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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/557

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COMMENTS ON THE "SACRIFICE OF EDUCATION"

teachers are teaching, and what the learners are learning. This forces the learners not to attend to their own teachers, but to find some way of satisfying the examiners. Examination papers, not text-books, come to be the real subjects of study; the aim of the student is to get an insight into the mind of his examiner, not that of his teacher; and to master, not the subject of his study, but that artificial skill of passing examinations. Thereupon grew up another class of specialists—the crammers. Their business is, not to teach, nor to test teaching; but to enable students to pass the tests. This soon became an art of its own, as artificial as playing whist or the violin. So, in the cricket-field, having called in professional bowlers to practice, it became necessary to call in professional "coaches" to teach the defense of the wicket. And in the result, education is tending to become a highly exciting match, not so much between the players as between the "bowlers" and the "coaches." The teachers are slowly thrust out and controlled by the examiners; they in turn are checked and dodged at every turn by the crammers: so that learning is fast passing into the grasp of two classes of specialists, neither of whom are teachers, nor pretend to teach.

I have myself had experience both of teaching and of examining for more than thirty years, in more than one university, and in several places of learning. Though not belonging to the special class of examiners, I have constantly been occupied with examining, have worked much with examiners, and have had no small experience of the practical working of the system. I need hardly say that I regard the special examiners as a most acute, energetic, and conscientious body of men; and I say the same of the crammers as a class. Both do their work with great ability and conspicuous honesty. It is not the men, it is the vicious system which is in fault. Every teacher knows by experience that, when he has to take his place in the examination curriculum, he has to submit to the system, and he does his best to practice the examining "art." And when, as every teacher nowadays must, he has to turn crammer, he tries to acquire the crammer's art—omnes eodem cogimur. Teachers, examiners, crammers, and students, all have to take their place in the vast examining machine, which, like the Prussian military system, grinds out a uniform pattern. The huge examining mill grinds continually, and grinds very fast—unlike the mills of the gods—but the grain it casts aside; it is designed to grind out the husk.

I do not say that we can do without examinations: nor do I object to all examinations, under any condition. My complaint is confined to the incessant frequency of examinations, the growth of the practice into a highly artificial system, the creation of a profession of examining, and its correlative the profession of