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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/563

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COMMENTS ON THE SACRIFICE OF EDUCATION.

will make a good "answer," capital examination "copy." The mill governs the whole period of education, from hic, hæc, hoc, to the final launch in a profession. I know little boys of ten, in the ego et Balbus stage, who are being ground in printed examination papers which I could not answer myself. And big men, older than Pitt when he governed England, or Hannibal when he commanded armies, are still ruining their constitutions by cramming up "analyses" and manuscript "tips" of great "coaches." The result is that poor little urchins in frocks are in training for some "nursery stakes," as an old friend of mine used to call the trials of preparatory schools. The prize school-boy who sweeps the board on speech-day, often gets a perfect loathing for books, and indeed for any study that is not "cramming"; and the youth who leaves his university, loaded with "honors," may prove to be quite a portent of ignorance and mental babyishness. He has learned the trick of playing with a straight bat the examiner's most artful twisters. But he can not bear the sight of a book; and, like any successful speculator, he has a hearty contempt for knowledge.

Examiners are very clever men; but they ought not to form a sort of Continental "Ministry of Education," controlling on one uniform and mechanical scheme the entire field of education. Examining is more irksome, less continuous, and worse paid than teaching. Hence, as a rule, the professional examiners are hardly men of the same experience, learning, and culture as the professional teachers in the highest grades. They have not devoted themselves to special subjects of study; they do not know the peculiar difficulties and wants of the student; they are not responsible for the interests of a given branch of learning. A body of professional examiners, moving about from great educational centers, tend to give a uniform and regulation character to all learning. Our educational centers are yet in far too chaotic and changing a stage themselves to justify them in stereotyping any system. Knots of clever, eager, trained "experts" in the examining art are being sent about the country from Oxford and Cambridge, marking, questioning, classing, and certifying right and left, on a technical, narrow, mechanical method. They would be far better employed in learning something useful themselves. As it is, they dominate education, high and low. They are like the missi dominici of a mediaeval king, or the legates a latere of a mediæval pope. They pitch the standard and give the word. Public schools revise their curriculum, set aside their own teachers, and allow the academic visitor to reverse the order of their own classes. The mill sets a uniform type for the university. Colleges give way and enter for the race. One by one the public schools have to submit, for prizes are the test; and success