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If the time, energy, and though put into planning are the measures of a course's worth, then Regional Studies I--China--is probably one of the very best courses now being offered by the University.
The two year course, which leads to a Master's degree, opened up this September after 32 consecutive months had been consumed on the drawing boards. Fourteen graduate students are the guinea pigs testing this new approach to the problem of learning all there is to know about an alien land and culture.
According to Donald C. McKay, associate professor of History, who has from the beginning headed the Faculty committee planning the regional studies, the University's program is entirely in the nature of an experiment. Nothing similar has ever been attempted on as large a scale, he claims. And as an experiment, he says, it will continue to grow and change as often as change seems necessary.
Directly in charge of the first regional studies program is John K. Fairbank, also an associate professor in the department of History. Through him passed both the master plan for the study and the elaborate five-day-a-week schedule of lectures whic his fourteen students attend.
The basic idea of Regional Studies I, Fairbank has said, is to immerse the student in the language, culture, and problems of China so thoroughly that a knowledge of the whole civilization, rather than civilization taken from a number of separate aspects, is the end result.
"Disciplines" is one of the key words around Regional Studies. "The problem must be approached from and by all disciplines," Fairbanks says, indicating that the separate studies of China's economics, government, art, music, history, and even language are not in themselves sufficient to produce the desired effect.
Language is Stressed Early
Language is the root and the starting place, though, and approximately one-half of the first year of study is devoted to learning the immense Chinese language. When the theory of this language is once mastered, the biggest stumbling block is removed; from then of facility comes with practice and only a quarter of the second year's work consists of language study.
The rest of the program contains the real beauty and originality of Regional Studies I. From Monday through Friday each week--sometimes twice a day--the student absorbs China "from and by all disciplines." He hears men from all departments of the University set forth their specialized but always integrated knowledge on China. From the outside, men pre-eminent in special fields are brought in for a single lecture or for a group of lectures.
In the second year the program allows opportunity for a basic core of work in one of the established disciplines. Fairbank's report on the program states. Besides language and a continuation of the first year study of Chinese civilization--each of which takes up a quarter of the time--the second year man applies himself to a particular aspect of China of his own choosing.
Conceived at the same time, and scheduled to follow the China program eventually is its companion piece--the study of Russia. Caught at the moment in a severe teaching shortage, this second program, McKay asserts, is receiving exactly the same thought and planning effort as Regional Studies I.
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