Education changes

I know we tend to think of ourselves as more educated (overall) today than people used to be. However, my wife sent me this:

This is a pretty impressive test.

Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an
8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th
grade in 1895?

This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA. It was
taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical
Society and Library in Salina, Kansas, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

Grammar (Time, 1 hour)

  1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
  2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
  3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
  4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of “lie”,
    “play”, and “run”? 5. Define case; illustrate each case.
    6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
    7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you
    understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1 hour 15 minutes)

  1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
  2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of
    wheat will it hold? 3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at
    50cts/bushel, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare? 4. District No 33 has a valuation of
    $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per
    month, and have $104 for incidentals? 5. Find the cost of 6720 lbs. coal at
    $6.00 per ton. 6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7
    percent. 7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20
    per metre? 8. Find the bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10
    percent. 9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of
    which is 640 rods? 10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

  1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
  2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
  3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
  4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
  5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
  6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
  7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and
    Howe? 8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849,

Orthography (Time, 1 hour) Do we even know what this is??

  1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology,
    syllabication? 2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
  2. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals,
    diphthong, cognate letters, linguals? 4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u’.
    (HUH?) 5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e’. Name two
    exceptions under each rule. 6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling.
    Illustrate each. 7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a
    word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup. 8. Mark
    diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that
    indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
  3. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain,
    feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays. 10. Write 10 words frequently
    mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by
    syllabication.

Geography (Time, 1 hour)

1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla,
Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall, and Orinoco. 6. Name and locate
the principal trade centers of the U.S. 7. Name all the republics of Europe and
give the capital of each. 8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific
in the same latitude? 9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean
returns to the sources of rivers. 10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give
the inclination of the earth.

NOTICE THAT THE EXAM TOOK FIVE HOURS TO COMPLETE. GIVES THE SAYING “HE ONLY HAD
AN EIGHTH GRADE EDUCATION” A WHOLE NEW MEANING!

This has been kicking around the net for years.

http://www.snopes.com/language/document/1895exam.htm

Oops, should have snoped it first! My bad.

Of course, even if it were true, you would have still posted that you have already seen it and it is “old news” right? Or maybe you wouldn’t have, but someone would have. I’ve always wondered what fuels that tendency. Somehow “I read this three years ago” is supposed to mean, “therefore it is pointless.”

I know that wasn’t your point…just an aside, since I knew someone would post that they had seen this before. Sorry for not snoping it first.

I think Snopes is a bit wrong on one point though. They point out that tests are different for those who have recently studied for them. While that is true, I think it is also an excuse for educational laziness in older people. It’s easy to claim, “I don’t know that anymore because I learned it so long ago.” More likely, the person never learned it, which is why he/she doesn’t know it now. We don’t say the same thing about basic math. I’m not sure why we let people get away with it for basic grammar.

(Notice my subtle attempt to change the topic? ;) )

Certainly more difficult than the standardized eight grade tests.

That Snopes article is interesting–it marks the claim as “False” despite the fact that the claim itself is, as nearly as I can tell, true: this was a test administered to 8th graders. Of course, Snopes changes the claim to “An 1895 graduation examination for public school students demonstrates a shocking decline in educational standards,” so I guess maybe they are saying that claim is false–not because the test isn’t genuine, but simply because they disagree with the conclusion that the test demonstrates a shocking decline in educational standards.

I think their criticisms are all valid–many of the same points went through my mind when I was reading Robert’s post–but to me that’s not the same thing as saying the test is a hoax.

In order to validate the claim that the educational system has gone downhill, you’d have to give this test to 8th graders who have just spent years learning the material and who have been given a chance to study for the test. Then compare the pass rate with the pass rate of children from the period when the test was used.

Even then your claim that the educational system has degraded wouldn’t address the fact that the test is deficient in many areas, as the Snopes article mentions: math, science, world history, American history, civics, etc. In fact, one could make the counter-argument that today’s educational system is better, as it tests for knowledge of all these areas where this test from the 1800s doesn’t. Stupid 1895 children.

