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Summers' Shift in Focus Distressing to Parent

Letter to the Editors

By Andrew Abraham

To the editors:

As the parent of a Harvard junior, I am concerned about University President Lawrence H. Summers’ apparent belief that there is too much emphasis on extracurricular activities and not enough slavish devotion to academics (Column, “Debunking 'Camp Harvard',” March 21).

Possibly, as a graduate of an academic pressure cooker (MIT), Summers believes that all students should go through the same exhausting experience that he endured. What he fails to realize, from what I have seen, is that first of all, Harvard students are challenged academically and work extremely hard at their studies. Secondly, not all that they gain from a Harvard education is found in the classroom.

Harvard is not and should not be in the business of graduating single-dimensional academics. What I have seen in my son, as well as in his friends and classmates, is the development of not only extremely well-educated but interested, interesting and well-rounded young men and women who will one day be society’s leaders. These qualities are developed through their interaction with each other both inside and outside of the classroom. My son has worked extremely hard in class and I am proud of his academic achievements; however, I am equally proud of his extracurricular and social activities which, I feel, are making him a better person and a better representative of what Harvard should want a Harvard graduate to be perceived to be.

I would hope that Summers rethinks his philosophy to recognize the importance of extracurriculars and the personal development and opportunities for interaction that they foster, and does not seek to “enhance” the academic experience so that participation in such activities will be more difficult.

Andrew Abraham

Teaneck, N.J.

March 22, 2003

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