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PEEP FROM A PIGEON-HOLE

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Out of the twilight of academic generality the area plan emerges as a concrete problem which must be faced. For the concentration-distribution fight is more than a University Hall bicker about the technical requirements for a degree; it is a questioning of the very nature of the peculiar concoction known as a "liberal education." Harvard is not merely investigating itself; it is groping for the function and meaning of the whole educational process.

If the liberal arts college finds itself frustrated, its own indecision about its proper function is to blame. Should it merely broaden the student's cultural background, or should it give him a thorough training in a special field? The liberal arts college does not know; it attempts both and succeeds in neither.

Seeking to escape this dilemma; the University of Chicago has smashed the college curriculum into two separate parts. After devoting two years almost exclusively to the "little about a lot", the student is free as an upperclassman to delve into his favorite "lot about a little." It is upon a similar pattern that Harvard's area plan should work out. While turning over the Freshman and Sophomore years to basic and general courses may be criticised as a step backwards, still--as long as the preparatory school fails to provide the broad foundation necessary--the college must take upon itself the job of filling the gaps.

Harvard cannot immediately revamp the preparatory school structure, and it may find outright adoption of the Chicago plan impracticable. But by a number of partial reforms it can succeed in widening the pigeon-hole horizons of its undergraduates. The modern language requirement should be pushed off onto the prep schools entirely, and pressure should be brought on those schools to prepare their fledglings more fully for the flight into Higher Learning. In addition, Harvard can broaden the scope of its own introductory courses, in order to make them less of a "closed shop" for concentrators in the field. It can, finally, require the choice of at least one course in each area. Realistic changes like these will meet the area plan halfway. Together they will produce a healthy curriculum, in which concentration and distribution are united in happy harmony.

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