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There are universities which vie with Harvard in architectural beauty; there are those which exceed it in enrollment; and there are more than a few which are superior in athletic achievements. But in one respect, Harvard still reigns supreme, for rate indeed is that university which can challenge its academic standing. Years of progressive educational innovations and the ability of outstanding scholars in every field of study have built up step by step at Harvard a machine for analyzing and applying culture and knowledge which is a tribute to the doctrine of academic freedom and which is almost without parallel in the world. The system of concentration and correlation, the tutorial system, and the extra curricular study programs, which is now turning out more capably trained students each year.
All this is highly commendable, but the rapidly changing demands of modern life are bringing to light new problems to be solved by the educational world--and Harvard is in the vanguard of those attempting to solve these new problems. For several years the perplexing problem of the relative merits of research versus teaching have been debated at great length, notably during the furore of "crises": like last year's Walsh-Sweezy controversy. President Conant has stated, defended, and enlarged his ideas on the subject, but among students and teachers--of both oratorical and research types--the conflict remains undecided. Second on the list of present problems is that of subsidizing brilliant scholars. With the extension of the National Scholarships Plan every year, the growing Harvard trend is a definite approval of such proselyting. The average man's loss is the brilliant man's gain, it seems. Then there is the allied question of the merits of a "concentrated" education versus a "broad B. A.," degree, both sides of which have their exponents. But brilliant National Scholarship men are seldom likely to excel in a variety of fields; they tend to have one specific objective. Hence they prefer specialized training, which throws their weight into the "concentrated" side of the scale.
The two outstanding educational innovations currently attracting attention here are the Littauer School and the Nieman Fellows. Whether any school of public administration can obtain concrete results in a government dominated by politically swayed factions is questionable; and the Nieman Fellows have been labeled by many newspapermen as "too idealistic to succeed." They older systems of education were idealistic, but today's keynote is realism. This changed viewpoint is the reason why many alumni taught under the older system wail loudly at the glaring lack of interest in culture at present. The spell-binders of yore are disappearing in the teaching ranks as surely as the undergraduate "dabbler" of the nineties. Harvard education is in the throes of a catharsis, and the University must expect to defend itself from the attacks of those who have been through a less concentrated fire.
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