The Path to Public Service at SEAS
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For the paragon of scholastic ability and enthusiasm, Harvard College and her Tutorial System even now leave little to be desired. But after all the paragon can go far with a library alone, and is never the problem child of higher education, wherever he finds himself. The real puzzle has always been, is, and will always be the student who has the potentialities which, owing to disinterest, laziness, distraction, or a sense of proportions, are never developed.
There are hundreds of such students at Harvard. Some of them, of course, drop out. But a far larger proportion manage to fulfill the minimum requirements, even in the end get their degrees, but without ever rising to their opportunities of real intellectual development. Included in this group are not only the frequenters of Tutoring Bureaus, but all those who skip meetings with tutors (often to their delight,) and take the easiest way in the matter of writing theses, and following up some independent research and thinking.
There are still some who believe that a man has a right to waste his opportunities at Harvard, provided only he pays his tuition, and keeps up to the minimum standards. Admitted that for every dollar paid to the University, a man gets direct benefits worth many times that, but do not the minimum requirements in fact limit the responsibilities of everyone's virtual scholarship?
From the point of view of the student, this is undoubtedly true. But the authorities cannot take the same attitude, that they have a right to let students on such a scholarship basis waste college funds and equipment. It is the duty of the authorities to prevent just this sort of waste in those who stay in college. It is this duty, owing to principles of self-education, liberty, and laisser-faire, perverted to mean indifference to the needs of a large proportion of the student body, which has been sadly shirked.
If a student is too lazy to work, but manages to get through his examinations, perhaps partly through innate ability, that's his look-out; if he slithers through college with the help of tutoring bureaus, that's perfectly all right with the college so long as he passes the minimum requirements. But it's about time for that attitude to stop.
An obvious remedy, suggested many times on this page, would be for definite standards, judged by the tutor, to be enforced in order that a student might remain with the responsibility of self-education and the privilege of tutorial conference. If those standards, in the opinion of the tutor, were not lived up to, out the student would be fired into an easier, though more disciplinary course, with hour exams, quizzes, compulsory attendance, regular papers, and an extra full course per year to take the place of the time formerly spent in tutorial. In this manner, men with ability would be induced to work hard with their tutors, and at the same time those who could not live up to the standards of self-education would get a thorough training more suitable to them.
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