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Author Topic: An 8th grade education in 1895, this is what children were expected to know...  (Read 3367 times)

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Offline RubySlippersTopic starter

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.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS -1895

Grammar (Time, one 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 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 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 6,720 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 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, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one 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?
3. 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.
9. 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, one 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 8th grade education' a whole new meaning, doesn't it?!

And that doesn't include common additional things that were taught such as literature, music and other enrichment teaching this was the graduation minimal standard. So I compare this to what garbage we are passing off to our children and ask what went wrong? 

And its not odd people with an eight grade education in the civil war could write generally at a college or frankly in many cases post college level. And did you get these math questions can you guess why some people in the US can't figure out what the diffference was between a FIXED MORTGAGE RATE and a VARIABLE MORTGAGE RATE? And how can people be expected to vote properly when they don't learn the basics of living within a budget and learn about government finances to some modest degree?


« Last Edit: June 14, 2008, 10:35:01 AM by RubySlippers »

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Offline Trieste

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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." Just about any test looks difficult to those who haven't recently been steeped in the material it covers. If a 40-year-old can't score as well on a geography test as a high school student who just spent several weeks memorizing the names of all the rivers in South America in preparation for an exam, that doesn't mean the 40-year-old's education was woefully deficient - it means the he simply didn't retain information for which he had no use, no matter how thoroughly it was drilled into his brain through rote memory some twenty-odd years earlier.

This is precisely the point I was thinking to make (if someone else hadn't already) when I was reading through this. Any parent can tell you - unless they have a job in the field of study with which they're trying to help their child, most parents cannot help their children with thier homework past about 5th or 6th grade. I have three younger brothers, the younger two of which are still in high school (going to be a senior and a sophomore this coming year) and while I can help them with a lot more of their homework than my parents can, I still have to look up some of their more obscure history and math homework, and I'm going into my junior year of college, in addition to attending private schools for a lot of my education.

If you want further proof, go over to tutor.com and take one of their tests to apply to be a tutor. If you get in, terrific... but I personally took the English test on a whim, and failed it spectacularly. I got As in grammar. You see that I can write proficiently. Think about that. :)

Offline ShrowdedPoet

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I would fail because I couldn't answer WELL over half of those questions.

Offline The Overlord


I could answer a fair number of them, and the saving grace is that five hours should be ample time to sort this exam out if you've studied up. I might not pass it with flying colors, but I'd pass it. However, some of them are going to be relevant to the time, and not necessarily to our own.

2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?


Basically assumes a bushel is a standard unit of measure, which may be different than now, and what seem to me would have to be an estimated volume.



1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided

This is 1895 so it's going to precede crucial points such as both world wars, but I think historical epochs is certainly going to be relevant to their time, as I've never really heard US history defined in such terminology. Geological time is described in epochs and eras; the vernacular was not the same back then.


Even if you update it to the times, most kids today are going to bomb this test hardcore. Truth is, a lot of kids today are dumber; it's not just a generation context thing. The state of Georgia is a good example; a good half or better of students don't even finish high school....frikkin' high school. It's just unacceptable.

Offline Kathadon

*clears his throat at the mention of not finishing highschool*

Offline The Overlord

*clears his throat at the mention of not finishing highschool*

This is not to imply that everyone who doesn't make through school is dumb; there's a ton of reasons why people drop.


*ahem*

But there is NO excuse for not returning, barring incapacitating health or an act of god. Don't at least get that GED, and you better get used to saying 'would you like fries with that.'

Offline Kathadon

*chuckles* Yes a GED is madatory for any decent paying job.

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Most students in Arkansas don't graduate high school either.  Especially Helena Arkansas.

Offline ZK

I left High-School at 9th Grade and went on to get a GED. I did that following year. I've also been scouted by two local colleges (And seeing as I am in Georgia, I guess they're looking at test scores instead of type of diploma now days) to join. But as for me leaving, the same applies as to why I haven't attended yet. Unable to in midst of free-time. ALTHOUGH, that is going to change this upcoming Fall. I finally have enough money (and the gov. is going to help me too) to attend to a local community college before going to a campus college.

Offline Trieste

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Even if you update it to the times, most kids today are going to bomb this test hardcore. Truth is, a lot of kids today are dumber; it's not just a generation context thing. The state of Georgia is a good example; a good half or better of students don't even finish high school....frikkin' high school. It's just unacceptable.

I disagree, vehemently. Kids today are different. Judging by the age in your profile, I'm almost half your age, so I've in theory been around them more. My generation and the one developing after me are aimless, but not stupid. I have no idea what you're basing this off of other than 'graduating high school' but it's not a good meterstick. If you're speaking of American children, the American education system is overburdened, underfunded and way overpopulated. I couldn't even begin to talk about other countries, not knowing much about them.

