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THE PRESENT REQUIREMENTS FOR ADMISSION TO HARVARD
In the last ten years great changes The studies required for admission are have taken place in the course of study divided into two classes, elementary and required of boys in preparation for Har- advanced. The first class is prescribed vard College. The present list of re- for all students except under two conquirements was published in the Col- ditions, which will be mentioned later, lege Catalogue for 1886–87, after much while the second class is elective. Withdiscussion in the college and outside of out going into troublesome details, it it. The main point of dispute was the may be said that the examinations in compulsory study of Greek. The oppo- the elementary studies test the follownents of Greek attacked it as being of ing acquirements: an elementary workno practical value to any person who ing knowledge of four languages, two was not to become either a student of ancient, Latin and Greek, and two modlanguage or a teacher, and argued, from ern, French and German; some acquaintthis point of view, that it was absurd to ance with English classical literature, require all boys to study it. Many other and the ability to write clearly and inpersons, trained under the old system, telligently about the books which have could not conceive of a liberally educat- been read; a knowledge of elementary ed man to whom Greek was but a name, algebra and plane geometry; an acquaintand therefore defended the requirement. ance with the laws and phenomena of The college authorities have settled the physics obtained from experiments perquestion for a time by admitting pupils formed by the pupil in a laboratory, with no knowledge of Greek, but only or a knowledge of descriptive physics under very stringent conditions.
and elementary astronomy; and last, a This is a wide departure from tra- knowledge of the history and geography ditional standards, but the college has either of ancient Greece and Rome or made other changes even more far-reach- modern England and America. In addiing in their results than this. Changes tion to examinations in these prescribed in the form of examination set by the elementary studies the candidate must be college in many of the old subjects of examined on two more subjects, chosen, study have altered the whole course according to his tastes and natural aptiof preparation in them. These great tude, from the following list of nine adchanges have been so slow and gradual vanced studies :that the general public has almost no Latin Translation. knowledge of them, and even many of Greek Translation. the preparatory schools have no ade- Latin and Greek Composition. quate appreciation of them. Neverthe- French. less, parents with sons to be fitted for German. college, and all persons interested in Trigonometry and Solid Geometry, or education, ought to understand the pre- Trigonometry and Analytical Geometry. sent requirements in order to see the Advanced Algebra and Analytical Gegeneral tendency and the purpose of ometry. them. It is well worth while, also, to Physics. consider whether they make a good Chemistry. foundation for a liberal education before Although the college, by implication, other changes are suggested.
if not by actual words, recommends the above course of study as the best, she and notice what changes have been made permits two deviations from it. Candi- in the methods of examination in them, dates are allowed to substitute one addi- in order to see and understand the new tional advanced study for either French methods of instruction which are reor German, and also to substitute two quired to meet the new tests. In the additional advanced studies for either elementary examination in the classics, Latin or Greek ; but in that case the the test applied is the translation at subjects chosen must be either mathe- sight of passages from Cæsar and Nepos matics alone or mathematics and natu- in Latin, and from Xenophon in Greek. ral science. The permission to make These authors all have a simple narrathese two alterations in the recommend- tive style, and their thought is neither ed course of study is wise, and reasons involved nor profound, so that their for it, I think, are not difficult to find. works are entirely within the compreIt is clear that the study of both the hension of the average boy. Such a test modern languages is considered neces- as this requires an entire change from sary to a liberal education, because the traditional methods of classical teachcandidate who offers only one of them ing, but unfortunately many persons do for admission is obliged to study the not understand just what this change is. other during his first year in college. Formerly the candidate was asked to But as many schools in the past have show that he had read certain specified been very deficient in good teaching of works by translating passages from them, the modern languages, and some would and to show his knowledge of some still find it hard to teach both French standard Latin or Greek grammar by and German, it is very probable that the explaining the grammatical construction college does not wish to demand more of certain words in these passages. To than they can do. The second permis- be able to do this the pupil stored in his sion is the one which has caused so much memory a translation of passages from discussion, and has made many persons
the books he had himself read or had think that Harvard has lowered her stan- heard some one else read. Unless he had dard ; in other words, has made it easier a natural fondness for language, he read to enter her doors. Any one, however, these passages as combinations of words, who examines carefully the subjects for each of which he had to have some which must be substituted for the omit- English equivalent word, but rarely reted ancient language will see that only alized, or caredoto realize, the thought those minds which are especially adapt- which was meant to be conveyed by ed to the study of mathematics and nat- them. He was taught to pick out his ural science can possibly master them. Latin or Greek words by means of their It seems very wise to permit boys with English equivalents in an English order; such minds to devote their time to math- that is, first the subject, then the verb, ematics and science for which they have and last the object, each with its modia natural bent, and drop the study of fiers. He then studied these English language to which they are not suited, words in the English order to make provided they do not lose entirely the something out of them which, according peculiar training to the mind which is to his English notions, made sense. His given only by classical study. Under the thoughts and conceptions were only his present requirement, they will obtain this own English ones. He was made to from the one ancient language, which learn all the rules of syntax before he must be retained under any and all cir- did any reading, because he must explain cumstances.
