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WE once labored under the delusion that a note-book was an indispensable part of a Senior's equipment, and that notes were given for the express purpose of clearing up whatever was obscure and confused in the subject under consideration. Moreover, not the slightest doubt o'ershadowed our mental horizon but that it was the main purpose of our instructors to afford us such enlightenment.
Recent developments, however, have tended to unsettle this conviction, and we are now inclined to believe that the taking of notes is with some instructors not of much importance; that they still cling to the habit of hearing a lesson recited, without feeling it of much use to add anything to the words of the text-book. For instance, what other views can an instructor hold who calls each day on a large part of his division to write upon the lesson of the day before, while he proceeds to discuss the lesson of the day with the remainder?
The student who is called upon to write is scarcely better off than the one who "cuts," for the former is to all intents and purposes absent. If the course is history, and the family name of some nobleman is given which without doubt is very necessary to a clear understanding of English politics, he is too absorbed in his writing to hear it, and thus that important fact is lost to him.
Indeed, such an instructor must regard his explanations as of very little value, and think that the text-book contains all that is requisite, when he thus deprives half of his division of all benefit in his instructions, except such very unsatisfactory scraps as can be obtained from those who were not called upon to write. We cannot see the object of this arrangement, unless it be to counteract the tendency, engendered by voluntary recitations, of "cutting" an instructor from whom nothing can be learned outside of the text-book, and we think such "cutting" would be placed in the list of pardonable sins.
If it would be deemed unjust that a professor of history or philosophy should deliver a carefully prepared lecture to one half of those who had taken his elective, while the other half were rendered incapable of profiting by it from being engaged in the same room in an examination, we fail to see why it is not equally unjust to explain a lesson under the same conditions, unless the explanations are regarded as of trifling importance. And if the instructor does regard them in this light, he would naturally be one of the most determined opponents of voluntary recitations.
But that a man whose instruction is really valuable should thus break in upon the hour, is something to us quite incomprehensible, not only when we consider that he thus deprives one part of his class from any benefit in his instruction, but also from the difficulty which most persons find in collecting their ideas when distracted by the continual and irrelevant chattering of one who stands almost directly at their side. If they have a thorough knowledge of the question before them, very few possess sufficient power of abstraction to give, when thus disturbed, a clear and succinct answer. Some of the details always escape them; and when they are assured that their rank for the year will depend mainly upon these written recitations, they cannot but feel that it is unjust to compel them to write under circumstances so unfavorable for testing their knowledge of the subject.
If written examinations are necessary, then let us have an hour, or some part of an hour, given entirely up to them, as thus the instructor would be more just both to himself and to those he professes to instruct. The only possible reason we can discover for thus mingling together examination, lecture, and oral and written recitations in one short and distracted hour is the trouble of looking over so many blue books, which an hour's examination of the whole division would require; but we think there are few instructors who would thus allow the love for their own leisure to overbalance the good of their students.
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