Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

satisfactory from the secondary school point of view; and whether it will work for good or for ill. But at all events we have hit upon the right way of dealing with these problems, a way which draws the colleges and schools together as each new problem is approached and its solution attempted.

Admission to college is not a problem of secondary schools alone. It is one part of the problem of the education of a human being, in the solution of which the secondary school plays an influential part, but by no means an isolated part. I use the word human advisedly. We have become accustomed to depend too much upon machinery, on formulas, on rules and routine, and, according to my thinking, one of the first steps to be taken in order to carry our work forward more satisfactorily is to bring back the human element much more largely than is now the case, into the problem of transferring students from one type of school to another, from secondary school to college, and to treat their progress in this respect as normal and uniform, and not as resembling a transition from an earthly to a celestial sphere. There are two views held nowadays about a surgical operation. One is that the operation is a thing apart, to be considered and treated as an end in itself; the other and wiser view is that a surgical operation is but one stage in the general treatment of a diseased condition, and that it is but one part of a process which properly begins before the operation is undertaken, and which continues for some time after the operation has been successfully concluded. Just so there are two views of the college admission examination. The first and incorrect view is that it is an end in itself, an abnormal and extraordinary undertaking; the other and correct view is that it is but part of the normal and continuous progress of the pupil in his task of gaining a formal education.

It is necessary that we should bring ourselves completely 1to this second point of view, from which the transition from

school to college is not regarded as a change of educational state, but merely as a step, natural and simple enough, in intellectual and moral development. It so happens that our system of educational organization divides the work of the pupils at the adolescent period between two institutions, the secondary school and the college. It is, however, an error of the first magnitude to suppose that because of this division, which does not correspond to similar divisions in other countries, some profound intellectual and moral change takes place when the pupil crosses the line which separates the one type of institution from the other. If there is any such profound change I should like some one to point out the evidence for it; because, after twenty-five years of observation, I have not been able to find it. It is important, then, that this transition from school to college should not be elevated, either in our thought or practise, into a position of false prominence, out of all proportion to its true educational importance, and to the just relation which it occupies to the training which has preceded it, and to that which will follow it.

In bringing about this transition from school to college, it is important that we should deal with it as a human problem. We should take into consideration not only the individual's scholastic achievement, but his temperament, his home environment, and such hopes and plans for future life as are already forming in his mind, or have perhaps been formed for him. It is this human aspect of the problem which most interests me, and I wish in particular to tell you what we are now proposing to undertake at Columbia in this regard. We think we are at work upon the application of a sound educational principle, and we shall be only too glad if our example is widely and speedily followed by other colleges.

By way of precaution let me say that in the vigorous discussions that have gone on for many years as to the relative value of admission to college by examination and by certificate, I have steadily opposed the extension of the certificate system. I know only too well the abuses to which it leads; the kind of pressure to which it forces school officers to yield; and the utter futility of such systems of school inspection as have yet been devised, as a protection to the colleges against the acceptance of certificates from incompetent and inadequately equipped schools. Even if I did not feel strongly the disadvantages of the certificate system, I should not be willing to give up the college admission examination; and for the reason that one of the most useful exercises that a human being can ever be trained to, is to do what is hard and distasteful for him. In practical life we are called upon to do this sort of thing all the time. When the college teacher is told by parents and school-teachers that secondary school pupils are nervous, that they have never been in a given examination room before, that the weather in June is apt to be hot, and that the subjects succeed each other with extraordinary swiftness, the proper answer is that, however much one may regard all these things, the sooner that school children become accustomed to work under these unfavorable conditions, and under conditions which subject them to a nervous strain, the better. This is what adults are doing all the time, and by sixteen years

of age it is time that a child had some little taste of it by way of preparation. This experience may be hard on pupils, but it does them good. Disadvantage only begins to accrue when this college admission test, held under conditions which must of necessity surround it, is treated by the college as an end in itself, as standing in no relation to the pupil's school work, and as that by which alone he must stand or fall in his candidacy for college admission. It is just at this point that we at Columbia think we are making a new and helpful departure.

We have discontinued the separate committees on admission, which have heretofore past upon the applications of students who desired to enter either Columbia College, Barnard College, or the Schools of Applied Science. We have united these three committees and their work in one body, to be known as the Committee on Undergraduate Admission. This committee will have jurisdiction over all questions relating to the admission of any student who comes to Columbia University for undergraduate work of any kind whatsoever. To the chairmanship of this committee an officer has been appointed of professorial rank, with no other present duties. Instead, therefore, of having to deal with the important questions of college admission in such spare moments as he can steal from classroom work, this chairman will be able to devote his entire time and thought to this one problem. We propose to have him make the personal acquaintance of the principals and classroom teachers of those schools which are in the habit of sending us students. We propose to have him come into personal touch with schools and teachers, to know as much as possible of their point of view, and of the way in which their work is planned and carried on. We wish to have him become familiar with those schools in which students gain some particular advantage, because of the way in which some special influence is brought to bear upon their intellectual and moral development. Then we propose that when our committee weigh the question of admitting or rejecting a student, they shall not be guided simply by the mark or grade that he gets at the college admission examination, but that weight shall also be given to his secondary school record as that is written in the books. No good teacher uses the term or annual examination as the sole test of his pupil's progress. He weighs in connection with the results of the term or annual examination the record of the pupil's work in the classroom or laboratory, day by day, and week by week. We propose to apply this same method of procedure to college admission. We shall not permit schools to certificate pupils to us as qualified for college admission without examination, but we shall ask schools to give us transcripts of the record of their pupils, in order that consideration may be given to these records, together with the results of the college admission examination.

In other words, without surrendering the great educational advantage which we believe the college admission examination has, we propose to put that examination in its proper place, to give it its just proportion in weighing the question of fitness to undertake college work. You will at once observe that if we can bring about this change we shall have very much altered the importance of the student's rating in the college admission examination, and we shall have been able to relieve him to that extent of some portion of the strain which unfavorable and strange surroundings put upon him, without in any way diminishing the educational value of the examination. Moreover, we shall be exerting our influence to put the college admission examination itself in its proper place in the mind of the secondary school teacher, and in the mind of the student. Both teachers and students will come to see that the college admission examination is not something apart from the ordinary school work, something to be crammed for and prepared for by tremendous and special effort, but that it is simply one exhibition of the pupil's knowledge and power by the side of which will stand the record of his whole performance during his secondary school education. It is obvious that under this plan a student who has obtained a very excellent school record for three or four years, would have to make a pretty poor exhibition at the college admission examination in order not to be admitted. A student with a bad school record would have to pass a very excellent examination to get in. The average student would probably not do so very differently at the time of examination from what the record of his school work would lead one to expect. Every teacher is familiar with the so-called examination fiend, the student who can always pass examinations better than any one else, who possesses that peculiarly tenacious type of memory which enables him to make an admirable performance under difficult conditions. Such a candidate would have by the side of his examination record the record of his performance at school over a period of years. Both together would not be likely to mislead the Committee on Admission.

In addition to that, we propose that, in all doubtful cases, before a decision is arrived at, either in the affirmative or the negative, there shall be a personal interview between the candidate and the chairman of the Committee on Undergraduate Admission. It is our plan that the student whose case is in doubt shall be actually seen and talked with by a university officer, in order that some sort of opinion may be formed of his personality and attainments. He can then be advised whether he ought to accept admission to college under severe conditions, or go back to the secondary school to spend another term, or another year, if necessary, in order to prepare himself more thoroly for the work of college or the scientific

« AnteriorContinuar »