Among us there is a zeal of teaching which is not inspired by progressive knowledge. The whole of the literary and philosophical teaching in Oxford is in the hands of young men — the tutors of the colleges. As a class these men abound when they begin life in energy and ability. They overflow with zeal, and the ambition to act upon their pupils. But the zeal is not the zeal of the enthusiastic votary of science, who sees a vista of infinite progress opening before him, and desires to associate younger minds in following up the track. The young teacher as turned out by us has never been on any such track. He is an honour-man and a prize-man; voilà tout! and he knows the sure road to make others win honours and prizes, the road by which he himself won them. Even if he has better aspirations, he must not indulge them. He is embarked on the career of teaching, at twenty-five, say; and he finds himself at once the slave of a great teaching engine, which drives him day by day in a round of mechanical work. There is no stepping aside; if you fall out of the ranks, you perish. Study, or research, or self-improvement, is out of the question. The most conscientious tutor has the least leisure for his own purposes, as he is most anxious to do justice to his pupils. The desire of knowledge in the tutor who has once entered the lists of competition with the other tutors, if he ever possessed it, first becomes dormant, and then dies out. The teacher must not lose a moment in teaching a subject, in searching out its foundations, in inspiring his pupils with a love for it, with a desire to pursue it in a spirit of thoroughness. He must crowd into the year and a half of preparation a miscellaneous assortment of ready-made propositions upon the leading topics of philosophy, history, politics, and literature. Our system has gradually become one which carefully excludes thoroughness. It is the exaltation of smattering into a method. If the teacher goes about to give instruction in a subject, the pupils fall away from him. Their instinct tells them that time so spent is time lost. Hence the prize-student never goes near the professors. Many of our professorial chairs are filled by eminent men, masters in their department, and willing to give instruction in it. The existence among us of such men is of incalculable value. Few as they are, they are the salt without which the university would indeed have little savour. But they are entirely outside the practical working of the Oxford schools. If there are professors who undertake the work of preparing young men for the examinations, they act thus in the capacity of tutors, and are less sought after in this capacity than younger men fresh from the schools, whose zeal is more alert, and whose interest is fresher. It is a recognised fact that the younger tutors are better than the middle-aged men, and that advance in thought and knowledge creates a gulf between the teacher and his scholars, who carefully keep away from such men, as persons who cannot help them towards the attainment of a first-class. What the aspirant for honours requires is a répétiteur, who knows the schools, and who will look over essays for him, teaching him how to collect telling language, and arrange it in a form adequate to the expected question. It soon becomes indifferent to the teacher on what subject he lectures. The process of training for the race is the commanding interest. Training, be it observed, not intellectual discipline, not training in investigation, in research, in scientific procedure, but in the art of producing a clever answer to a question on a subject of which you have no real knowledge.
(Mark Pattison, “Philosophy at Oxford,” Mind, Vol. I, No. 1, January 1876, pp. 88–89).