BLUE BOOK BLUES
With the word coming down from Holyoke House that the blue books of the October Bible, Shakspere, and authors examinations are to be locked in a vault for a year or two and then thrown away, attention is focused on the chaos that rules the University's blue book policy. Both in general courses and in special examinations of this sort, the student is left entirely to the whim of the instructor as to whether he sees his work again or not. For though some teachers are willing to hand back and discuss their students' papers, the average undergraduate has too often been forced to look on examinations as ancient history as soon as the proctor collects them. For the University to treat in so haphazard a fashion work that counts more heavily than any single factor in a college career is clearly a breach of trust, and a uniform system should be devised by which all who desire may get their books back at the end of a given course or term.
In past time the custom prevailed for examinations to be filed by the college, in order to permit reference to the papers in cases of doubt in awarding degrees, and to insure against mistakes in grading. Recently this practice has become something of a dead letter, as there is no longer a central agency to supervise storing the books, and only in the rarest instances are students awake to the possibility of protesting their grade and demanding a check, especially when the summer exodus has taken place. Thus the tradition of not returning blue books has become a smoke-screen behind which teachers may hide in order to avoid discussing grades with the few earnest individuals who inevitably return to find out why they did not get A's.
But the prime reason for returning blue books to whoever wants them, is that only by seeing what he has done wrong in the past, can a student hope to improve his examination technique in the future. Except for senior divisionals, the intrinsic meaning of an examination is not a final test of a man's knowledge, but rather a single hurdle in the race of educational experience. To deny a man access to a paper which will help him plan his study for the next barrier is an abdication of the function of teaching.
In adopting a uniform policy of returning blue books to those that ask for them, the University should not allow the Bible and Shakspere papers to escape on the pretext that they form part of the divisional examinations. Coming two years before the final comprehensives, and given all too little advance publicity by the Division in charge, these tests are popularly regarded as the first antidote to a pleasant period of vacation. Yet occasionally a student devotes ample time in preparing for them, and to deny such a man the fruits of labor that will help in working for divisionals is shortsighted and unfair.
Thus, while the senior divisional papers cannot rightly be given back, as they form a closed chapter in the scholastic curriculum, it is up to the University to see to it that all papers which lead up to the last judgement shall be made available for those who want to refer to them.