On exams…

Here is the apparently extra-terrestrial ‘Mein Herr’ holding forth on the subject of exams from a book by Lewis Carroll (an Upas tree is a poisonous tree):

Oh this Upas-tree of Competitive Examinations! Beneath whose deadly shade all the original genius, all the exhaustive research, all the untiring life-long diligence by which our fore-fathers have so advanced human knowledge, must slowly but surely wither away, and give place to a system of Cookery, in which the human mind is a sausage, and all we ask is, how much indigestible stuff can be crammed into it!…Yes, crammed,” he repeated.

“We went through all that stage of the disease had it bad, I warrant you! Of course, as the Examination was all in all, we tried to put in just what was wanted and the great thing to aim at was that the Candidate should know absolutely nothing beyond the needs of the Examination! I don’t say it was ever quite achieved: but one of my own pupils (pardon an old man’s egotism) came very near it. After the Examination, he mentioned to me the few facts which he knew but had not been able to bring in, and I can assure you they were trivial, Sir, absolutely trivial! ”
I feebly expressed my surprise and delight. The old man bowed, with a gratified smile, and proceeded. “At that time, no one had hit on the much more rational plan of watching for the individual scintillations of genius, and rewarding them as they occurred. As it was, we made our unfortunate pupil into a Leyden-jar, charged him up to the eyelids then applied the knob of a Competitive Examination, and drew off one magnificent spark, which very often cracked the jar! What mattered that? We labeled it ‘ First Class Spark,’ and put it away on the shelf.”
From Chapter 12 of ‘Sylvie and Bruno Concluded’ by Lewis Carroll (1893)

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