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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
Once again the American History Examinations have moved toward the realization of the dreams of President Conant and the men who are in charge of "selling" the extra-curricular study of our nation's history and culture to the undergraduate body. Yesterday the list of thirty candidates for the first examination was completed, and though thirty may not seem a large number out of an undergraduate group of over three thousand, the University should feel encouraged in finding thirty men who have enough initiative over and above that spent on their regular courses and examinations to submit to an extra, special set of exams, all for the love of the subject. It is a heartening beginning.
It is often easier to begin a project, however, than to continue and carry it out after it has started. With this in mind, it would be well for the Faculty Committee in charge of the project to think about ways of continuing and developing even further student interest in their plan. Perhaps the best way to gain adherents for the scheme would be the formation of an undergraduate committee to parallel the Faculty Committee. This would mean that undergraduates would help to bear the burden of recruiting men to do the reading and take the examinations, a task that is ever so much easier for a student, a fellow participant in the examinations, than for those who administer the reading and questions, whose enthusiasm might by unthinking people be considered biased. A student committee made up of members of the group now taking the first examinations and other interested undergraduates might provide the best way of popularizing the scheme in the College.
Beyond this, one other suggestion could be made to do something to encourage the men who compete in the examinations but who do not win the prizes. These are the bulk of the people interested, and yet, unless they win, they receive no official recognition for their trouble, and the chances of their continuance in the field, time after time, are slim. To these men who fight the good fight but fail to bring home the spoils some tribute should be paid in the form of certificates or announcements proclaiming that they had participated. These certificates could be limited to those who pass creditably, but they would be a definite incentive beyond the one of pure scholarship and enjoyment in intellectual endeavor.
With the group of thirty now inaugurating the plan go the hopes of all those who are interested in one of the major contributions of President Conant's regime. And for the future it is hoped that the idea will catch the imagination of even more undergraduates, and lure them into a plan of study that promises to pay dividends not only while they are in Harvard, but throughout their lives.
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