Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/583
STUDY IN THE COLLEGE CURRICULUM 579
ming may have their uses ; but the essential thing is the gradual growth of intellectual power that comes from steady effort distributed over a long period and from frequent discussions with otlier alert and in- formed minds. A course which is satisfied by mere attendance through the term is a sorry affair, no matter how much cramming may be needed to pass the examination. Montlily tests go part way towards decency. But ideal conditions are approached only when some test of regular work may be imposed without warning at any moment and when such tests actually do occur frequently.
In addition to preceptorial encouragement and to compulsion born of administrative courage, it would seem altogether wise and possible to spur to greater scholastic activity by the introduction of flexibility into the time factor in education, demanding of those whose work is below par more frequent class meetings or conferences, and consequently lengthening, if need be, their time in residence by a term or two — in other words by establishing a kind of sliding scale in college require- ments, adapted to variations in industry and ability.* This is a novel idea but a valid one. Any human attainment is the result of intelligence and effort; diminish either and you diminish the result. Unless we are wholly indifferent to the quality of our result, and are content to gradu-
' ' The facts of my sin in psychology are these. When I began that course, I was very much bored, . . . and yielded very easily to the temptation of taking things easily in Junior year. As you may remember, the class was very large, so I changed seats with a man who sat in the back of the room, and I used to spend my time in the lecture room reading. I never did a particle of work in the course during term time. As I remember, there were two examinations in the course, one in October and one in February. Someone in [the class of] '9-i or '95 had prepared an excellent printed syllabus of the lecture course and the text-book. Having the power of quick memorizing, I worked hard with this syllabus for a few hours before each examination. Not liking the course, I had no desire for any grade, but merely wanted to pass. To my surprise and the demerit of the lecture system, I found that I had secured a first group in both examinations. I really felt more ashamed of this than if I had failed to pass the examinations, for I had learned little about the really fascinating subject, and cared less.
' * If ever there is an argument in favor of "Wilson 's preceptorial system, it is my record in this course.
"You are perfectly welcome to make use of these facts in any way that you wish. ' '
Sometimes it may happen that local patriots wUl admit the existence of these bad conditions in a remote period in the past, but such a confession would usually be a mere prelude to an airy assertion of absolute virtuousness at present. As a corrective to such optimism it might be well for the complacent to ask themselves whether they ever joined the reformer in his assault upon contempo- rary evils (during their period of power), and whether their inmost soul really loves progress when it involves merciless criticism of the status quo.
9 This proposition is presented in detail by the author in The Educational Review, June, 1912.