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When the University prohibited students, under penalty of "disciplinary action," from attending any of the Square cram schools it insured the ultimate demise of a racket which in the past ten years has materially lowered the prestige of a Harvard degree. It also recreated a problem which must not be overlooked. For partly behind the growth of the outlawed tutoring schools was a legitimate educational need--that of organized pre-final reviews. Not all the students who in the past attended commercial reviews did so in order to get crammed with facts they were too lazy to learn for themselves. Many a conscientious freshman staggered across Massachusetts Avenue drunk with facts, but unable to differentiate between which of those facts were essential and which superficial.
In course reviews at the Union, Harvard has the means by which to help students organize their work. Yet many of the reviews in the past have been--in the words of students who attended them--"worse than useless." These valueless reviews may be classed as of two kinds: either the instructor has merely conducted a question box--in which one or two "bright boys" have invariably monopolized the floor; or he has attempted in three short quarters of an hour to "cover" a half-year's work. Such superficial treatment, often caused by the fact that instructors, like students, are busy around exam time, is obviously of no avail. What the students want is a comprehensive review, indicating the important trends in a course, and relating them to the course as a whole. But often the section man, knowing the content of his coming exam, feels that he must bend over backwards to avoid stressing the topics which will be brought up in it!
Music 1 this year has solved the problem admirably. By appointing a graduate student, not connected with the course, to give reviews it has avoided the usual pitfalls. This tutor, not knowing the contents of the exam, has been able to stress without compunction what he considers to be the high points of the course.
Here perhaps is the answer to Harvard's problem of providing prefinal reviews. In conjunction with the various department heads and the Bureau of Supervisors, University Hall might well appoint graduate students to give the Union reviews. If necessary, it might remunerate their efforts. Certainly the demand for competent course reviews is a legitimate one--and one that the University cannot afford to over-look.
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