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sue it, and to stimulate those, who possess decided mathematical talents, to aim at acquiring a knowledge of its most abstruse and difficult parts. In a class of fifty-five, only eight discontinued the study of Mathematics, and of the remaining forty-seven, thirty-two took the first course, three the second cour-e, and twelve the third course, during the first term. In the second term, the class being reduced to forty-eight by discipline and taking up connexions, six only discontinued the study, and of the remaining forty-two, twenty-seven took the first course, four the second course, and eleven the third
The result is considered by the head of that department, as proving most decidedly the superiority of the voluntary system, and the practicability of adapting different courses of instruction to different classes of students, and as being in a high degree satisfactory and successful, and as promising great advantages by the new opportunity the elective system offers, of introducing improvements in the details of instruction.
“The success of this experiment on the effect of the elective system of study in the Mathematical Department, has revived the wish of those friendly to its introduction into the other departments, and particularly into those of Greek and Latin. Both the Professors in these departments have expressed their concurrence in such a change, and their opinion that the effect would be rather to elevate and extend attainments in these branches, than to lower and reduce them.
“In conforming with these views, the President respectfully submits a series of Resolutions, founded upon the same general principles heretofore adopted in relation to the Mathematical Department, for the consideration of this Board.” - Report, &c. pp. 4, 5.
The magnitude of these changes can be understood only by knowing how much time and attention were given to these branches under the old system. The study of pure mathematics was formerly pursued during the Freshman and Sophomore years, at the rate of five exercises a week for the first year, and four exercises a week for the second. Now, any student who sees fit, and who can obtain, if under age, the permission of his parent or guardian, may discontinue the study in this department at the end of the Freshnjan year, and give up thereby nearly one half of the amount of mathematical knowledge, which was formerly requisite for a degree. The study of the ancient languages, on the old system, extended through three years of the undergraduate course; it
may now, at the option of the student, be cut short at the end of the first year. As the classical studies of the Sophomore and Junior years, owing to the pupil's advanced state and increased facilities of learning, were of a higher order, and extended over far more ground in proportion to the time employed, than those of the preliminary and the Freshman course, we may fairly state, that the College does not now require more than one half the amount of classical learning, which was formerly deemed essential to a degree. The change, therefore, considered only in its immediate results, is one of a very sweeping character ; and the arguments by which it is supported, as we shall endeavour to show, really cover the whole ground, and, if they amount to any thing, justify an entire relinquishment, if the pupil pleases, of the three great branches of study, the pursuit of which is already so materially abridged. A new light has dawned upon the friends of liberal studies, and a measure has been quietly introduced, which places the whole scheme of a college education on an entirely new foundation.
We believe, that this change has grown out of the earnest desire entertained by the managers of the College, that the institution should not lag behind the opinions and improvements of the day. No bigoted attachment to old forms and methods has been permitted, of late years, to fetter the progress of this ancient seminary of learning. Its halls, designed for active studies, have never been made the retreats of learned indolence; and a fresh zeal for reform has of late rendered them the theatre of changes, quite as numerous as are consistent with prudence and due deliberation. Though our higher institutions of learning do not require so frequent alterations, as are necessary for the common schools and inferior seminaries, to keep them adapted to the increasing population and shifting manners of a new country, yet they cannot go on in the beaten track of centuries, without soon finding their influence and usefulness materially impaired. The several boards of management of Harvard College seem to be fully aware of this truth ; and enlarged means of instruction, improved discipline, and a rising standard of scholarship, attest the practical success of their endeavours to keep pace with the spirit of the times. While engaged in such a career, experiments must be made. The effect of new plans of education cannot always be made to appear from antecedent
reasoning ; it must be ascertained from experience. The College has shown no reluctance to make trials, and no unwillingness to retrace its steps, when the results have been unfavorable. We consider the present introduction of the Voluntary System in the studies of mathematics, Latin, and Greek, as one of these experiments, and we believe that the scheme will be abandoned, as readily as it was taken up, if the issue should prove that the change is inexpedient.
