and push them forward with the joy of an intellectual explorer," the implication may justify be made that perhaps that is a fault of some of the personnel of the system and also that perhaps the admissions office has been at fault in admitting men unprepared to participator in the fundamental educational process of the College. The whole objective of the administration during the past few years, through the mechanism of general examinations, tutorial system, abolition, of compulsory class attendance and hour examinations, has been the granting of greater independence to students in order that they may master one field of learning thoroughly and be stimulated to do creative thinking. Restriction of the tutorial work to one group of students necessarily would mean the educational objectives of the College would have to undergo fundamental change. Such change could hardly be regarded as a progressive stop.
The Committee's suggestion to inaugurate a trial period in the Sophomore year at the end of which the tutor would pass upon the student's ability to benefit from independent work is good one. Another stop in the same direction, which would also help the system out of its present financial dilemma, would be to make tutorial work optional with students, regardless, however, of their group rating. Certainly no tutor should be burdened with a student who regards the work as a necessary evil and who prepares for his conferences with little or no enthusiasm. But to deprive worthy students of an opportunity to work with a tutor, as might happen if the Committee's suggestion was wrongly interpreted, would be abandon a policy that has made Harvard one of the foremost centers of intellectual activity.
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