If that is your only measurement, take a look at historical figures and look at some of the people who did not graduate high school. Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, so on and so forth. The stress should not be on formal schooling itself, but actual education. Many people who have done important things and shaped important parts of history were not well-schooled, but they were well-educated. You can graduate someone from the highest Ivy League school and they will still be dumb as a brick if they lack curiosity about their surroundings and an insatiable drive to always learn more. It's the people who ask "How? Why?" who do great things, not necessarily those who have had the luck to be able to walk across a stage and receive a piece of paper.

That's pretty much what it is. I have my diploma sitting across the room from me, where I can see it as I type this. When I received it, my cumulative GPA was 4.15. It's nothing. It's paper. It opens doors, sure, but it doesn't get me through them. *shrug*

Offline Sabby

Dude, I couldn't answer ANY of those >.> I'm not stupid, just not acedemic.

Offline The Overlord

Yeah back in the day, if you were Mark Twain etc., you could make something of yourself with no education, but today, even if we know degrees and diplomas are just pieces of paper, they do open doors for you.

But it's more than that; people like da Vinci could be painters, scholars and inventors, etc., but in past centuries the total sum of human knowledge is magnitudes smaller than it is today. You just can't have that same effect today.

But in more recent years I have gone back into school, where in many of my classes I do have students half my age. And some are aimless, true, but I watch people. I watch them close. A lot of kids today are dumb like a box of rocks.

I can meet them on campus, or kids I see running registers at stores, wandering about shopping malls...you name it. Some of them might even do well on their tests, but you can tell a lot just aren't bright in a practical sense. They can probably install Windows without much of a glance at the instructions, but they have issues counting change. They can beat you at X-box, but they can't critically think their way out of a box.

Some of you may disagree with me here, in fact you all might, but I do stand by what I said. I call them as I see them, plain and simple. You can even be educated and savvy in some respects, but just not be enlightened.

You are correct Trieste; it should be more about formal schooling itself, but actual education. Problem is, this goes beyond high school or college, beyond degrees. Look at popular culture today, it is fashionable and cool to be stupid today, even if indirectly so, an extremely dangerous precedent. I am speaking of American kids too; a lot of school systems outside our borders run circles around many of them within.

Not everything above on the test is academic; some is common knowledge or common sense...or at least should be.

But fact remains, in GA the high school drop out rate is about 52%, or something close to it. Can anyone here honestly say that's good? Again, most kids in 1895 could probably pass that test, but today most might not. I think that makes the case right there.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2008, 09:52:23 AM by The Overlord »

Offline Sabby

I can confidently say I'm an intelligent person, but I struggled with my high school education and barely managed a basic pass. Its sad that your only deemed intelligent if you can conform that brain power in a fashion they recognize. And I do agree with you there, I see it as well. Many people my age (late teens) may be able to work the register, but when it comes to looking you in the eye and having a flowing conversation, they're utterly lost.

Offline The Overlord

I can confidently say I'm an intelligent person, but I struggled with my high school education and barely managed a basic pass. Its sad that your only deemed intelligent if you can conform that brain power in a fashion they recognize.

Now this is a crucial point. Not all institutions of learning are tooled to deal with all students, or recognize intellect in the man forms in which it can appear. If you're unconventionally out of the box, you can be seen as dumb, and IIRC Einstein was seen this way in his formative years, simply because they just couldn't deal with him.


And I do agree with you there, I see it as well. Many people my age (late teens) may be able to work the register, but when it comes to looking you in the eye and having a flowing conversation, they're utterly lost.

This might not just be explained in terms of pure intelligence, but also awareness, which is all part of greater cognizance. In my opinion we have far too many distractions today, and it's killing us an interactive culture. People have their cell phones and other distractions, whether in the car or in a shopping center. Most people obviously think they can multitask reasonably well; the reality is that most are extremely poor at it. It might be part of the nature of the human brain, I know I'm less efficient with more things vying for my attention, so I generally try and keep my distractions to a minimum; and that's the thing I'm aware of it.

Most people do have a certain degree of vacancy about them. You can tell they lack focus. I call it the 'awareness bubble'; and the more stuff you let distract you, the narrower and tighter that bubble recedes around you. In the wild, these people would be the first in a herd to fall prey to something hunting them; in the human wilds they're more likely to miss something crucial like an oncoming vehicle, a purse snatcher, etc. But all you have to do is give popular media a good look and you can't miss the dumb-down effect, and it does trickle to the masses. At least among young white males, the trend is for the urban little bitch that's more concerned about his reputations among his equally clueless buddies, and what John Cena did last week, more than anything significant.

