The local Phi Beta Kappa award for preparatory schools, based on entrance examination records, is of twofold value: It stimulates interest toward higher scholastic standing; and rewards sound training in the school by helping to establish its reputation for teaching. Kent School, the winner this year, is to be congratulated.
But one is forced to wonder whether the method of award is entirely satisfactory. Entrance examinations are at best a mere indication of whether a man has the groundwork for a college education. They are in no way a test of his fitness to build on that groundwork--his character or his abstract ability to study. They have long been accepted grudgingly as a necessary evil; one of their worst faults is an incentive to study for the examinations rather than for knowledge, and this undesirable feature the Phi Beta Kappa prize would seem to emphasize.
As the name indicates, a preparatory school aims to fit a man for higher education. Its work is not final, and a test of the specific knowledge which it gives is not a fair basis for judgement of its success. What should determine this is rather the student's record at college.
At present there is an award at some colleges, notably Dartmouth, made to the school whose graduates have the highest average in their first year of college work. Such a plan fulfills all the purpose of our present award further mark it is a more accurate basis of judgement; and it encourages serious minded students to continue in college a good preparatory record. No doubt the Phi Beta Kappa prize fulfills a merited purpose; but this purpose is narrow. It is to be hoped that another award may be established which will be based on a less limited test of the training given by the school.