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COURSE CATASTROPHIES

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Harassed History students have long gnashed their teeth at the utter impossibility of correlating material for their general and special examinations. Professors have clucked their tongues sympathetically and suggested more intensive tutorial work. But tinkering with the tutorial system is a poor palliative for the hardship worked by the present system. The cure is course revision. The tutorial system is now lugging the heavyload placed in its lap by poorly organized courses. Instead of taking up problems arising from course lectures and readings, the tutorial system is trying to plug the gap between courses. This is an inefficient and half-baked way of giving another course. Much more benefit can be derived from a tutorial system making an intensive study of problems springing from courses, than from a system which spreads a pitifully thin veneer of knowledge over the whole History fabric.

An ideally organized department would present one or two introductory courses followed by a group of middle courses. Then there would be a large number of specialized courses given only when demanded. The English department follows this sensible arrangement. It offers introductory courses like Englishes 1 and 2, and follows them by a middle group of Englishes 5 and 7 for those who wish to pursue the genius of Shelley or Keats there are special courses.

But the student of History receives no such gradual initiation into his field. A concentrator in medieval history may graduate from the broad survey of History 1 into a small sector like History 22, the History of France to 1461. Medieval History needs a middle course on Continental Europe patterned after Professor Langer's course. It should also embrace Germany--now untouched by the specialized courses on Medieval Europe. The courses in Early Modern History are also in urgent need or revision. Only a person gifted with indefatigble energy and a sense of humour could get a good knowledge of this field. He would have to take the first halves of Histories 42, 50, and 55, the second half of History 40 and all of History 45.

The History department must combine scattering special courses and draw these loose ends together into some good middle courses. This is especially important in the Medieval and Early Modern History fields. Let us hope that the energy and ingenuity now applied to periodic course renumberings will soon be directed to thorough course revisions. Course revision would make the student's task lighter, the tutorial work more effective, and the History field more attractive and worthwhile.

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