That tutoring schools are "a symptom and not a cause" is the epigram originally tossed into circulation by the Monthly and now substantiated by careful logic in the lead article of the latest Progressive. The statement is true. It is correct that examinations which require little more than cramming encourage the existence of tutoring schools. But it is doubtful that an attack on the examination system would supply a solution immediate enough to meet such a pressing problem.
As the Progressive points out, an ideal examination system -- which educators have been seeking for many years -- is highly desirable. There is no doubt at all that tests requiring "an application of knowledge to specific problems rather than mere recitation of knowledge" would destroy the illegitimate functions of the tutoring schools. However, since few such exams have been devised, it seems impractical to attack the tutoring system from such an idealistic angle.
The Crimson has proposed that the University supervise the tutoring that is done in Harvard subjects, and make certain that such tutoring is directed toward those who have been ill, or toward the honest student who has done--or tried to do--his own work. With a penalty of probation hanging over the head of men patronizing blacklisted schools, tutoring could be restricted in this manner.
Such a program of attack on "symptoms" would be effective to a large extent, and would at the very least drive illegitimate schools underground. Once the commercialization of tutoring was climinated, the demand now created by high pressure tactics would be gone. It makes little difference whether or not tutoring is really advantageous to the student. Regardless of how useless a review--consisting of oversimplified digests of lecture notes--may be, persuasive advertisements make him imagine that actual benefit can be had. This situation would exist even under a system of perfect examinations. In printing an advertisement of a parker-Cramer review, the Progressive is helping to foster the exaggerated demand for spoon-fed education.
The Crimson is open to the charge that it is "paring toenails" in attacking a symptom. But such strategy is motivated by the fact that the symptom is more vulnerable than the cause. Such tactics can at least supplement the long-range drive for examination reform. In attacking the symptom, the Crimson does not ignore the more fundamental aspects of the problem; it merely demands an immediate, practical course of action. That action is a frontal attack on the tutoring schools themselves.