each construction he met by making it Let us examine these studies in detail, fit under one of these rules. This whole system of teaching looked at the clas- rather than to give some arbitrary rules sics only from an English point of view. of syntax for them which he often does The student gained very little more than not understand. In order to read the a confused knowledge of the arbitrary thought, he must be familiar with the names which grammarians have given to syntax; but he gets this farniliarity by Latin and Greek constructions, and some reading, as the physicist, by observing insight into ancient life and customs, phenomena in his laboratory, arrives at which would have been clearer and would the knowledge of nature's laws. This have been obtained more easily if he had new method of teaching gives, as it were, read any good translation of his author. a laboratory training in language. The He did not learn to read the languages, aim is now, not to read a certain quannor realize that thoughts were expressed tity of Latin and Greek, but to learn how by them. Now the college requires him to read these languages, and to make the to be so familiar with the vocabulary and student realize that, although the lanforms of thought of the classics that he guages are dead, they were and are still can read a passage he has never seen be- vehicles of thought. fore, in which the style is not different Reading with this aim is what the from that to which he is accustomed, and phrase “reading at sight” really means. the thought not more profound than it In many schools this is too little underis in the books which he has read. In stood. It is supposed to mean guessing order to do this at all, the pupil must at words to save the use of a dictionary, read each sentence as he reads an Eng- while in reality the dictionary has to be lish or French one; that is, he must take used much more thoughtfully than bein the ideas in the order in which they fore, as the boy must learn what each are presented in the Latin or Greek sen- word meant to a Roman or a Greek, tence. He must learn how a Roman or and not simply find some English word a Greek thought, to be able to grasp the
for it which will fit into his preconceived new thoughts which may be presented notion of what the sentence means. Puto him in a new passage. He must get pils are too frequently allowed to pass at the ideas expressed by his author be- over forms in a slipshod way without fore he attempts to translate ; that is, learning them. Experience with pupils before he puts these ideas into good in preparation for college has shown me English. The new system of teaching, that an exact knowledge of the forins is if it would meet the new test, must absolutely essential in order to see at a keep these two processes
the under- glance the relations between words, and standing of the Latin or Greek thought, so to grasp the thought which is exand the expression of it in English pressed by them. Such exact knowledge translation entirely distinct, because of the forms can be got only by memothe student can arrive at the ideas in a rizing them. passage he has never seen only through This method of studying the classics the language in which they are found; brings out clearly their educational value. whereas, under the old system, the two The conceptions of Latin and Greek were confused, and the tendency of the and the forms of expression are so difteaching, as we have seen, was to make ferent from the student's own that he him translate before he had a clear un- must analyze words, phrases, and senderstanding of the thought. The stu- tences containing complex ideas to ardent must look at the different construc- rive at any real comprehension of the tions of the language as ways of con- author's meaning. Being thus obliged veying thoughts, and be asked to explain to look at each thought from two points the thought which is contained in them of view, the Latin or Greek and the VOL. LXIX. — NO. 415.