For one thing, grammar is anything but fixed. Yes, there’s a well-defined proper grammar, but grammar, being what you use to communicate, is exceedingly fluid on a daily basis. 5+5 always equals ten, but the ability to say “I was just about to do that” changes dramatically depending on the area of the country in which you’re saying it.

I also don’t think your claim that people saying “I don’t remember” is equivalent to “I never learned.” I don’t remember half-angle formulas from trig, but I sure learned them. I know what they are, and I know enough about them to know when I need them and where to go look them up. But I don’t remember them.

Not really. The point of the article (as I understand it) is that in the olden days, kids were taught a lot more than they are today. The fact that today’s kids could pass the test if they were taught the material is irrelevant, because the point is that they are not being taught the material.

Of course, we probably don’t want to waste time teaching some of the stuff required to pass the test. Moreover, I’m suspicious that some of the questions require the student to recite some essentially arbitrary classification scheme that doesn’t exist in nature.

Sorry, I should have been more clear: You’d need to give the test to today’s 8th graders after they’ve been taught their curriculums and had a chance to study for a final exam based on those curriculums.

Ach! Mein eyes!

Rywill, how well would those historic kids done in algebra, trig, or romance languages? They’re taught different things, there’s no proof at all that historically they were taught “more”.

Not really. The point of the article (as I understand it) is that in the olden days, kids were taught a lot more than they are today.

That’s the point of it, but it’s wrong. That exam itself shows they were taught an entirely different set of information, and to me it looks like it was a damned useless set.

There’s much better information about this hoax here…

http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/a/1895exam.htm

Test was real, but wasn’t for eighth graders…

K

I 100% agree, like I said in my first post. I was just responding to Thrrrpt!'s argument that the claim is irrelevant because modern students could pass the test if they were taught the material. The fact that the students could learn this material doesn’t change the article’s criticism that they aren’t learning it. (Thrrrpt has since clarified that he wasn’t making that argument in the first place, anyway–my misunderstanding. Although his clarified argument–kids would pass the test using today’s curricula–is also one I disagree with.)

The “I admit they’re not learning that stuff, but that’s okay” argument is a totally different one. I agree with that.

What a stupid and simple test, with a fixation with rote memorization. Sure, some of the pedantic and pointless things it covers might give 8th today’s graders a hard time. However it omits any significant math, completely omits science and literature, doesn’t cover actual skill in writing, and what about foreign languages? My school mates and I learned a hell of a lot more by 8th grade than that test covers.

If you want to see what’s embarrasing, compare US schools to contemporaries in Europe. More is simply expected of european students, and because of it the median level of learning is higher.

Well, not exactly what I said. I just pointed out that in order to provide evidence for the claim that the OP implies --that an 8th grade education in 1895 is tougher to qualify for than an 8th grade education in 2005-- you’d have to do what I describe. I didn’t make any claims on the outcome, though I have suspicions.

Also: Cirriculum. :)

I 100% agree, like I said in my first post. I was just responding to Thrrrpt!'s argument that the claim is irrelevant because modern students could pass the test if they were taught the material. The fact that the students could learn this material doesn’t change the article’s criticism that they aren’t learning it. (Thrrrpt has since clarified that he wasn’t making that argument in the first place, anyway–my misunderstanding. Although his clarified argument–kids would pass the test using today’s curricula–is also one I disagree with.)

The “I admit they’re not learning that stuff, but that’s okay” argument is a totally different one. I agree with that.[/quote]
It’s entirely a relavent argument. Just as students today don’t know some of what’s on that test, students then wouldn’t know a great deal of what’s on today’s tests. The sorts of rote things that test emphasizes are easy to pickup on pretty short notice, and don’t show much learning. The sorts of things they’re missing are more usefull and difficult to learn. Much of what makes that test difficult is use of archaic terms like “rod” and “bushel” or the remoteness of dates. Quick – “8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865?”

To quote Snopes:
“What nearly all these pundits fail to grasp is “I can’t answer these questions” is not the same thing as “These questions demonstrate that students in earlier days were better educated than today’s students.””
It’s a non-sequitor. Today’s students are in fact better educated – despite it being true that the median level of US education is so poor. Hell, at least they make kids go to school nowadays.