THE CAMBRIDGE EXAMINATION FOR WOMEN.
[TO THE EDITOR OF THE 'SPECTATOR."]
Sin,—Though I have had no part in framing the Cambridge scheme for examining women recently published, and am not altogether prepared to justify its mildness, I should like to say a few words in defence of its principles.
I earnestly deprecate any jealousy between London and Cambridge in this matter. I quite agree with you that the scheme of London University represents a higher ideal of education, and I hope it may attract a large number of candidates But I hardly think it will meet the immediate practical need of many women who now desire examination. And in this ease it is safer than usual to neglect theory for practical needs, because any such examination instituted now must be regarded as provisional. For whatever may be said in favour of a different school education for the two sexes, the present exclusion of women from the higher studies of the University is perfectly indefensible in principle, and must sooner or later give way. When this barrier is broken down, whatever special examinations for women may still be retained will be very different from any that we now institute. At present we have two distinct classes to consider : students who wish for guidance and support in their studies, and professional teachers who wish to obtain proof of adequate capacity. The first class will be composed of exceptionally intellectual girls, and all these will try to obtain honours. It is only the inferior portion of the second class who will try merely to pass. In their case we shall best distinguish the competent from the incompetent by examining them in the few subjects which they will certainly profess, and be required to teach. We cannot expect parents in general suddenly to alter their views of what girls are to be taught ; and we shall probably have more immediate effect in improving education by raising the quality of what is demanded, than by attempting to supply something else.—I am, Sir, &c., HENRY SIDGWICK.
Trinity College, Cambridge, January 13.