Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 63.djvu/58

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54

POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

I say the examinations emphasize scholarship; but do they? In each subject they aim to cover a clearly defined requirement. As a means of eliminating caprice this is excellent and effective; but too literal insistence upon the most admirably defined requirement is fatal to the scholarly, the vital quality. The larger interests, the vaguer gropings, that in youth mark the mind with developmental possibilities are distinctly discredited in favor of the nimble, lightly cumbered, Athenian knack of the trained 'examinee.' Knack is the quality produced and honored by the examination test, hastily and externally administered. Ability to guess the answer through the question, mechanical celerity in applying the formula to the problem—be the problem historic, linguistic or mathematical—cleverness in seizing and elaborating an idea frequently implied in the interrogatory, a special trick of remembering odds and ends, phrases or comments—in a word, breezy facility—such is the ideal equipment for the college entrance test. The candidate will surely be overweighted by genuine love of his subject, witnessed by large, though necessarily vague and immature acquaintance with it. His chance of passing will be better if he has not wandered beyond the 'assigned' and has that at his finger tips. For the foreign examiner is not seeking evidence of power, of energy liberated and directed to intelligent purpose. With this—the real business of the real teacher—he has no concern. He stands fast by the letter; he must have the special nuggets of knowledge. The effort to satisfy such tests is thus not only fatal to a lofty conception of the teacher's office—it is equally fatal to genuine scholarship, poor a substitute as is mere learning for that spontaneity of consciousness at which culture and training should aim. Taste, capacity, originality are thus heavily discounted by staking the issue on something that taste, capacity and originality soon learn to regard with disgust. Hence, too often, those who have most successfully lent themselves to the 'mill treatment' prescribed, are those whom the fuller tests of scholarship, professional training and practical life reject as lacking scope, pliability, and interest.

I am sure that our collegiate 'lords and masters,' overwhelmingly interested as they are in specialties rather than in boys, do not realize the deadening and restrictive effect of this mechanical emphasis of the letter. What shall it profit a student to develop a real love of Shakespeare at the expense of a thorough and intimate knowledge of the notes to Macbeth? What shall it profit him to extend his acquaintance with Milton beyond the designated poems and books, if in the process he forget why the 'Vision of the guarded Mount' looked 'toward Nomancos and Bayona's hold'? Of course, no student retains such lore beyond the day appointed for its display. The melancholy truth is that it is retained so long only by means of mechanical reitera-