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Professors Please Note



From a college examination paper in English which has just come to me--the final examination in sophomore English at Yale College--we may believe that examinations are conducted in the ancient fashion of putting a premium on the memorizing of obscure passages, on cramming rather than on knowledge. I do not know whether this is the fault of Yale or of the instructor who plans the course. In my day at the University of Chicago instructors seemed to have much influence. Stodgy professors examined us in the minutiae of English literature; far-sighted men such as Robert Morss Lovett, James Weber Linn and Robert Herrick got at the essentials.

This Yale examination comes to me from a man who writes: "I am of the opinion that if many of the associate and junior professors in English were to try it there would be 50 per cent, of failures, just as the result hovers around that figure today of the sophomores. This English examination is outrageously difficult--stupid questions by writers of text-books who are ignorant of the limitations of the average youth. Why, after a semester of study, dig up questions that flunk 50 or 60 per cent, of the class?"

Leaving out the longer quotations, here are some of the Yale sophomore examinations questions:

1. Answer three of the four parts of this question. Outline the means by which (a) Satan, in the council in the north, persuades his followers to revolt from God: (b) Beelzebub persuades the devils to adopt his plan of action; (c) Satan induces Chaos and Uriel to direct him on his road; (d) Satan seduces Eve.

Questions 2 and 3 are omitted.

4. What elements of Byronic philosophy, style or autobiography are revealed by Byron's treatment of the following subjects? (Answer with regard to ten of the thirteen subjects): (a) Gibbon, (b) Azo, (c) pedigress, (d) England, (e) any sort of bird, (f) digestion, (g) Clarens, (h) Juan's mother, (i) Cavalier servant, (j) "The castled crag of Drachenfels" (k) Medora, (l) Laura, (m) In medias res.

5. Answer either (a) or (b) as your instructor directs. (a) Compare the point of view of Bacon with that of Abraham Adams on one of the following subjects: marriage, travel, friendship, (b) Complete Bacon's thought in each of the following sentences: "And surely a man shall see the noblest works and foundations have proceeded" "Wives are young men's...for middle age; and old men's...."

My correspondent, whose name is withheld because he is very close to Yale, suggests a number of questions which would be fair to sophomores. They seem to give the mind a chance. for instance, "Show in what way each of the following men represented their era: Milton, Pope, Fielding, Byron. And "Compare the viewpoints of Bacon, Milton and Byron on marriage." Show how Milton justifies the ways of God to man." Give six devices by which Milton enhances his grand style." "Discuss Milton's cosmology or his conception of the Deity.'" These are a few of the questions, but they, seem to give the student a chance, rather than statistician or the man who has figured out a memory system for use during examinations.

--Harry Hansen in the New York World.

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