English, he is forced to get a clearer The desire to banish all studies which conception of the thought than he could are not to be of immediate money value possibly get by looking at it from the to the student, which has given rise to English side only. As few words in the discussion of the comparative usefultwo widely different languages have ex- ness of ancient and modern languages, actly corresponding conceptions behind has caused many persons to overlook the them, — that is, are synonyms, – he must true value of a right study of Latin and get at these conceptions to see what a Greek. The study of them is valuable sentence really means. He must think, to every man for the mental training and think clearly. He grows accustomed which they give much more than for the to clear thinking, and therefore expresses knowledge of ancient life and literature his own thoughts more clearly both in which is obtained through them. This speech and in writing. From this kind of knowledge can be and often is obtained classical training, as from mathematics, by reading English translations of the he learns to reason logically, but with this classics, and modern works on ancient fundamental difference: in mathematics art, life, and literature ; but this trainhe reasons from letters and figures re- ing can be got only by the study of the presenting quantity, and from this limi- languages themselves. The man who tation in the symbols he receives only says his Greek or Latin is of no use to narrow conceptions ; while in language him in business or elsewhere does not study he reasons from words represent- realize that if he really studied either ing thought, and from this breadth of language his powers of thinking were the symbols he receives broad concep- increased, even though he has forgotten tions. Something of this mental training every fact learned about the language was got under the old system of classical itself. teaching, but the college examination did The modern language requirement is not then test this power of thinking as the ability to read ordinary French and the present one does. A pupil cannot German prose at sight. This requiretranslate a passage he has never seen ment is the same as the classical one, before without this power. To read at and demands the same kind of teaching. sight, a student must have a large vocab- But as these languages have always been ulary of Latin or Greek words, of which studied from a practical point of view each word represents to him not one rather than that of the grammarian, English equivalent word, but an idea. there has had to be no change in methUnder the old system of examination ods of study. No arguments are heard this vocabulary was not necessary, be- against these languages on the score of cause he had read the passages before, uselessness, but, on the contrary, it is and could often remember the context sometimes claimed that the purpose of without knowing the meaning of separate classical study, which I have spoken words. This vocabulary will always be of above, is entirely fulfilled by them. a valuable possession to him, when we This is only partially true. The student consider that a large part of our Eng- of elementary French and German does lish vocabulary is derived from Latin get some training of the kind I have and Greek, so that a perfectly intelligent mentioned, but he gets much less of it. use of English words is impossible with These languages are so little different out some knowledge of these languages. from English in forms of thought that This system of teaching the classics is he can arrive at the ideas expressed in for these reasons practical, and this study them with very little careful thinking. of them is as valuable to the business man The new point of view from which he as to the college professor.
looks at each thought is so nearly the
same as his own English one that he gets typed and fossilized. For years the colno clearer conceptions. The ideas repre- lege required only such a memory knowsented by French and German words are ledge of physical laws and phenomena not sufficiently different from those pre- as could be got from a descriptive textsented to him by English words to make book. In schools where there was money him do much analytical thinking. Hence at command the study of the textbook French and German are easier to learn was accompanied by illustrative experito read than Latin and Greek, and the ments shown to the pupil, but under the unconscious training which the mind re- best of circumstances the pupil's thinkceives is proportionately less, although ing was largely done for him. By this the knowledge of them is of enormous method of teaching, as by the old claspractical value.
sical training, his memory was loaded The training in mathematics which with facts of which he might or might is tested by the college examination of not have any real understanding, while to-day, and really secured in the best he did very little real thinking. So schools, is almost as different from the marked was this attitude of the college old as the new classical training is dif- toward physics that for years, at the exferent from the old. To be prepared amination in that subject, the candidate for the old system of examination, the was asked which of the textbooks repupil had to know a certain number of commended by the college he had studproblems or propositions. He was very ied, and he was given a paper of quessure to meet enough of these old friends tions prepared from that very book. on the examination paper to pass cred- Hence any boy could be sure of knowing itably, even if he had only memorized the correct answers to these questions, them, without really understanding the if he had learned the text of his book reasoning of them. Now the candidate by heart, and had never exercised his must go to Cambridge so trained in powers of thinking. This was a system algebraic analysis and geometrical rea- of teaching hardly calculated to train his soning that he can reason out the pro- mind, or to awaken an interest in a branch blems which are given him with intelli- of science in which the nineteenth cengence and accuracy, even though, as is tury is doing its most active thinking and extremely likely, he has never seen one producing its greatest results. of them before. No amount of cram- How different is the present attitude ming can enable him to do this. He is of the college! It now publishes a deno longer examined as to his memory of scriptive list of forty experiments, covcertain proofs and solutions, but as to ering the elementary principles of mehis ability to use the training his mind chanics, sound, light, heat, and electricity. has received from these proofs and solu- These, so far as possible, are quantitative tions. To meet this requirement he must experiments ; that is, they require carehave received a training in exact reason- ful measurements from which the laws ing which will help him all his life. and principles of physics can be rea
The change in the physics require- soned out. Where, for any reason, such ment has been more radical than that measurements are impossible, the experiin any other subject. Such a change in ments are merely illustrative; but even a comparatively new branch of human from these the pupil must reason carestudy is, however, not so remarkable as fully to arrive at the principles which are the changes in other branches which they illustrate. The pupil must perform the world has studied from the same these experiments himself in a laborapoint of view for ages, and in which the tory, under the supervision of a teacher. methods of study had become stereo- He must keep a record of all his obser