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ROUND PEG AND SQUARE HOLE

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

The divisional examiners in the field of History, Government, and Economics have a knotty problem upon their hands. It must be unraveled today when the Divisional Committee, representing both the examiners and the three departments, meet to decide what can be done with correlation exams for Senior honors candidates. These exams, which supposedly test a candidate's knowledge of his allied field, offer twelve choices--four each for the man in History and Government, for the one in History and Economics, and for the one in Government and Economics. Government Regulation of Industry is the most popular; International Relations and American Constitutional History are next. In theory their scope must be extensive in order to allow a student enough wall space to hang his knowledge, yet in eight years of experimentation examiners have found that in practice they become merely repititious tests of course material. This ill situation may be cured in one of two ways, either by abolishing correlation exams or by improving them. The latter, because of Harvard's ideal of a broad education, is much the better medicine.

Before 1930 correlation exams depended on general questions; actually they were reviews of elementary courses. To remove the "snap," there was devised a system based upon specific questions. Now every one, disliking over-specialization, dislikes this method, claiming that the exams are so narrow as to be almost another test of a candidate's special field. Most of the material, moreover, can be gathered from certain advanced courses, thus making the new system the same old story. To climax the dissatisfaction, it was discovered last year that few candidates used tutorial reading for preparation. For this failure the tutors cannot be directly blamed, since they deal only with a student's departmental and special fields.

But as an external way of mending the present system, the tutors should assign or suggest tutorial work which will help a Senior's preparation. Internally it can be doctored by adding another and advanced course to the two elementary courses in the related departments now required of every honors candidate. This supplementary requirement will not seem an imposition if the student is permitted to have free choice. A third course will insure the system in two ways: first, by escaping the fangs of over-specialization in the correlated field; second, by making the student acquire another point of view, another method of approach, to problems in the social sciences. Through such administering the system of correlation exams can regain its health, and the doctors, in this case the Divisional Committee, may wipe their hands and feel that at last the round peg has been fitted, not to perfection, but to accomplishment.

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