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September 2010

Columbia beats Harvard

by James Piereson

On rival core curricula in the Ivy League.

In their football rivalry that dates back to 1877, Harvard holds a commanding advantage over Columbia, the Crimson having won fifty-three of their joint contests as against just fourteen defeats, including a 34–14 decision over the Lions last season. Among Ivy League institutions, Harvard has long had one of the strongest football programs and Columbia one of the weakest. 

Yet in a head-to-head contest between the undergraduate curricula at these two institutions, Columbia has more than held its own against its Ivy League rival. For nearly a century, the two universities have stood as national models for diametrically opposed approaches to undergraduate education. Harvard, under the leadership of Charles William Eliot from 1869 to 1909, pioneered the elective system under which students were given broad choices in course selections and areas of study. Columbia, guided by luminaries like John Erskine, Mark Van Doren, and Ja ...

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James Piereson is president of the William E. Simon Foundation.


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 29 September 2010, on page 16

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