Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ram

[ocr errors]

dreary work of learning off by heart things of which he has no comprehension. Nor with examiners of the least intelligence is there any reason to fear that the best directed bad will enable a really stupid candidate to carry off honours and appointments due to others. No examination-papers even for junior candidates should consist entirely of book-work,' such as to be answered by the simple reproduction of the words in a text-book. In every properly conducted examination, questions are, as a matter of course, set to test the candidate's power of applying his knowledge to cases more or less different from those described in the books. Moreover good examiners always judge answers by their general style as well as by their contents. It is really impossible that a stupid slovenly candidate can by any art of cramming' be enabled to produce the neat, brief, pertinent essay, a page or two long, which wins marks from the admiring examiners.

“If we may judge from experience, too, 'bad çram' does not pay from the tutor's point of view. That this is so we may learn from the fact that slow ignorant pupils are ruthlessly rejected by the great coaches.' Those who have their reputation and their living to make by the success of their candidates cannot afford to waste their labor upon bad material. Thus it is not the stupid who go to the cramming' tutors to be forced over the heads of the clever, but it is the clever ones who go to secure the highest places. Long before the critical days of the

6

6

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

All com

official examination, the experienced coach' selected his men almost as carefully as if he were making up the University boat. There is hardly a University or a College in the kingdom which imposes any selective process of the sort. An entrance or matriculation examination, if it exists at all, is little better than a sham. ers are gladly received to give more fees and the appearance of prosperity. Thus it too often happens that the bulk of a college class consists of untutored youths through whose ears the learned instructions of the professor pass, harmlessly it may be, but uselessly. Parents and the public have little idea how close a resemblance there is between teaching and writing on the sands of the sea, unless either there is a distinct capacity for learning on the part of the pupil, or some system of examination and reward to force the pupil to apply.

“For these and other reasons which might be urged, I do not consider it worth while to consider bad cram' any further. I pass on to inquire whether good cram' is an objectionable form of education. The good 'cramming' tutor or lecturer is one whose object is to enable his pupils to take a high place in the list. With this object he carefully ascertains the scope of the examination, scrutinises past papers, and estimates in every possible way the probable character of future papers.

He then trains his pupils in each branch of study with an intensity proportioned to the probability that questions will be asked in that branch. It is too much to as

6

[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]

sume that this training will be superficial. On the contrary, though narrow it will probably be intense and deep. It will usually consist to a considerable extent in preliminary examinations intended both to test and train the pupil in the art of writing answers. The great coaches at Cambridge in former days might be said to proceed by a constant system of examination, oral instruction or simple reading being subordinate to the solving of innumerable problems. The main question which I have to discuss, then, resolves itself into this :—whether intense training directed to the passing of certain defined examinations constitutes real education. The popular op

: ponents of cram' imply that it does not ; I maintain that it does.

“ It happened that, just as I was about to write this article, the Home Secretary presided at the annual prize-distribution in the Liverpool College, on the 22d December, 1876, and took occasion to make the usual remarks about 'cram.' He expressed with admirable clearness the prevailing complaints against examinations, and I shall thereforetake the liberty of making his speech in some degree my text, * Examination is not education,' he said. You require a great deal more than that. As well as being examined, you must be taught.

In the great scramble for life, there is a notion at the present moment of getting hold of as much general superficial knowl. edge as you can. That to my mind is a fatal mistake. On the other hand, there is a great notion that if you can get through your examina

6

[ocr errors]

6

6

6

tion and · cram up' a subject very well, you are being educated. That, too, is a most fatal mistake. There is nothing which would delight me so much, if I were an examiner, as to baffle all the 'cramming' teachers whose pupils came before me laughter).

“Let us consider what Mr. Cross really means. Examination, he says, is not education ; we require a great deal more ; we must be taught as well as be examined. With equal meaning I might say, “Beef is not dinner ; we want a great deal more ; we must have potatoes, bread, pudding, and the like. Nevertheless beef is a principal part of dinner. Nobody, I should think, ever asserted or imagined that examination alone was education, but I nevertheless hold that it is one of the chief elements of an effective education. As Mr. Cross himself said in an earlier part of his speech, “the examination is a touchstone and test which shows the broad distinction between good and bad. manage to scramble through your lessons in the

half,' but I will defy you to get through your examinations if you do not know the subjects.'

“ Another remark of Mr. Cross leads me to the main point of the subject. He said—' It is quite necessary in the matter of teaching that whatever is taught must be taught well, and nothing that is taught well can be taught in a hurry. It must be taught not simply for the examination, but it must sink into your minds, and stay there for life.' Both in this and his other remarks Mr. Cross commits himself to the popular but

6

You may

a

wholly erroneous notion that what boys learn at school and college should be useful knowledge indelibly impressed upon the mind, so as to stay there all their lives, and be ready at their fingers' ends. The real point of the objections to examination commonly is, that the candidate learns things for the examination only, which, when it is safely passed, he forgets again as speedily as possible. Mr. Cross would teach so deliberately and thoroughly that the very facts taught could not be forgotten, but must ever after crop up in the mind whatever we are doing. I hold that remarks such as these proceed from a wholly false view of the nature and purposes of education. It is implied that the mind in early life is to be stored with the identical facts, and bits of knowledge which are to be used in after life. It is, in fact, Mr. Cross and those who think with him, who advocate a kind of' cram,' enduring it is true, but still“ bad cram.' The true view of education, on the contrary, is to regard it as a course of training. The youth in a gymnasium practises upon the horizontal bar, in order to develop his muscular powers generally; he does not intend to go on posturing upon horizontal bars all through life. School is a place where the mental fibres are to be exercised, trained, expanded, developed, and strengthened, not crammed' or loaded with useful knowl

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

edge.'

The whole of a youth's subsequent career is one long course of technical cramming in which any quantity of useful facts are supplied to him

« AnteriorContinuar »