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Midyears are well under way and students are passing or failing as the case may be. But it is to be regretted that there is no sliding scale on which might be judged the professors who assign these semi-annual quizzes. For an examination paper examines the man who gives it as well as him who takes it, and from this point of view many of our faculty would flunk.
Yesterday morning, for example, an examination paper in English 1, a course in Chaucer, required a comment on one of two passages. The first was a quotation in rather difficult German and the second one in fairly simple French. Granted that the language requirements demand a reading knowledge of either one or the other, it seems a little unfair to expect that a student who had taken or was planning to take French 2 or German 1a would thereby be enabled to surmount a sight translation.
Generally speaking however, it would appear that there are two obstacles which hinder an examiner from doing his best job. On the one hand, as most professors have assistants correct their papers for them, they have often no conception of how well the average student has assimilated the lectures or the reading, or what his especial capabilities or difficulties in the course are. On the other hand, they object to the student correlating his knowledge at a tutoring school and ask questions designed to founder the student who has placed reliance in the Widow, sinking many self-prepared students in the same boat. In doing so, the examiner usually limits himself to esoteric subjects or is compelled to ask tricky questions, as the tutoring bureau covers the more obvious and more important points.
The whole matter, of course, resolves itself into one of pedagogics. As long as professors become so by publishing of research, rather than by their ability to kindle the spark of interest in the undergraduate, teaching as a fine art will be somewhat slighted. Yet one is inclined to believe, that by more knowledge of and consideration for the students' capabilities and less attention to the existence of Manter Hall, the general level of examining might be lifted from its present slough.
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