If the Harvard tutorial system represents only an attempt to combat the impersonality of the University, it is partially successful. If tutorial, particularly sophomore group tutorial, restricted its activities to sociological therapy, its present organizational scheme might be justifiable. As part of the process of Harvard education, however, sophomore group tutorial is a failure.
Designed to acquaint concentrators with background material in their field, sophomore tutorial generally draws the least stimulating men in any department. Often their task is made unnecessarily burdensome by the lethargic attitude of their tutees. Moreover, the exceptional student in a tutorial group is just as frustrated by the lack of interest of his fellows.
Whether because of a discouraged tutor or a group of bored students, tutorial often fails to fulfill its potential. Sophomores interested in exploring their field become disillusioned. Tutors with a sense of mission are wasted, and the already ennui-stricken student sinks deeper into his intellectual stupor.
It is easy to say that the entire problem can be remedied by more didicated students and better paid, better qualified tutors. Until Utopia arrives, however, a more practical solution must be found. By separating the sheep from the goats halfway through the sophomore year, both tuor and student can profit.
Tutors should be encouraged first of all, to exclude deadwood from their discussion groups. More important, however, tutors should extend invitations to their more advanced pupils to participate in a program of individual instruction rather than regular tutorial. Under such a plan, the student would consult periodically with his tutor about a long, term paper on a topic of special interest to the student. Under his tutor's guidance, he would be able to learn some of the research techniques used in thesis-writing while developing a specialized interest.
The tutor, having removed the extremes of scholastic aptitude from his sections, would be able to combine the average students into one group. While such a plan would not reduce the tutor's actual workload, it does offer him and the advanced student a chance to use their time to the best possible advantage. The tutor will derive definite satisfaction from helping worthwhile students to improve themselves, and the better students gain the opportunity to develop their powers of expression and analysis. Although the plan may tend to segregate sophomores too early in their careers, it is certainly worth a conscientious experiment.