Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 63.djvu/57

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
53
COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMINATIONS.
COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMINATIONS.
By ABRAHAM FLEXNER,
LOUISVILLE, KY.

OF all the influences molding secondary education in the United States at the present time, among the most powerful are the college entrance examinations. To the schoolmaster they seem to embody in tangible form the object of his efforts; to the student they form a barrier that must be cleared, interposed as they are between him and that fascinating interplay of social, athletic and perhaps scholarly activities, called college life. It becomes, therefore, a question of immediate and pressing importance—what conception of education do these examinations tend, perhaps unconsciously, to establish? In scholarship tests they yield a result that is treated as absolute; no consideration suggested by the development or individual history of the student is suffered to modify or illumine their verdict. The ignorance and the impartiality of the examining authority compel the rejection of all factors except the visible question and its answer. But in the secondary school period neither knowledge nor the rehandling of knowledge can, save at the peril of growth, be regarded as the sole or main educational end. The accumulation of facts, the mastery of tools must be subsidiary to the inward ordering of the pupil. While this work of organization must proceed side by side with, indeed largely by means of, the acquisition of knowledge, the two processes do not form an equation. In a word, definite quantitative, even definite qualitative performances in certain limited areas of knowledge can not be immediately translated into mental and moral terms. A limited acquaintance with, certain predetermined selections from Greek, Latin and English literatures may or may not connote the concentration, energy and power of resistance which genuine training should confer; there is no necessary or inevitable connection between them. What we want is a method for measuring energy, growth, organization. An examination, therefore, which seeks not only to value past effort, but to decide the very possibility of future opportunity simply upon the basis of a uniform scholarship test, emphasizes scholarship, such as it is, at the expense of organization. It tends inevitably to produce a special, narrow fitness for meeting a particular form of test at the cost of spiritual spontaneity, and, in consequence, the verdict of the schools is usually upset by the verdict of subsequent experience.