In a satirical article published over 16 years ago, our editorial board wrote that âHilary Duff is a loser and a chickenâ for taking classes at Harvard Extension School. Badly written and in even worse taste, the editorial implies an inherent differentiation of value between the HES and other Harvard schools. The regrettable coin has resurfaced recently as the ambiguity surrounding the Extension School’s place within the University continues to linger.
For example, activists at Harvard Extension School still strive to challenge the devaluation of their work in the names of their current degrees, which only include the vague nickname of “Extension Studies” rather than mentioning the field of specific studies of students. As we have said before, the current title of the degree is misleading and inappropriate, and is just one manifestation of the perceived gulf between the UAS and other Harvard schools. A chasm which in reality does not exist.
This is especially true in light of how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed our experiences with higher education. Over the past year and a half, the material conditions of student life have changed rapidly. Many of us have come to recognize that our education at Harvard is about more than just being physically in a conference room. Knowledge is valuable regardless of the space in which it is learned, and the value of education does not change depending on whether or not the degree was obtained virtually, as it does for most UAS students.
Indeed, many students of the College and the Extension School are enrolled in the same courses with the same teachers. While UAS students have the option of taking the same courses as college students, any perceived distinction in the value of their education stems from a place of arbitrary superiority; one that we have built while being engulfed in an academic environment riddled with competition, exclusivity and constructed conceptions of meritocracy. Recognizing the similarities in the education that Extension School and College students receive does not detract from the value of either program. On the contrary, the privilege enjoyed by students of Harvard College of taking classes with other students from all walks of life and all study paths – whether they are from the Extension School, other Harvard schools or nearby universities – is part of what makes Harvard such a rewarding place. to learn.
In fact, the very founding mission of The Extension School – which prioritizes accessibility and affordability for the public, especially for active people – embodies much of what we’ve always asked Harvard for. to be. The Extension School is therefore not only an essential part of Harvard’s civic duty, but also of the University’s commitment to the expansion of truth and knowledge, representing an ideal that should be celebrated, not avoided.
To this end, the democratized model of the extension school – which enables a considerable number of students to both receive and impart knowledge – is perhaps most closely aligned with the true purpose of the education. Exclusive access is not what makes learning valuable. Rather, knowledge is a treasure that was designed to be shared.
As students of the College, we have gained a lot from the presence of the Extension School and its students, and we still have a lot to learn from them. In the past, our Editorial Board has not been as grateful as we should be for what is a beautiful and crucial part of the Harvard community.
To Ms. Duff and all the other students at HES whose contributions have been undermined, in part by our board: We would like to extend our apologies and sincere gratitude. And Hilary, our dreams are made of the sincerest hope that you will come to visit your alma mater soon.
This staff editorial represents the majority opinion of The Crimson Editorial Board only. It is the product of discussions at regular editorial board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to express their opinion and vote at these meetings are not involved in the publication of articles on similar topics.
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