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Historical Relevance


History concentrators are presently divided into tutorial groups according to Houses. Whereas this arrangement does provide the convenience of short walks, it means that tutorial will probably not be relevant to the student's special fields of interest.

The tutorial curriculum--particularly for honors juniors--is unfortunately so abstract that this irrelevance is unimportant. Sophomore year introduces the concentrator to great historical writing while the junior year is devoted largely to the philosophy of history and to historiography.

These two years could easily be compressed into one. An historian--Gibbon is a good example--reveals his philosophical position on such questions as causation and determinism by his interpretation of events. Abstract historical theory, which is frequently based upon analysis of the great chroniclers of history, should be combined in the sophomore year with the introduction to these historians. This plan would then allow the junior concentrator to investigate philosophical problems in terms of source material.

Examination of sources should lead to the more logical grouping of concentrators by fields instead of solely by Houses, under a tutor whose interests are the same as his tutees. A concentrator whose special emphasis lies in American history, for example, might study original writings of the late nineteenth century in order to determine for himself the causes of Progressivism. This would at the same time give him a more integral view of historical movements, which the discrete quality of his courses--economic, political, social or intellectual history--often precludes.

In the latter part of the junior year, the concentrator would be able to understand philosophical formulations in terms of his special fields. The tutor and the student would be able to go more deeply into philosophy once they had an agreed basis of fact; and a division by fields would insure that the tutor is teaching a subject with which he is familiar and in which the student is interested.

Tutorial is not designed to plug gaps in a student's courses, in preparation for Generals. But a lessening of the discrepancy between tutorial and his courses would make both more meaningful to him.

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