Thursday, March 23, 2006

A long day today, so I turn again to In The Service of the King: A Parson's Story by Joseph B. Dunn. Tonight's excerpt shows that in spite of all the changes in education in the last hundred years, the student of the late nineteenth century is not that different from the student of the early twenty-first:

It is a strange fact that everything in the course, being held in memory by the fixed effort of the will, till returned to the professor and receipted for on a sheep-skin, promptly disappeared from his mind never to come back. The things he once knew best, he knows now not at all; and he is conscious that in his brain there are spots, now permanently barren, where the highest-priced knowledge obtainable once flourished for a season. The parson had been a student for thirty odd years. Half that period was spent not in tutelage, but in serfdom. Even now, when he has been out of school almost as long as he was in it, the form which the night-mare most frequently takes is the inquisitorial agony of the examination room.

The parson is persuaded that the ordinary diploma is nothing more or less than an honorable discharge from the ranks of learning on account of permanent disabilities.