Friday, January 29, 2016

Means and Ends

Examinations, no less than Lectures, are to be considered as means of Education. Since the proximate aim of Lecturers often is to prepare students for undergoing an examination, it is sometimes imagined that Lectures are means to Examinations as ends. But, in fact, Lectures and Examinations are alike means to a common end. The knowledge which, in such examinations as we have to speak of, the student brings out of his acquisitions, he is required to produce, in order that he may be induced to acquire it. Whatever honour or profit may be the prize of examinations, in a course of Education, the honour and the profit are not the ultimate objects of the system. They are instruments which have it for their purpose to make men give their attentions to those studies of which the educational course consists. In the student's individual purposes, it may be the object of study to obtain prizes; but in the purpose of the educational legislator, it is the object of prizes to promote study; and the prizes which he proposes, and the conditions to which he subjects them, are regulated by his views as to what the best course of study is.

William Whewell, Of a Liberal Education in General, pp. 132-133.

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