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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/558

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

cramming; the wholesale, mechanical, and hurried way in which the examinations are held, and the subjection of teaching to examining. In sum, I complain that the trick, the easily acquired and cheaply purchasable trick, of answering printed questions should now so largely take the place of solid knowledge and be officially held out as the end of study.

I shall say nothing about elementary schools. As these are compulsory by law, supported by rates and taxes, and administered by the state and public bodies, and, above all, teach mainly the mere rudiments, there may be reasons for an organized system of examination which do not apply to the higher education. Here the examiners are clearly superior in learning to the teachers; the curriculum itself is more or less mechanical and capable of mechanical tests; and a certain uniformity may be inevitable, and a certain standard of efficiency must be tested. I do not approve of our present system of examining in elementary schools. But I desire to say nothing about it. Nor shall I say anything about the physical effects of overpressure by examination. It is not my subject, and I leave it to others, merely adding, as is plain, that at least nine tenths of any overpressure on students arises from examinations and not from simple study. Nor shall I say anything about official appointments. I have no special theory or plan to support. As a rule, I think people whom we trust to govern must be trusted to select capable agents. If we can not trust them to do this, let us not trust them to govern us. If examinations are required to restrain jobbery, I prefer to deal with the jobbery face to face and by direct means, and not to pervert all public and private education in order to checkmate the wicked jobbers and reward the best crammed ones. Nor am I called upon here to devise a counter-project and to suggest other tests than examination for distinctions and prizes. The distinction and prize system is already absurdly overdone; and nineteen twentieths of the tests are wholly needless, or rather actively mischievous. We want neither distinctions, prizes, nor tests in anything like the profusion in which they are now poured out. Art, learning, politics, and amusement are deluged with shows, races, competitions, and prizes. Life is becoming one long scramble of prize-winning and pot-hunting. And examination, stereotyped into a trade, is having the same effect on education that the betting system has on every healthy sport. I do not deny that teachers may usefully examine their own students as a help to their own teaching. I do not say that there may not be one public and formal examination in any prolonged educational curriculum. My plea is against that organized, mechanical, incessant, professional examination, by which education is being distorted, and the spirit of healthy learning is being poisoned.