Americans have an unholy passion for quizzes, puzzles, and question-answer games. Information Please and the Time current affairs tests are as much a part of American life as Charlic McCarthy and carter's Little Liver Pills. Even college students with examination jitters will tolerate quizzes if they are sugar-coated and the answers don't have to be written in bluebooks.
In two weeks, when the Carnegie Foundation sets up shop in the Yard, Seniors will be offered a chance to sit down for two three-hour sessions and tell all they know about everything. At first shot, sandwiched in between these and divisionals, this looks like too much of a good thing--even Information Please would lose its zest after the fifth hour.
But now the worst has been said. Actually the exams are of the short-answer, check-and-underline variety. To the Senior who takes them, the Carnegie people will turn over a picture of his store of knowledge, telling how he stacks up mentally with his fellows. Admittedly the exams do not test "the ability to express ideas in writing, skill in laboratory techniques, research ability, and originality." Admittedly they are experimental even in the realm of pure knowledge. But nevertheless they were drawn up by professors from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia, who can't all be wet. And for three seasons the exams have been tried on first-year graduate guinea-pigs at those universities with some success.
Of course the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, as its name implies, has a broader purpose than helping Seniors find out what their mental score is. At other schools, as well as at Harvard, the air is blue these days with speculation on the content, value, and definition of a liberal education. Now being hashed out by a Faculty committee here are the problems of over-concentration and wasted distribution raised by the Student Council. The results of the Carnegie tests will give the boys something to go on besides theories and generalities. Seniors can help by agreeing to tell the Foundation about the leading inland waterway to the West in 1815, and who discovered the tubercule bacillus.