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Excerpts From Text of 1939 Committee Report; Deal With Curriculum Reforms


Following is the introduction and excerpts form part of the text for the report on the Freshman Year which the Freshman Confidential Guide committee submitted Wednesday to Dean Hanford and Dean Chauncey. It was drawn up under the chairmanship of Jack D. Andrews by Messrs. A. E. Brown; R. P. Brown, Cline, Coqullette, Davies, English, Harvin, Hedblom, Sullivan, and Tobin.


The policy of the second Freshman Guide Committee was largely foreshadowed by the work of its predecessor. Last year's report contained a thorough analysis of freshman conditions and made clear the large issues, so that we were able to follow the program there outlined. Thus, our task here is one of emphasis and interpretation rather than originality. We have also tried to advance additional technical considerations that we hope will give practicability to many of the worthwhile ideas only mentioned last year.

In making our study of freshmen problems we could not help but see the made since last term. We felt that in general both the caliber of the section men and the methods of teaching had risen above previous levels. We offer this second report in a spirit of constructive criticism, in the hope that it may accomplish as satisfying results as the first survey. Because of the nature of the Guide, it is impossible to recite commendations of the courses; we are concerned with bettering the curriculum set-up. But this does not mean that we found only undesirable conditions in our survey of the Freshman year.

Again, while, as we have said, many recommendations made last year have born fruit, we have also found conditions existing which last year's proposals might have remedied. In the cases where we have agreed with the 1938 group concerning the need for reform we have emphasized these agreements. We feel that when conditions lead to the same reaction and disfavor one year after another, the proposals for change in these quarters should be considered most carefully.

It is of course true that we can judge only form a Freshman point of view. Yet this factor should make our report valuable as a record of first-year experience. We will achieve our greatest object if our work is accepted as an expression of Freshman opinions combined with various suggestions for improvement.

We have organized our discussion into three main divisions, but have numbered consecutively the resolutions pertaining to all subjects regardless of the division under which they fall. We trust that this will facilitate easy reference. Each resolution contains a paragraph or two of explanation, and subsequently a short paragraph stating out recommendation for improvement.


A. The Arts

1. In the discussion of English A it was found that the differences between the various sections caused most of the defects which are numerous in this obligatory course. Such outstanding faults as wide discrepancy in marking, difference in amount of literary material included with composition drill, and great variance in the length and frequency of required themes, were obvious. In every case the solution to the difficulty depends on the improvement of section organization and section men.

All the men who are enrolled in English A should have some knowledge of Widener Library. Under the present arrangement, any, such knowledge is obtained only if the student uses the facilities of his own accord. If tow of the themes assigned in the first half year of English A were required to be research papers, that is, themes which result from reading and comparison of reference books, the familiarity of all the students with the reference and catalogue divisions of the library would be increased.

Also, while many of the complaints of boredom in English A will be eliminated by the weeding out of t hose men entering under the "Highest Seventh" plan through a September examination, the committee felt that the stress on composition ability alone in the September examination would probably enable some of those men receiving a grade of less than 75 on the college board examination because of deficiency in literary knowledge to successfully avoid English A.

We therefore recommend that the sections in English a be co-ordinated in respect to material to be included in all sections, that a standard of length and frequency for all themes be established, and that the section men in the course confer together on themes as is the case with hour examinations in History I in order that marking may be of a standard, consistent nature.

Because of the size of the group, it is not feasible to suggest that all the incoming men who receive lower than 75 on the college board English examination to be allowed to take the examination to be given in September. Therefore, we recommend that all those men who received between 75 and 60 on the college board examination be allowed to take the September examination in English.

We also recommend that tow of the themes assigned in English A in the first half-year be papers requiring work in Widener with reference books in order that the student will become acquainted with the library facilities.

Further, since the success of English A finally depends on the caliber of the section men in the course, we recommend careful consideration of Resolution 1 of Part 1 of last year's Freshman report in regard to the selection of these men. The resolution reads" "That section men be chosen with an eye towards teaching ability and personality rather than their scholastic records."

2. A system of sections for all men has been a part of the course organization of English 1 and English 2. However, these sections include men of such varying ability that it is impossible for the section men to direct the discussion to specific problems of any one group. In the effort to include material that will be of some benefit to everyone the sections have become either a rehash of lectures, as in English 2, or vague attempts to clarify the reading to suit everyone's needs. This procedure, necessitated by the wide distribution of marks of the men, defeats the purpose of the sections, and, as a consequence, the stu- students disregard them.

We therefore recommend that in both English 1 and English 2 conferences be organized after November hours separating the A and B men from the C, D, and E men. These sections and conference groups, modeled after those of History 1, could then deal more fully and expertly with the problems of high and low grade men. While in the "C" sections the primary object would be to insure that the basic course material is covered adequately, the conference groups would discus the assigned work only to clear up the difficulties in the reading and would then study further the works and the life of the author under consideration.

This system of sections and conference groups would make instruction easier for the section man, and would create interest among those students who are now forced to listen to explanations of material that they have mastered. Also the lower grade man could be given fuller instruction in the basic material which he was not grasped, not being exposed to the extraneous discussion of men of conference rank.

3. Being shrouded with political discussions and presenting easy grammar works, the class meetings of French C (French 1) have been discounted by most students, who feel they can learn as much actual French without class attendance. This is unfortunate because French C embraces the material of the language that can be both instructive and interesting.

We therefor recommend that the present arrangement of one meeting a week for attention to grammar and two meetings for reading the maintained, but that the grammar which is presented be more advanced so that there will be instructive value to the grammar lessons. To insure the proper concentration on the part of the students, we further recommend that grammar tests be given in French C every other week in the same manner that the occasional reading examinations are now presented.

4. Of all the courses that would benefit by the introduction of the Conference System, Philosophy A and Philosophy B are the most conspicuous examples. Here a majority of the students complained that the sections were monopolized by a few superior men; that the section men could not cover all the basic material and still give the interpretation necessary in a philosophy course and finally, that the important coordination of lecture and reading material was not accomplished in the sections. In both those course the lectures and reading supplement each other; they are not identical. It therefore becomes the task of the section man to supply this coordination, and yet discuss the implications of all the course material. This is not possible with men of varying abilities, and especially when each student is himself usually concerned with one particular problem in the work. The solution to this difficulty lies in reducing the size of all Philosophy A and B reducing the size of all Philosophy A and B sections, and in providing at the same time for separation of the average man from the advance one.

We therefor strongly recommend the introduction of the conference system in the organization of Philosophy A and Philosophy B, along the lines established by History I. Such a step will give meaning to the course for the C and D students and insure the A and B men of an adequate superstructure upon the basic framework of Philosophy.

B. The Science

5. Last Year's report showed conclusively that in all Freshman Chemistry courses a wide difference exists between the laboratory time given in the catalogue of courses and time actually necessary for careful work. We found no improvement anywhere in this respect, and feel that this is a difficulty, which should be adjusted. Therefore, we repeat the table of discrepancies, using the figures secured in our more recent study:

required time  neces.timeChemistry A 3 hrs  4-5 hrs.Chemistry B 3 hrs  5 hrs.Chemistry 33 not stated  8 hrs

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