The lame shall write their papers by November 6th: Did anyone read "Hard Times?"

I did not do the Interregnum reading. No Churchills at our study session did the reading. The night before the test, we attempted to create a cohesive narrative of “Hard Times” using only the snippets of information we each picked up from reading online summaries.

The house of Churchill had no students read both texts in full for the test. Caroline Walker (’19), the scholar for the house of QE1, claims her house had six students read both texts, with the addition, “but that’s being generous.” Lewis is just behind them, claiming four to five students read. Ten Boom claims one or two.

Dr. Parks declined to give a specific number of students who marked they did the reading in full.

Extra reading paired with a test early into the school year leads most students to prioritize their time in ways that do not have to do with the test. When asked why so few students do the reading, the Interregnum committee said, “It is difficult to speculate.” Each house scholar had their own ideas.

 Thatcher received first place in the Interregnum Reading Test in Fall 2016 | Photo from The King's College

Thatcher received first place in the Interregnum Reading Test in Fall 2016 | Photo from The King's College

“I think the test feels almost punitive in a way, and it takes me back to standardized testing in high school, which feels arbitrary,” Walker said. She believes that students benefit when taking a test and engaging with the material; however, the test is not nearly as enjoyable as the creative nature of Interregnum. This idea was not unique to her.

John Mcormond (’19), scholar for the house of Churchill, thinks it is weird to have an Interregnum event at the beginning of the year. It feels disconnected from the rest of the events, leading to a lack of excitement.

“It's just one more thing we need to do,” Mcormond said.

Three of the scholars said they heard complaints about the books being difficult to get through, especially when compared to last year's reading. They believe the complex characters of “Hard Times” made this year's readings more challenging and may have led more students to not get through it all. Several students claimed to have read parts of the book, but gave up quickly when they realized it would take too much effort to get through.

“I think some of it will have to do with how challenging the readings are,” Campbell said. “The page numbers may have been the same in terms of page count compared to last year, but this year's book was harder to grind through because of the language used in Dickens.”

The Interregnum Committee said, “Students had two months from when the reading was announced to when the test was administered.”

However, not all students think this is enough time to read. Exec members are busy with Statesmanship and NSO, while others are busy with classes or work.

“I think the intention is to get them involved, but ultimately the reason people show up is because they don't want to write a paper and they want to do well in the house competition,” Kane said.

Walker said that if the books were given in advance, then maybe students would have more time to read. However, students like Mcormond think giving the reading earlier in the summer would have little to no effect on how many read.

Both Campbell and Mcormond are in agreement that the students could have easily read both of the books if they put in the time and effort.

“I think the test is fairly administered,” said Campbell. “I think the books are given well in advance. People think it’s unfair because it’s one extra book that’s been put on their plate.”

Most houses hold review sessions in an attempt to teach the readings to those who neglected to do them, as well as refresh those who had done the reading. Each house had varying levels of success with this. Walker attempted to have multiple study sessions so that students would be prepared.

“The only one that people came to was the one who came the night before the test. People were complaining about needing to read an 11-page summary, when I spent hours reading 300 something pages,” Walker said.

Review sessions also involve study sheets, which are often times based mostly off of websites such as Spark Notes and Shmoop. Lehosit enthusiastically advocated for Shmoop.

“There is a good way and a bad way to do it,” Kane said.

In regards to using study sheets, Campbell said, “You’ve cheated the whole point of interregnum, but the incentive is for the house to pass, not for the individual to pass.”

 2016-2017 Interregnum Committee | Photo from The King's College

2016-2017 Interregnum Committee | Photo from The King's College

When asked whether the test is more for the individuals or the house, mixed reviews were given. 

Walker and Mcormond both felt as if they were taken advantage of as their house scholars. The test tends to put pressure on the scholars to teach the readings to their house.

“In QE1 we’ve looked towards the liaison or the scholar to help,” Walker said. “But mainly everyone in the house looks towards those people so that they can have some sort of answers so that they don’t have to read, which puts pressure on me.”

“Review sessions should be a supplement to, not a substitute for, reading the assigned texts,” The Committee said.

Dr. Parks, professor of record for the Interregnum class, said “The purpose of the reading test is to assess students' general comprehension of the assigned readings.”

It has become evident that students are able to pass the test without reading. However, based on Parks’ response, this does not necessarily go against the intention of the reading test. The test seems to be intended to test how well people know the books, not to make them actually read them.

“Review sessions should be a supplement to, not a substitute for, reading the assigned texts,” the Committee said.

“I think the intention is to get them involved, but ultimately the reason people show up is because they don't want to write a paper and they want to do well in the house competition,” Kane said.

One thing that all five scholars interviewed had in common was their idea that the test would be more effective in getting students reading and getting them excited about the theme if the test was administered in the Spring semester. They were all in agreement that they lack things to do over the break, meaning they would be more than happy to read the Interregnum books then rather than over the summer.

“I think putting it in January would give more excitement, and we’d have the entirety of Christmas break,” Walker said. “I don’t think we would have much more involvement if we changed it to January, but I think it would at least give student leaders more time to set the example for the other students.”

King’s is a school that strives towards integrity, and last-minute review sessions and a complete neglect of the class that is Interregnum does not line up with this mission.

“Question one on the test is not accountability. It is just a way to see if we’ve done it,” said Kane. “If there was a fear of punishment then people may actually do the reading.”

“The Committee reviews all of its activities with an eye for improvement toward the future,” when asked if they plan on rethinking the test in order to increase student involvement.

Amelia Lehosit summed up her ideas on change with, “Do away with it being a part of interregnum, do away with house study sessions, just say that you can’t do them, and do away with it adding points to the house.” 

Correction: The Interregnum Committee did not say the test is meant to get students involved and engaged with the reading.