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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
In his annual report to the Overseers released last night President Conant reviewed the work of the past year and proposed to create a new method "of inoculating our student body with that educational virus which alone maintains its potency throughout life". He would do this by creating a non-departmental and non-credit, in a sense "extra-curricular", scheme of study in American History.
President Conant has asked a committee of the faculty to draw up a list of suitable books from which "a partial mastery of ...(the field) can be obtained by systematic reading during term time and vacations." An examination of a purely voluntary nature would be given every fall and high ranking students would receive a substantial monetary award or a certificate upon graduation. Detailed plans have not been worked out whereby the work would be rewarded which President Conant sees as so desirable for the college graduate, but that is expected upon the publication of the report by the committee.
The choice of American History as the subject which would provide the unity President Conant stated to be highly necessary if the liberal arts tradition were to continue successfully has been explained in the report and does not appear inconsistent with the President's expressed feeling that there is an "unfortunate" shift toward the social sciences.
Praises Co-operation of Press
The President praised the newspapers for their "admirable" reports of the Tercentenary Conference and declared it encouraging "that the leading newspapers now have developed staffs capable of understanding and interpreting the work of the scholar and scientist," for "if knowledge is to be advanced in a democracy the leaders of opinion and the intelligent voters must be kept in touch with what scholarship and research really signify."
In regard to the extramural activities of professors, the President declared that "the University cannot, and should not, impose any limitation upon outside activity as such". So long as a teacher's prime interest is in his university position, so long as his outside activity as such". So long as a teacher's prime interest is in his university position, so long as his outside work is merely incidental, then it is not the concern of the University.
President Conant regretted the steady trend away from the Arts and Letters and toward the Social Sciences as an upsetting of the balance of interest so important to an institution of liberal education. "If continued in the same direction at the same rate for another decade his trend might well prove disastrous."
Hits Oath Bill
The Massachusetts Teacher's Oath Bill was attacked as a step backward in the progress of the State, but was not considered serious. It is "merely a reflection of the general wave of intolerance which has been rising in this country but which I believe is now beginning to recede."
The rest of the report was concerned with details of the past academic year.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REPORT
1. I cannot help hoping, therefore, that we have reached the end of the movement away from the Arts and Letters and toward the Social Sciences, and that such important traditional studies as Philosophy and Classics may soon show an increased enrollment.
2. All friends of learning rejoiced in the widespread interest aroused by this Conference of Arts and Sciences. Here was conclusive evidence, if any were needed, that this country prizes the triumphs of the mind for their own sake, as well as for their utility.
3. The experience gained with a small group of students concentrating in this new field of History and Science will be valuable in pointing the way toward further instruction in the History of Science and Learning beyond the two half-courses now normally available for undergraduates.
4. The only worth-while liberal education today is one which is a continuing process going on throughout life.
5. A true appreciation of this country's past might be the common denominator among educated men which would enable them to face the future united and unafraid.
6. If a young man regards a university position merely as a basis for a career in the industrial or political world, he is clearly not suitable for a permanent appointment.
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