A History of Hour Times

In times when educational problems are lying around ripe for investigation, it seems unnecessary and wasteful to spend large amounts of effort dissecting small points. Such is precisely what has happened to the Case of the Compulsory Hour Exams. What started as a dispute over phraseology has become a full-scale survey of "the issues involved."

The first suggestion of argument over the point came after last spring's Faculty vote abolishing all "emergency" legislation enacted during the war. This Faculty decision had presumably included in its abolitions the required mid-term grades instituted to help students about to be untimely snatched by the armed forces, but a dispute arose over certain wordings. To clarify the situation finally, the Faculty Committee on Educational Policy passed a new resolution this fall, but the Faculty as a whole decided to withhold its vote until the Council's opinion had been heard.

What has happened since then is an expansion of the original question into a full-scale Council discussion of educational policy. That there are large issues concerned in the question of compulsory hour exams is certainly true. Aspects of the value of any examinations, of frequent tests versus one per term, of the possible substitution of papers or seminars are all important. But they are not central to the specific point under discussion.

What is at issue is the liberal doctrine advanced by Dean Hanford in the 'thirties which stated that the organization of an individual course, within the framework of the broad educational goals set by the whole Faculty, should be up to the instructor in charge. This thesis, heralded at the time of its first announcement by the Council, allows instructors to fit short examinations, papers, and section quizzes into their own framework of the course. Among other things, the Hanford policy removed the curse of Hour Exam Week from the lives of the students, allowing faculty members to spread work over the term instead of assigning most of it before a specific "seven-weeks-grade" date.

That the restoration of this progressive doctrine after a lapse occasioned by wartime conditions should cause so much discussion is unfortunate. The Council's committee could resolve the problem neatly by making a swift report to the faculty urging the repeal of the wartime legislation and then turning its efforts to the larger questions. Taking such action would demonstrate a real understanding of the situation and a desire for an immediate end to unnecessary delays.