Having said thus much, we have no hesitation in avowing disbelief of the expediency of this measure, and entire dissatisfaction with the arguments by which it is supported. There is no inconsistency between this avowal and what has just been remarked in favor of testing new plans by experience. Experiments are not to be made at undue cost. Their proper range is confined to those subjects, where the injury arising from a possible failure is far more than balanced by the good which will be obtained, if there should be a prosperous result. The trial should not be made on several objects at once, nor conducted in such a manner, that the injury arising from ill success should be in great part irreparable. The voluntary system might be more safely applied to the study of Latin and Greek, if the experience of more than one, or even two years, had proved its beneficial or harmless effects in the case of Mathematics. It might be tested with far less risk, than by applying it at once to each of the three great branches of learning, which the judgment and experience of centuries have approved as the only proper basis of a liberal education. In the estimation of many persons, a knowledge of Greek is far less essential than that of Latin. Why not ascertain whether the great proportion of young students, if allowed their own choice, would not entirely abandon the study of the former language, before giving them an opportunity of throwing up the latter along with it? Why not make the study, at first, optional only for the Junior year, instead of putting the Sophomore year along with it, and thus hazarding more than half the classical instruction, which is given in the whole college course? There is an old adage about the experimentum in corpore vili, which the authors of such a plan rnight well keep in view. The College, indeed, considered as an aggregation of instructors and means of learning, has a continuous existence, and can at any time, without great loss, return to a position, which it has injudiciously quitted. But, when viewed as a collection of students, preparing themselves for the duties of after life, the matter assumes a different aspect. A generation of undergraduates continues only four years ; and the introduction of a new system of education is for them a final and decisive measure. Its evil effects in their case cannot be repaired, and, in the case of an unlucky experiment, they will have fair ground of complaint.
Our readers will wish to know on what grounds this important step has been taken by the College. They are fully set forth in the pamphlets now before us, two of which are entirely devoted to an exposition and defence of the new system. In the remaining one, the Chairman of the Visiting Committee presents very briefly some considerations, which may be regarded in legal phrase as a caveat to the proposal of the Corporation. As our wish is to lay open the whole subject for discussion, we shall give as full a summary, as our limits will permit, of the arguments in favor of the scheme, and then endeavour to present some views, which may lead to a different conclusion. President Quincy's “Remarks,” though evidently drawn up in haste, show the fruits of much reflection on the matter, and present as able a defence of the project, as its friends can desire. The Chairman of the select Committee, to whom the subject was referred by the Overseers, gives a brief but able argument in favor of the plan, considered from a somewhat different point of view.
The President states, that “ a desire to open the University to a larger class of persons, has long been the wish of the friends of the Institution, and is apparent in its laws." He thinks, that “the amount of Greek and Latin, exacted as a condition of a degree,” prevents many parents from sending their sons to the College, because they regard such studies as a waste of time and labor. By a resolution passed sixteen years since, the College was opened to students not candidates for a degree, and they were permitted to choose such studies as they preferred, and to pursue them exclusively. But they could not in this way obtain a degree, and the certificate, which was offered them, of proficiency in certain departments, was deemed valueless, and remained unclaimed. The plan failed in consequence, but few persons taking advantage of the opening. A prescribed course of classical studies, as a condition of receiving college honors, becomes VOL. LIV. No. 114.
with many a student “a positive obstacle in the way of his joining the Institution ; and the benefits of its approved apparatus and of its eminent professors are, in consequence, confined to those, who coincide in opinion as to the benefits of such a course.
It appears, therefore, that at least one of the objects held in view by the authors of the new system, is to increase the number of students in the College ; or, in other words, to render it more popular. It seems, that many will not join the institution, even with the privilege of selecting their own studies, unless they can obtain a degree. Therefore, give them a degree also, and in this way " open the University to a larger class of persons.” It is further urged, that the effect of the new scheme, instead of depressing the standard of classical learning at Cambridge, will be to elevate it, – make it more thorough, general, exact, and profound.” No real standard of scholarship, it is said, has ever existed at Cambridge, or, as far as known, at any other college in this country. One can be created only by confining the appropriate honors to those who have successfully passed through the ordeal of a searching examination. Such a trial is the only test of scholarship, and without it no standard exists, that is not “fictitious, formal, or imaginary.” The means of classical studies may be increased, and more time and labor be expended upon them ; but, so long as the diplomas are all couched in the same terms, so long as no distinction is made between those who have used these advantages and those who have neglected them, no real test or criterion of scholarship exists. By the new system, a positive standard will be created; for the ordinary diploma, which every student receives at Commencement, will be accompanied with special certificates, stating what voluntary studies he has pursued, and what proficiency he has made in each, as determined by a thorough and searching examination.
But the question immediately occurs, Why not convert the ordinary College diploma into such a test of scholarship, by granting it to those only who are able to pass the strictest ordeal, which the instructors may choose to devise ? The answer is very briefly given, — that the authorities of the College have és never dared "
to take such a decisive step. It is said, that the friends of classical learning are not so numerous in the community as its opponents; that the latter