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There is no need for a halt in the forward movement of American education, President Conant said today in his annual report to the Board of Overseers.
"It would be a grave mistake," President Conant warned, however, "to do otherwise than to plan for a long period of partial mobilization."
As part of the University's adjustment to the national emergency, Conant proposed the shortening of undergraduate training to three years and proportional abbreviations in the graduate schools.
Three Year Program
It should be easy to schedule a three year program, he said, "for the able students who are willing to increase somewhat the load in the regular terms and to study at least one summer."
Future students will almost surely spend two years in uniform after high school, Conant noted. Therefore he saw no reason why the three-year degree which was so common forty years ago might not mark the usual completion of work in Harvard College.
Recalling that a suggestion for a three-year program by President Eliot had been rejected at the turn of the century, Conant urged that the "relaxed atmosphere of that period" be re-examined.
Time-saving in the professional schools also deserves careful scrutiny, Conant said.
Partial mobilization will doubtless make demands on faculty members, Conant noted, but in order that these demands cause the least possible damage to universities, he recommended that faculty men serve the nation for only short periods of time. They would then be replaced by colleagues who would serve an equally short period of time.
Such a rotation system, he said, would meet the "universities' particular obligation to prevent a dissipation of their highly specialized manpower," and would also fulfill "the first duty of all of us to assist the national effort."
Total War Unlikely
While the University and the nation must plan with a long period of mobilization in mind, President Conant warned against over-pessimism which would needlessly injure colleges and universities.
"In the fog of the present uncertainty," Conant said, "two facts stand out: we are not engaged in a global war; the nation is not committed to total mobilization." This, he foresaw, will be the state of the country for many a year to come, and educational institutions should not suspend their normal functions and set aside plans for innovations as they did after Pearl Harbor.
Among the projects which should make "the Harvard College of the 1950's an even better college than the institution of the 1930's," Conant mentioned:
1) General Education. "If in the future the number of calendar years devoted to undergraduate instruction is diminished, this program of General Education may prove to be an even more significant phase of Harvard College than we had originally thought."
2) The Houses. ". . .the House Plan has become a vital core." It should be improved by being even more closely knit into the educational fabric of the College through debate and perhaps adoption of some of the recommendations of the committee on "Advising at Harvard College."
3) Scholarships. There should be no lapse in improving the scholarship program, especially in view of inationary trends.
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