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fessional brethren had done their best to get before him ;” and the contest had been conducted under the public observation.
It is common to speak of these examinations as mere “schoolmaster's tests" that limit successful application to boys and young men just from the schools. The real fact is that the tenor of the examinations thus far in this country has been so pitched as to give the advantage to men of mature age. The average age of those placed upon the eligible lists during four years of these examinations in the New York Customs service was thirty-one years. The United States Commissioners report the average age of the 3,542 candidates examined last year at thirty-one years, and the average age of the candidates thus far in the State examinations is thirtytwo years, and probably the same is true as to the examinations in Brooklyn and New York for the municipal service.
This is certainly a high average in years for the “babes and sucklings" some journals have feared would monopolize the service. In all these examinations, great care has been taken in selecting qniestions and problems that would not be bookish, but such as represent the ordinary concerns of life, and which every intelligent citizen should be conversant with. Experience in these has shown that while the recent school-boy may answer glibly such questions as may be found in the text-books, he is at disadvantage when the questions are so framed as to represent the practical affairs of business; he is better versed in abstract arithmetic than in its concrete application. So, too, in questions given as a test of general intelligence, as in geography and history, the practical features are better comprehended by the man than the boy. That this is so does not weaken the force of the opinion that the examinations might better be based upon the educational status of the young man just from the common school, since it is highly probable that he would in a short time prove to be a better clerk than the elder man.
He would have no erroneous methods to unlearn, no stubborn habits and pride of opinions that resist discipline.
If the younger man, “ with all the world before him," has such a contracted ambition as to decline all other avenues to business, and accept the tame career of a government clerk, the probabilities are that he would prove a more efficient and tractable subordinate than the elder inan, who, having failed in private ventures, enters the civil service very often as a temporary make-shift. There is no reason why in a well-ordered public service the same general principles should not obtain in this respect that are adopted in private business. In the banks, great insurance companies and other concerns that in their magnitude and affairs closely resemble the government offices, the lower positions are filled by the young men who, gradually trained in the business, are advanced as their capacities and the opportunities jointly offer.
Another allegation is that the competitive system excludes those who have not had the benefit of the higher and more costly means of education. Now the fact is that in the five years of competitive
examination, in the United States service, the number of those has. ing only a common-school education has been seventy per cent of the whole number, and in the State service it has been seventy-two per cent.
These ratios probably correspond with the proportion in private business concerns, and proves that all classes of citizens, whatever the nature of their education, have equal opportunities. Could any system be more thoroughly democratic?
Other critics have affirmed that competition would encourage “cramming” and that a superficial knowledge would win the prizes over real and solid attainments. Like all other objections, this was advanced long since when the first movement was made to reform the British service. Thirty years ago, the eminent statesman and historian, Macauley, and his colleagues, emphatically expressed their conviction that with competent and trained examiners, “it is utterly impossible that the delusive show of knowledge which is the effect of the process popularly called cramming, can ever be successful against real learning and ability.” Since this was said, the competitive method has been developed, until it covers nearly the whole service of the empire, and with its growth, there have sprung up special tutors and schools, and special text-books for training those desiring to enter the service, and the result has been no appreciable injury to the service, but on the other hand a benefit in the interest in a broader and more exact education, stimulated by the new incentives offered by a public service open to all ranks and conditions upon the single basis of superior fitness.
Much has been said, particularly by appointing officers, regarding the confidential relations that subordinates bear to the head of an office or department. This is generally an absurd claim, as the cases where any such confidential relation actually exists, form only an infinitesimally small fraction of the service. There are rare contingencies where a private secretary or other confidential employe may be essential, but the vast bulk of the public business is business that is and should be public in every sense, and nothing can be more ridiculous than the assertion that there are mysteries, reservations and secrets that are to be cloaked and suppressed ; in fact, such concealment always suggests danger to the public interests. The term “private secretary” is often abused to find an excuse for nepotism, and the whole claim of confidential relation is made more laughable by the recollection that under the patronage system these highly important places were generally filled without even a shadow of the precautions and safeguards that the Civil Service rules now throw around the selections.
And there has been a similar exaggeration as to the value of what is called, in a general way, “business experience,” which cannot be measured by examination and must be taken upon testimonials more or less trustworthy. There are, of course, certain kinds of training or experience gained in private affairs that may be serviceable in public transactions of the sanie nature. Thus, an experienced bank
teller might be very efficient in a like position in a public treasury; or a person might have had valuable and approved experience in some public place that would especially fit him for a similar place. But the general term "experience” is very misleading when it is proffered as a prime factor in estimating qualifications for the Civil Service, and those who have had to do with the appointments know of no term that has been so abused, when employed in the usually vague way, without specific application.
There are those also who censure any educational tests for such positions as those of messenger, orderly, watchman, or where the duties are those of an artisan. It is admitted that in these employments, character, physical qualities, and in some cases manual skill, are the paramount requirements; but beyond this a certain amount of education is advantageous not only in itself, but also as an evidence of trained intelligence. As illustrating this, may be given the account of the great Willimantic Thread Works in Connecticut, by a recent English traveler and investigator.*
In answer to an inquiry, Colonel Burrows, the manager of these great factories, asks, * Why is it that the Willimantic thread will lift more ounces of dead weight and is smoother than any
other?" Every manufacturer can buy the same cotton and the same sort of inachinery to work it. Why, then, the superiority of our products ? Simply because they are made by people who know more than any other people in the world engaged in the same work. They put more brains into their work than others do. They are intelligent enough to know the value of care, intelligent enough to be conscientious about employing it, and intelligent enough to know how best to apply it with skill to produce the best results. That is why it pays us directly to increase their knowledge."
