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Progressive education as practised at the University of Chicago and at Bennington challenges Harvard in more ways than one. It is not merely that its academic freedom is fully as complete. Far more fundamental is the fact that Bennington (and also Columbia's Bard College) are approaching education from a creative point of view, while Harvard's attitude is in the main scholarly. Bennington, as far as is possible, has made creative and individual work an integral part of every subject. Harvard has not, and must soon face the issue of whether it is providing a complete education. Recent criticisms of the English and Fine Arts departments have shown that it is not.
President Conant has been emphasizing the importance of individual work in the teaching staff at Harvard. As yet he has not fully applied that policy to the students. When, and if, he does, the matter will not be one of simply changing the curriculum, or adopting Bennington's policy of one month away from the college to be devoted to individual work. It is more a complete change of attitude towards education that will be necessary. Before this Harvard has been willing to experiment. Academic freedom, the House plan, distribution and requirements were all experimental. To this willingness the University owes a large part of its reputation.
Bennington is not the only college or university that has adopted new methods. The challenge is that of modern education. It is highly significant that the University of Chicago, turned progressive under the leadership of President Hutchins, is now generally rated as one of Harvard's closest competitors. The opportunity for individual and creative work is recognized by all progressive educators and educational institutions as essential. Harvard cannot afford to be behind the field.
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