Over the course of my life, I have taken a lot of tests: grade school tests, college tests, driving tests, certification tests. I do not think I looked forward to taking tests, I do not think that I enjoyed taking tests and most tests that I took have been long forgotten. However, there is one test that has stuck in my mind for almost forty years.
Before I discovered the joys of accountancy, I started college as a history major at Stetson University in beautiful DeLand, Florida. (The twenty degrees below zero temperatures during the winter of my senior year of high school in Ohio might have influenced that decision.) At Stetson I had some very, very good history professors. Perhaps my favorite was Dr. Marc Lovelace. Dr. Lovelace was trained as an archaeologist and had spent a lot of time in the Middle East literally digging up history. When taking about ancient civilizations, Dr, Lovelace could almost bring them to life with his stories.
My freshman year, I had Dr. Lovelace for History of Western Civilization both semesters. The spring semester covered 1650 – present. His tests usually consisted of a few essay questions like, “If you could be anyone during this period of time, who would you be and why?” Some did not like this approach, but I was one of those who preferred his questions to filling in endless lists of dates and places.
When it came time for the spring final, I reviewed the material and I reviewed my notes hoping to be prepared for whatever questions he had formulated. When it came time for the final, Dr. Lovelace walked into the classroom, he handed out the blue essay books for us to write our answers in. Then Dr. Lovelace picked up a piece of chalk and wrote the following, “If homo sapien means thinking man, what has man been thinking since 1650 and what value is it to us today?” Then he sat down.
One question: explain the world since 1650! I do not remember exactly how I answered that day, but it must have been OK because my grade for the class was pretty good. However I have always remembered that test and have often told this story. It has also occurred to me that I have never really finished that exam. Each time I recall that one question exam, it also makes me think once again about what man has been thinking, what does history really teach us?
A test that is never finished and keeps one thinking, isn’t that what education is really about?