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Two things seem to me necessary—(1) a careful supervision of examiners. If the examinations are to remain in the hands of the youngest members of the university, their report should always be made, first of all, to the respective faculties, and afterwards only, when approved by the faculty, to the vice-chancellor.
the vice-chancellor. The necessity of this has been shown by recent experiences in India and elsewhere. (2) A gradual change of competitive into qualifying examinations.
Many years ago we wanted to have examinations for the sake of schools and universities; we now seem to have schools and universities simply and solely for the sake of examinations.
F. MAX MÜLLER.
Of the working of the fashionable fancy for endless examinations I can speak from direct knowledge only in my own University. Coming back to Oxford, after many years of non-residence, I was perhaps better able to compare what is and what was than either those who have never known anything but the present system or those who have seen the present system grow up.
Just now it seems to be understood that examinations are the chief end of life, at any rate of University life: they would seem to be thought to have an opus operatum merit for both the examiner and the examined. The object seems to be to multiply examinations as much as possible, to split them up—what is called to specialize' them—to the extreme point. A man is not, as of old, wholly plucked or wholly passed; with the ingenuity of Italian tyrants, a piece of him is plucked or passed, while the rest of him is kept for the sport of another day. The end steadily kept in view would seem to be that examinations should never cease, that therefore nothing should really be learned, that examinations should follow so fast on one another as just to give time to forget the matter of one examination before the next comes
The thing has grown to such a height that names cannot be found for some of the endless schools, they have to be marked by numbers and letters. The gravest personages will be seen debating with the gravest countenances over some peddling change in Group A 1,' seemingly without the faintest feeling of the grotesque nature of their employment, or of the reductio ad absurdum of the whole system which is implied in such a nomenclature, if nomenclature it can be called. The Oxford undergraduate is even examined before he comes into being ; the exercise called Responsions, the exercise for the now perhaps forgotten status of Generalis Sophista, is now grotesquely performed on lads not yet members of the University. In natural science, above all, examinations and examiners multiply daily. The luxury, to be sure, is a costly one; it sometimes costs fifty or sixty pounds to examine a single man: but the thing must be done under pain of loss of character. For in the matter of what is now called science '-a word which used to have another meaning—the many are in the hands of the few. A proposal for a new examination in
any other branch is canvassed, perhaps thrown out, because men have some notion what it means. But science' is shrouded in mystery. A new -ology is invented; not a dozen persons in the University know what the -ology is about; but no one dares to oppose a fresh examination in it, for fear of being called retrograde, obscurantist, opponent of the march of intellect, any other anathema with which the Holy Office of science may be ready. And so the thing goes on merrily; everybody is examining or being examined, save during the short intervals allowed for forgetfulness between one examination and another.
Now what has come of all this? Simply the degradation of University learning and teaching into a trade. Each undergraduate seems to do a sum to find out what form of examination may be most profitable to choose. Profitable, that is, not to the understanding but to the pocket. I was not a little surprised when, after my return to Oxford, I heard the words 'the pecuniary value of a first class. Such words were assuredly never heard in my younger days. A man was rejoiced to get as high a class as he could, both because of the credit of the thing in itself and as an augury of a coming fellowship; but he never reckoned the exact value of the class in pounds, shillings, and pence. Another phrase that startled me was that of the tutorial profession.' A college fellow who in my day undertook, most likely for a few years only, the further duties of a college tutor, certainly never thought that he was entering a special profession.' But, owing partly to the growth of examinations, partly to the new position of college fellows which has followed on the fatal permission of marriage, the tutor,' if he can so be called, is now altogether another kind of person. He reaches his fullest modern development in the combined lecturer,' of whom, as he is powerful, one must speak delicately. To bim teaching is strictly a calling; it is a calling and not an office ; for he is ready to practise it wherever he can find employment, and he is moreover a mere teacher, not discharging any of the other duties of the old college tutor. Without being an University professor or reader, he teaches men from various colleges, but he does nothing except teach them. And he is strongly tempted to teach them a great deal too much, and in the wrong way. When examination after examination becomes the main object, there is sure to be a great deal too much teaching, so much as to leave no time for learning on the part of either teacher or taught. The legitimate duty of an University teacher is to guide his pupil to the right books, the great books of the subject in hand, and to act as a commentator on them. But this implies that the object is, not the passing of an examination, but the study of a subject. When the teacher's business is understood to be to get a man through an examination-whether the result of that examination is to be a mere pass a first class with its pecuniary value'-study of the subject, study of the great
books on the subject, passes away. The teacher puts himself instead of the books; the thing becomes, in plain words, cram.
This is the tendency of the modern fancy for endless examinations. Of course it does not prevail equally in all subjects or with all teachers. It cannot prevail so fully with the older subjects, where something of the better tradition of the past is still kept up, as it does with subjects of later introduction. Every man sees his own grievances more clearly than those of his neighbour, and to me it seems that what is called modern' history is the worst off of all. It is at least worse off than 'ancient ’ history, from which it is so senselessly parted in a separate school, to the great damage of both. For about 'ancient' history there still clings something of the traditions of better times, times when men read great books with a tutor instead of filling their note-books with the tips of a crammer. I once asked a man who came to my lectures, 'Have you a book ?' meaning, in my ignorance, a copy of the author whom we were going to read. He answered, 'I have a note-book.' That seems to be the net result of forty years' tinkering of everything, of multiplied examinations and multiplied teaching, to drive away · books' and to bring in note-books. And the professor can do nothing; he can only work away in a corner with a few who are still ready to toil at the text of books, while the combined lecturer flourishes amidst a whole library of open note-books. For the professor is useful only to those who seek for knowledge; the combined lecturer, it is fully believed, can guarantee 'the pecuniary value of a first class.'
Every examination is in itself an evil, as making men read, not for the attainment of knowledge, but for the object of passing the examination, perhaps of compassing its pecuniary value.' But it may be hoping too much to hope that examinations can ever be got rid of altogether. If they must be, then, instead of being many and piecemeal, they should be few and searching. Instead of giving a man time to forget his various subjects one by one, they should make it needful for him to remember his work as a whole. In Oxford we ought to have (1) a matriculation examination ; (2) an examination for B.A. much on the lines of the old one before tinkering began about 1849; (3) an examination (or other exercise) for the degree of M.A. of as varied a kind, and, at the same time, of as
specialized' a kind in each case as anybody can want. The complete degree should be given only to those who show real proficiency in some subject, the last ology'counting as one. Thus only can real learning, as distinguished from cram, at least cease to be penal. Whether it will ever reach to a ' pecuniary value,' I do not presume
May I end with my own personal experience in a time now far distant? I have deeply to thank my Oxford undergraduate course for causing me carefully to read several books, Aristotle's Ethics at
their head, which I otherwise might not have read at all or might have read less thoroughly. But I do not thank it at all for examining me in anything. I do not mean because I got only a second class; for I got the pecuniary value of a first class in the shape of a fellowship. What I do mean is that I read with very little comfort or pleasure, while there was before me the spectre of an examination, deadening everything and giving a wrong motive for one's work. When I had got my degree and my fellowship, I said, Now I will begin really to read.' I began in October, 1845, and I have never stopped yet.
EDWARD A. FREEMAN.