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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained



In presenting his annual report of the state of the college to the president, and through him to the community as a whole, Dean Hanford has directed public gaze to the rising standard of scholarship at Harvard over the past twenty years. For twenty years ago the general divisional examinations were set up as part and parcel of the undergraduate curriculum, substituting for the old course and point plan. Under the stimulus of this comprehensive system, and goaded further by the growth of tutorial work and of the Houses, the number of honors men in the college has doubled, and many more people are enjoying study of advanced calibre than ever before.

But of more immediate interest than this tribute to the success of divisional is the part of the report dealing with the tutorial system. Here vital changes are taking place. For the Dean's office, finally realizing the failure of tutorial for certain types of students, has moved toward establishing two brands of tutorial instruction; one for those who genuinely benefit from it, and the other for those for whom course work makes a full schedule and further effort is backbreaking.

To this second class only interim instruction will be given,--just enough, ideally, to bridge the gaps between courses,--and sixteen full courses will be required, instead of the present dose of fifteen. That the Dean is alive to the danger that men in this second class may not cover their fields as "comprehensively" as before is shown by the provision that the general examinations may have to be revised to fit the schedules of "Class B" concentrators.

Official recognition that tutorial work can vary in quality just as courses do comes as a bright sign for future undergraduates. Those in the second class will be given tutorial work from which they can profit, and an extra course thrown in, while the college will no longer have to supply expensive individual instruction to those who cannot use it to the full. Thus, though vigilant read-justments and changes will inevitably have to be made from time to time, the current report of the Dean marks a turning point in the career of the tutorial system, a corner around which there should be genuine good times to come.

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