MOVE EXAMS before Christmas, and you're doing away with not one but two Harvard traditions. First, of course, there's Exams After Christmas. But the second is even greater and more venerable:
Screwing Off All Semester.
Without a doubt, screwing off all semester--and getting away with it--is the best thing we learn here. As the joke goes, what if God had been a Harvard student? He would've jerked around for six days and then pulled an all-nighter.
And he still would've bagged an A.
Knowing how to do six days' work in a night, or in this case, 13 weeks' work in a night, is the most marketable skill we could ever have. And Harvard teaches it to us better than anywhere else. All through the beauty of the New England autumn, we know we never have to suffer through Lipsey & Steiner or "The Origins of American Politics." Like a safe harbor off on the horizon, reading period beckons us, inviting us to sleep through that stultifying section, ignore that optional problem set, leave our textbooks undisturbed in the Coop bag. When January comes, Macintoshes will glow for 99 hours straight and coffee will flow all night, but it is a small price to pay for the joy of the fall's daily cocktail hours and never an episode of 'The Equalizer" missed.
Predictably, most of the outcry against post-Noel exams comes from freshmen. Hah. There's reason enough for preserving the status quo. As Friedrich Nietzsche once said, we only grow through suffering and affliction. This is why 'shmen have Expos, the mixer, vomit-inducing Weld Hall keg parties and the Union salad bar. This is also why freshmen, by tradition, suffer through a semester of doing all the work, only to get C-pluses.
After that first semester, freshmen have grown into Ubermenschen who know they can have three and a half fun-filled years, do no work until reading period, and get B's.
But move back first-semester exams, and reading period will have to shrink. We will have to start doing work every week to be prepared for exams. And we will lose the true benefit of Harvard.
Learning how to screw off all semester.
OF COURSE, there are other arguments for keeping the current schedule. You say, for instance, that having January exams prevents you from enjoying Christmas break. You're tense all vacation. Fine. Abuse narcotics.
And if we're going to move exams back to make life easier for people who celebrate Christmas, that's discriminating. Better move exams back to November to make Channukah free of worries. Better move them back to October to make Thanksgiving angst-free for secular types. Better move them back to May to make Arbor Day less nerve-wracking.
If you're going to move exams back and shrink reading period, better cancel all extracurricular activities. Nobody will have the time if they have to do schoolwork. Better cancel the field hockey team. Better close down PBH. And definitely stop publishing this newspaper.
Moreover, December exams would mean we'll all have to come back to school in mid-August, when the Square is still infested with teenage skinheads pretending to be alienated, and humidity covers Cambridge like Reynolds Wrap. Who wants that extra time off in May? Nauset is still covered with ice. Morgan Stanley hasn't started its summer intern program yet. I'd rather go back to school in clear, crisp September, after enjoying the warm waters of Cape Cod Bay for two extra weeks with nary a tourist from Woosta to disturb me.
But the most important reason for keeping post-Christmas exams is that if you hold them earlier, you'll have to chop reading period. Then we'll have to do the reading all semester to keep up.
And for this we labored to graduate from high school?