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History, History '& Lit

Brass Tacks

By William A. Nitze

(This is the third article in a current CRIMSON series on tutorial programs.)

The Departments of History and History and Literature exemplify the variety of ways in which different departments have implemented the Gill plan concerning tutorials and thesis writings. History, the largest department in the University, has followed the plan's provisions wholeheartedly and with great effect. In contrast, History and Literature, an all-honors field which has always leaned heavily on tutorial, has made few changes in its tutorial program since 1961.

The History Department has always required sophomores to participate in a non-credit group tutorial in addition to regular course work. Before 1961, a history concentrator who was in Group III or better and had received a satisfactory grade in his sophomore generals, was eligible for junior and senior honors tutorial. The Department admitted a few Group IV students into the honors program but in general no student below Group III could be a candidate for honors as a junior. If he showed exceptional improvement during his junior year, a history major might be allowed to write a thesis.

The Department limited its program because it considered many students incapable of profiting from tutorial, which demands greater intellectual capabilities and interest than course instruction. However, as the Gill plan recognized, the intellectual level of the Harvard and Radcliffe student body has risen radically in the last decade. Where formerly many students would fail to appear for tutorial, fail to read the material or prove unable to handle the work-load, now hardly any lack the ability or motivation to perform well in tutorial.

In full agreement with both the reasoning and the specific proposals of the Gill plan, the History Department opened junior and senior tutorial to all concentrators in Group V and above who had done a satisfactory job in sophomore tutorial. The only stipulation was that in order to take History 99 a student must have completed History 98.

Last year's results justified the change. Not only did students in Groups IV and V perform adequately in honors tutorial but many raised their grades as a result of tutorial. This year over eighty per cent of history concentrators are enrolled in the honors program.

History and Literature, which is not a department but a field of concentration governed by a Faculty committee, has always offered a tutorial program for all concentrators which has been a model for other departments. Since it admits only students of honors calibre, History and Literature has never had any trouble with the motivation of its concentrators.

All students in History and Literature take a non-credit sophomore tutorial in addition to their four courses, meeting individually with their tutors once every two weeks. As in the History Department, junior tutorial (History and Literature 98) deepens the student's knowledge of his special area and fills in gaps in his course program. In May of their junior year, History and Literature concentrators take a general examination on their special fields. If they pass this exam they are admitted into senior tutorial (History and Literature 99) which is devoted to the preparation of a thesis.

The Gill plan caused only one significant change in History and Literature's tutorial program: now more students who have failed their generals are allowed to write a thesis. Yet History and Literature, as well as the History Department, has proved the validity of Gill's main hypothesis: that almost all undergraduates at Harvard and Radcliffe can make good use of tutorial if given the opportunity.

A review of "The Laocoon Nobody Knows" and "The Bolts and Bars to Go," which opened last night at the Experimental Theatre, will appear tomorrow.

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