Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teaching to the Test

I will observe, once more, that a great part of the vice of the mode in which such branches of learning are now taught at Classical Schools is this:— that they are taught, not as valuable for their own sakes, but as means of passing our Examinations in the University. And hence it comes that boys are not taught things the most fit for boys, and in the manner most fit (as the practical teaching of Arithmetic is) ; but are taught, as much as possible, in the manner most resembling the teaching of the University; And undoubtedly the teachers, looking only to the boy's University career in what they teach, think this a great improvement on the system of teaching Mathematical subjects in their schools. This, however, I will take the liberty of saying, is altogether a mistake. Boys should be taught Arithmetic and Geometry, and it maybe, Algebra and Trigonometry, in the Great Classical Schools, in the same way in which they are in the best Commercial schools: at any rate, in some way in which the knowledge, and not the passing of examinations, is regarded as the valuable result.

William Whewell, Of a Liberal Education in General (1850), p. 71.

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