August 02, 2010

Education in 1895 vs. today

Someone posted the following on Facebook today. Apparently it's been floating around the Internet for a while.

1895 8th grade final exam

The introduction accompanying this posting:Take this test and pass it on to your more literate friends.

What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895...

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, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.
Some sample questions:Grammar (Time, one hour)

2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications

Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)

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?

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.

Orthography (Time, one hour)

3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?

Geography (Time, one hour)

5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
Comment:  Naturally, I had to debunk this misleading posting:

I don't think anyone could pass this today. But...that doesn't necessarily tell us much. Many of these questions require a rote recitation of facts and definitions. Others rely on technical terms that we no longer use.

My eighth-grade tests would've included things like algebra, science, world history, and Spanish, none of which are on this test. They would've required a lot more analysis and a lot less regurgitation. I doubt eighth-graders from 1895 could've done any better on my tests than I could've on theirs.

Of course, I can't speak for any decline in the educational system since the early 1970s. But I assure you we weren't coasting through school doing finger-painting or whatever. did a thorough job of debunking the claim that this test proves a "shocking decline in our educational standards."

The Native aspects

I think I could get a passing grade in US history and geography on this test. I'd probably flunk the other sections.

Despite this test taking place only five years after Wounded Knee, only one question involved Indians, and that indirectly. Were students as ignorant about Indians then as they are now? Could be.

Here's the question and my answer:

2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.

"Columbus wanted to find a shorter trade route to China. He finally convinced Spain to finance an expedition that would sail west rather than east. Columbus reached the West Indies but thought he had reached the East Indies. He named the inhabitants Indians, killed some, enslaved others. Based on the now-discredited Doctrine of Discovery, he claimed this inhabited land for his masters. Thus began 500 years of European imperialism, conquest, and genocide."

How did I do? I give myself an A+ for that answer.

I wonder what a Kansas teacher would've made of this answer in 1895? Would I have been sent to the principal's office? Or the nurse's office for a sanity check? Would they have called my parents to scold me, or to see if I was okay? That's the kind of reaction I envision.

For more on Columbus, see This Ain't No Party, This Ain't No Disco:  A Columbus Day Rant. For more on the subject in general, see Ethnic History Corrects American History and Mainstream History = Pro-White Propaganda.

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