More on the Core


To the Editors of The Crimson:

The Core Curriculum proposal is upon us, and I hear far too little opposition. The problem with the learning environment at Harvard is hardly an unclear definition of what is important. The Core Committee has laid out its ideal of what the liberally educated student should be like, and they have tried to devise a system to move us in that direction. What people need is exactly the opposite.

Learning is an active process. We must figure out for ourselves what we want to learn. Having someone else define what is important only perpetuates our childhood. Harvard should devote its energy to creating situations that encourage and nurture the interests that students express. I believe that given the right atmosphere, people begin to explore a wide range of interests. But, rather than trying to open us up, the Core proposal is an attempt to fill us up. It is no accident that there isn't a requirement that undergraduates take one course in creative writing, studio art, public speaking, or any other creative endeavor.

Harvard holds up academic individualism and exploration as an ideal, but instead it fosters apathy. Professors are unhappy about students who want to minimize their work and maximize their grades. We have more choices to make than students in the past, and too many of us deal with them through mindless pre-professionalism and confused leave-taking. Meaningful choices grow out of people; they need to be nurtured, and not directed. The Core Curriculum proposal is an attempt to direct us.

The plan is like the classic response of the bureaucrat, or parent whose children are getting older and more independent--it's much easier to try to control, rather than to trust and have faith in the outcome. The faculty's solution to the muddled state of undergraduate education mirrors the kind of responses we are used to seeing in the rest of society. When the crime rate goes up, people cry for law and order and a larger police force--they don't try to eliminate the problems which cause the crime. Too much of our society tries to outmuscle what is unpleasant, rather than returning to people's basic needs and looking at the ways they are not satisfied. The Committee's proposal is doing this right in front of our eyes.


Why can't Harvard start to look at its incoming students as unique individuals, all of whom have the capacity to develop naturally, and in the way that is right for them? We need more facilitators, helpers and collaborators in our learning--not prescribed 125 person lectures. Ricky Summers '79