It has been said that there are three kinds of liars; liars, damn liars, and statistics--in view of which, the results of the CRIMSON Lecture Poll, as applied to specific lecture, courses must be taken with a grain of salt, Those courses which took the most severe beating-Government 1, Philosophy A, Chemistry 33--are elected by many more students than is the average case, and it is to be expected that these would have attracted most attention.
At the same time, mere sized is no excuse for the continuance of evils which have been so pointedly indicated. That elementary courses in several departments should have drawn such fire is ample proof that drastic changes in their conduct is the crying need of present-day Harvard. An elementary course is ostensibly an introduction to a field of knowledge in which a man may or may not have had slight preparation. In the event he has not, his entire attitude towards that field, indeed, the extent to which it may serve to broaden his horizon, may depend on one man: the lecturer in the elementary course.
For so vital a field as government, it is criminal that a university of Harvard's repute and influence should continue to provide so unsatisfactory and uninspiring an approach as Government 1. Not since the days when A. Lawrence Lowell was the lecturer has the course possessed any real value for those whose major concern is to grasp the fundamentals of modern government and a few significant principals of political theory. To be sure, the course has been reorganized this year, but the emphasis has been on reform of material alone, not of lecturing.
As to the more general results of the Poll, one of the most significant suggestions, and one which could with ease be read into many ballots, was the actual acquire a place of their own, irrespective of the whole course. If for example, a man's field were Anthropology, his tutor would send him to individual lectures in other department, thus obviating the need for the student's absorbing the welter of material distributed over a whole course. Unhappily, tutoring is the most expensive means of education, and lecturing the cheapest, precluding for the immediate present the prospect of fulfilling so interesting a suggestion. Nonetheless, it should be borne in mind-meanwhile an attempt should be made so to coordinate the two methods as to prevent the possibility of redundancy.
While it is true that the Poll revealed no pronounced antipathy to the lecture system, the recommendation for increased emphasis on tutorial work represents a trend which has become increasingly noticeable at Harvard. It is a matter for speculation how long it will be necessary to wait for the logical corollary of this trend--fewer lecture courses, accompanied by vastly more than the present emphasis on lectures which stimulate as well as instruct. But when prosperity is once more upon us--when the Blue Eagle's head is hidden, ostrich-like, in the sand, when Hour Exams have been abolished in reality and not only in theory--Harvard must, if only to pass it on to the next generation, revive the long lost art of lecturing.