was attempted in 1821, and coming down to the new code of laws just sanctioned by the Corporation and Overseers in June, 1825, which he explained and vindicated.
The whole movement was an effort to carry the institution through a state of transition, gradually moulding it into a broader and freer form.
The immediate abolition of the system of classes, of a curriculum
and a degree, could not be undertaken, nor could the teaching of many of the professors be emancipated from the special spheres imposed by the donors of their foundations.
But the cardinal features of the new plan were these: the division of the whole institution into departments
, with the right of a limited choice of studies; the separation of the members of a class for their exercises, according to their proficiency, so that each division might be carried forward as rapidly as was consistent with thoroughness, every man having a right to make progress according to his industry and capacity; and the opening of the College
to those who wished to pursue special studies, without taking a degree.
made it apparent that these changes could be made consistent with the retention of classes, and with the conferring of degrees on those who might desire them.
He made it equally plain that the existing pecuniary means of the College
were sufficient-if rightly used—to put these innovations to a fair and proper test.
Having discussed all these topics with great fulness, he closed with a vigorous passage on the absolute necessity of introducing greater thoroughness into the processes of teaching:—
There is one point that I believe must be made a sort of cynosure, when beneficial changes are undertaken, both at Harvard and at our other colleges; and that is, the principle of thorough teaching. On this point, it is desirable to be perfectly plain, and to be very plainly understood.
It is a small matter to diminish the unreasonable amount of holidays, or to give the students more and longer lessons, under a division according to proficiency, or to do almost anything else, if the principle of teaching is still to be overlooked.
For the most that an instructor now undertakes in our colleges is to ascertain, from day to day, whether the young men who are assembled in his presence have probably studied the lesson prescribed to them.