For three years there were posted in all the entrance halls of these mills the notice that “no person who cannot read and write will be einployed in these mills after July 4, 1884," and since that date this rule has been enforced.
In these great factories employing thousands, and which in their beneficent and profitable management exhibit one phase of the progressive solution of the great“ labor question,” it is found that even in work that is wholly mechanical and monotonous educated intelligence has a practical and commercial value. Indeed there is no kind of human labor that is not improved and exalted by a higher intelligence in its discharge, and this intelligence is vivified and trained by education in the schools. The occasional examples of ignorant persons who render certain services with fidelity and zeal do not affect the truth of the general proposition, since they are rare exceptions, and there remains the certainty that education would have increased tle usefulness of these few exceptions. The aristocratic conservatism that long resisted popular education upon the pretext that more knowledge by the poorer classes would produce discontent and unfit
* Old World Questions and New World Answers by Daniel Pidgeon, F. G. S., Assoc. Inst. C. E-London and New York, 1885.
them for the drudgery of the world's work has been happily replaced by a broader humanity and a higher conception of the obligations of the body politic to all its members. Universal education, to the extent even of compulsion, is now accepted as the most urgent duty of the State, and it would be indeed a rash or thoughtless man who should say that the training of the common school made the watchman more stupid or the fingers of the mechanic less facile
, or that such training is not useful in these and every other vocation in life.
In addition to these general objections to the competitive examinations, there are frequent challenges of the system based upon individual cases. It is occasionally asserted in conversation or in the public journals that some one has been rejected in the examinations
, though eminently fitted to discharge the duties of the situation sought, and the charge is often made with such circumstance and force as to gain credence in the absence of denial. No doubt the aconser often believes he has good cause for complaint, and in rare cases the cause may be good. All human agencies are at times fallible, and now and then an individual competitor may accidentally be underrated by the examiners.
In practice all personal considerations are reduced to the mininum, and the grading of the several papers is made under regulations and invariable methods; but in the best devised plans errors of estimation may occasionally occur.
For such errors the regulations provide an accessible and prompt remedy by the opportunity given to every competitor to examine, personally or by agents, his papers and the markings thereon, and to have detected errors made by the examiners, corrected by the Commission upon protest.
Where the charge of injustice is made, however, by a friend of the competitor, it generally arises from an ignorance of all the facts or from that imperfect knowledge men usually have concerning the abilities of their friends. In every case within my ken, where protesting friends have examined the answers made by a presumptively aggrieved competitor and the marking thereof, they have professed astonishment at his mistakes or his ignorance. A man's associates may for years enjoy his social qualities and not suspect his ignorance of the rule of three," or that he cannot spell correctly the simple every-day words in his mouth; or again his signal abilities in soine one direction may blind them to his deficiencies in all others. When the accusation of injustice comes from the disappointed competitor himself, there is usually a striking illustration of self-deception. Again and again I have heard the protesting competitor declare that he had answered properly every question, and when confronted by these answers and the correct solutions sadly confess that he had overrated himself. The revelations in these cases that have come to my personal knowledge have illustrated an inherent defect in the patronage system, where an appointinent was based upon the personal representations of the appointee or the estimates
of his ability given by friends. Hereafter when any plausible accusation is publicly made that the methods of examination are incurably defective or their administration is unfair, because of individual failures to pass, it is to be hoped that the accuser will call for the complete record and abide by its public demonstration. It is due to the reputation of the examiners that their explanatory or defensive evidence should be as public as the accusation against them.
SUBJECTS IN EXAMINATIONS. Recently the public attention has been attracted to the subjects on which competitors are examined and to the particular questions propounded to them. · A part of this attention is due to an intelligent interest in the proper application of the new methods and a part has been aroused by the publication of fabricated questions for the purpose of depreciating the merit system. Scarcely a day passes without some public declaration that stokers are examined in geology and astronomy or policemen required to give the number of pints of water in the Mississippi or the latitude of Hong Kong: Absurd as are these inventions, their frequent repetition would indicate that they gain some credence with the ignorant, which is, undoubtedly, the purpose of their fabricators.
In the initiatory steps of a new system there must be something tentative which may be modified as experience is gained. Much in this direction has already been accomplished, and the examination papers are now much more satisfactory than at the outset, and improvements will continue to be made as exaininers become more skilled. Whatever defects have existed in the examination papers, they have not been of a character to injure the service.
The general principles that have governed the preparation of examinations for the State service have been,, viz.:
1st. To require for every position vouchers as to moral character, sobriety and industrious habits, and of satisfactory physical condition.
20. To demand for the lower positions the ability to read, write and perforin the four fundamental processes in arithmetic; in fine to have the rudimentary education of the free schools.
3d. To make the examinations measure, so far as may be, the qualifications of the position sought, and with this purpose in view, to test general intelligence as evinced by information on such subjects as form a part of the ordinary education open to all citizens.
4th. Where the first position sought is of a series of grades, the lowest one, above which the vacancies are to be filled preferably by promotion, to make the examination, so far as possible, test the intellectual capacity and aptitude of the competitors to advance in
proficiency and become worthy of promotion.
These general outlines will indicate why certain subjects, which do not superficially appear to be pertinent to the duties of a certain position, may be invaluable as tests of trained intelligence, requisite