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EDUCATION IN THE YARD

VII. THE FRESHMAN

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

All the educational hullabaloo about intellectual and social guidance is meaningless to the average Freshman. And unless reformers look at every dimension of the real figure, their efforts are mere words. In trying to uplift the personal element in education to its rightful place beside the academic, they have tended to forget the major point that ultimately the result of college training depends upon the undergraduate. It is he who must make himself well-balanced, he who must determine his set of values, he who must become interested in studying, making friends, and joining activities. The idea of maladjustment can easily be distorted through overemphasis by doctors and deans, and despite their worries America is against losing its tradition of Emersonian self-reliance. It is absurd to think that the University should be morally responsible for the fate of every Freshman, for to nurse one thousand mothers' sons can be no official job.

Consequently, when an advisee refuses to see his adviser or to respond intelligently to lectures, he is spiting only himself; when a man graduates without once meeting a professor he admires or shaking hands with President Conant, it is his fault--to be blamed upon his lack of initiative. Going halfway with teacher, adviser, and dean is the obligation of each Freshman. Likewise, it is his duty to be useful in college, by contributing somehow to its life; particularly does it fall upon him to develop a practical social philosophy which will anchor his outlook on the modern world and make his knowledge beneficial to the community he will later join.

To achieve stability in Harvard, there are several items for the Freshman to hold in mind. Boston's domination of the University has been long and penetrating; its old and often narrow attitude tears at an outsider's mode of talk, dress, and thought. This influence should be resisted if it attacks a man's "region of friendly ideas," or the opinions and principles he has formed from past experience and home environment and has held since adolescence. Nevertheless, most Freshmen strange to Boston will be affected by its quaint reserve and quiet individualism. That is but natural.

The Freshman should regard knowledge as a working tool, something to keep always at hand, something that cannot be earned by rote. For the sake of intellectual honesty, if nothing else, he should avoid tutoring schools and concentrate alone. Nor ought fear of bad marks drive him to these portals, because he can better cram by himself. Unfortunately, grades are gold when considered in terms of a degree; otherwise, as a measure of ability and real knowledge, they have only petty significance.

In its 1938 report the Carnegie Foundation stressed the root fact that "to endure, an education must be self-achieved." To make it mean something, to direct it along one single, clear course towards a prefixed destination, is the reason for demanding cooperation between dean, teacher, adviser, and even Freshman.

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