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KNOWLEDGE OR WHIPPED CREAM?

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

If the tutorial work in the department of History under the present system is falling short of its mark, it is not because the division is doing too little, but rather because it is attempting too much. The department has taken the dogma, perhaps from President Lowell, that concentration in a particular field has as its object a veneer of knowledge covering the entire expanse of the chosen subject. As is inevitable in such a vaulting and all-inclusive attempt, the concentrator, having only his Sophomore and Junior years in which to study for his divisionals, skims over the surface from the dawn of history to the present day, getting perhaps a panorama of the general movements of world history, but certainly missing a thorough study of any portion of the field.

Actually it is a question of what one expects from tutorial work. If the student wants no more than the A, B, C's, that Greece gave us our culture, Rome our law, Judea our religion, France our manners, and Britain our government, then the present system fills the bill. Under it the student is responsible for four out of five fields of history: ancient (Greek or Roman), medieval, early modern, and modern. Before his divisionals he will probably have taken four courses in his department, among which will be found History 1, valuable as a survey, but nevertheless distinctly a survey. The other three fall where they may, while it is the task of tutor and student working together to fill in the chinks and lacquer the surface so that finally it will present an illusion of widespread enlightenment.

Experience has shown that the surface is too thin; the lacquer chips, probably falls off soon after divisionals. Even with four courses the student cannot cover the world from Pericles to Stalin in two short years and have anything but the most casual acquaintance with the subject. Far better to let the courses continue to be surveys, and the tutorial work a more thorough investigation of territory already covered. Instead of being responsible for four fields, a student might choose two, and under tutorial guidance make a complete and invigorating study of those. In place of the H. G. Wells "Outline of History" aspect of the past and present the student would achieve genuine knowledge from his work in concentration, and scholarship would revert more nearly to its true meaning.

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