Probably there is hardly any one problem of education which has given rise to as much discussion and theorizing as this of examinations, how they are to be conducted and how far they are to be taken as a test. That the present system, which carries with it all the evils of the marking system, is unfair, is almost universally acknowledged; but that something is needed whereby to grade the classes and sections of classes, some measure or test of knowledge, is as universally agreed upon. Instructors say that they cannot do away with the present system of examinations and marking, until there is found some system, or some reform of the old system, which will be better and more successful and more just. All this is too true; and it is with earnest appeal that the students of to-day look up to their instructors, hoping for some system, less trying and fairer than the present, the benefits of which may be reaped, if not by themselves, at least by those who are to come after them. But, if they do not now get the reform they want, they should at least endeavor, when they become, no longer students, but instructors, to give the others what they did not enjoy themselves. The evil is a growing one; but we, sincerely believers in the slow, but as least sure, advancement of the world in all its interests, are confident that some day this great evil in education will be blotted out. The sooner it is blotted out, the better.
Now that the examinations are nearly over, and we are either congratulating ourselves on having pulled through so well, or hopelessly wishing that we had done better, there naturally arises the same old question, "Of what real good are examinations?" or, as a Freshman once put it, "Quid Bonus?" The Freshman's way of putting it was, perhaps, a happy one, in as much as his question per se gives an answer, namely, that examinations are to show what a man does not know. This is one answer to the question; and, if it be the only one, there must be very few college men who will deny the success of the present system of examinations. But examinations are not, or certainly ought not to be, only to test ignorance; the other, and in our opinion the more important, mission is, or should be, to test knowledge. Some may argue that there is only a very slight distinction, if any at all, between the testing of ignorance and the testing of knowledge; but it would seem that the right to such argument belongs only to such men as are able sincerely to deceive themselves with a belief that they know as much, or nearly as much, or even more, that they are ignorant of. Such men are really very rare; but if we suppose that they do exist, and further suppose that their deception is so small that it is for all practical purposes zero, then and only then, can we say that they might on as fair and as equal terms cope with an examination designed to test their knowledge. Such men may, and may not, be right in their theory of examinations; but for ourselves we feel at liberty to differ with them inasmuch as we possess the required humility-and it does not take very much-to confess ourselves more ignorant than knowing; and, as long as we are so, we believe that we are better able to be, and more fairly would be, examined in our knowledge than in our ignorance. We, therefore, would have the purpose of examinations, for the present at least, to test our knowledge, not to test our ignorance.