Offline RubySlippersTopic starter

The test is hardly academic either how can a citizen vote responsibly if they don't understand the basics of how government works and our history as a nation? How can one get by without understanding how to use mathematics in everyday applications such as rounding off numbers in your head and making change? And from what I can tell from some segments of our society they need to learn how to use and speak proper English just to be able to work.

I had the benefits of a great works approach at my high school the four years including the study of classical thought of the greatest minds Western Civilization has produced. It gives one a perspective and an understanding on how to think and how to be a responsible person that can take information in critically. And yes I also learned modern subjects as well they felt both were important at my private school. And I should add we took the FCAT for a comparison with public schools we outperformed them in all areas even among disabled students ,my group, and nonnative English speakers etc.. We had an odd program for poor English speakers who were immigrants one semester of just English education learning how to read, write and speak  English then they entered the regular program. And most of us took advantage of summer sessions I completed college level units in Philosophy in the upper grades so these students could easily catch up.

I frankly think the problem is if education is free its not respected as much and parents don't feel the need to be involved. If a parent had to be a consumer and shop around perhaps they would take the matter seriously and had to pay for the education to some degree. My parents paid the cost and so was not shocking they made the demand the education be sound and prepare me for my future. And both never went to college I'm the first college student in my family attending a higher level of education not a trade related one. So the criticism private schools won't properly educate those with learning disabilities and those that are of disadvantaged backgrounds are crazy. In fact it worked because they treated every student the same and demanded high standards and if I didn't do well my parents were informed, and I cared that they would not be proud of me. And I'll blame the teachers union for making the chance of real innovations in the profession almost impossible at our school most teachers belonged to no union or an alternative to the main union.

Want to know the villians as I see it in this mess? The government demanding control of schools at the highest levels of our society instead of local and state control. I blame schools for not demanding the same high standards for every student regardless of their background. I blame parents for not doing their jobs and at least being devoted to supporting their children's education properly, I feel its a major factor as well. And students for in some cases being lazy or not doing what they are supposed to do which is their job, being a student. And even employers for not supporting educations that make sense I see many students in college that would likely do far better training for a profession either in apprenticeships or trade programs which are horribly undersupported in schools. I'm all for the same high standard of education applied to vocational education and learning to enter the world of work.

I have a simple question if a monopoly is generally seen in this country as illegal to have and an unfair mechanism in a free market then why do we allow the government to have one for education? Lets keep this clear my view is they take our tax money in the county and state, the Federal government says how public schools can educate children and set dubious standards and then tell the parents how a child should be educated. Now I fully support the State and more local government levels handling education but the Federal government is in violation of its powers doing what they are doing. Our tenth and ninth amendments pretty much should be enough of support for that the right is reserved for the States and the citizens alone.

Offline Elvi

Perhaps a little perspective needs to be taken into account?

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=141
Digital History:

A Distant Mirror: The Late Nineteenth Century

Period: 1880s 

Quote
Perhaps most striking to us was the lack of formal education. Only about three in five children attended school in a typical year, and they only attended about 80 days a year, compared to 180 today. Most left school in their early teens. Only about two-and-a-half percent of the school-aged population graduated from high school. Advanced degrees beyond college were almost unheard of. In 1877, only one Master's degree was conferred in the whole country.

Offline Sabby

Ah, so they weren't all super genius's back then. The tests were just insanely stupidly hard. Probably to funnel the best jobs and cushier lifestyles to people like the Colonel.

Offline The Overlord

Ah, so they weren't all super genius's back then. The tests were just insanely stupidly hard. Probably to funnel the best jobs and cushier lifestyles to people like the Colonel.

Hey I understand it's been even worse in some countries. Accounts I've heard of Russia, at least in past years, is that kids took a test and based on what parts you can or cannot do, you get locked into certain jobs. Can't do math? Can't spell well? You're probably breaking your face on rocks in Siberia for the next 40 years (OK that might be a stereotype but you're getting a shit job).

Point is, the bar has been lowered too far here, and it's going to remain an increasing issue until it's corrected.



Offline Cecilia

Okay folks...To prove the point...if you've just spent several weeks studying something, you can answer all sorts of questions about it...

Here're a few questions given to my daughter's 7th grade class in May of this year--just a month ago....Can you answer them straight-away?  I can tell you where to find the answers and I can find them myself, but I wouldn't have remembered them "off the top of my head."

Who adopted Michelangelo and why?
He was called back to Rome, to do what against his will?

When was Raphel Sanzio born?  To Whom was he apprenticed?  What did Pope Julius In Rome ask him to paint?

To Whom was Leonardo Da Vinci Apprenticed?
Name Four prototypes Da Vinci designed.
What did the 'sfumato" technique try to convey?

How much to you think the laws of perspective, accurate observation, laws of light and color, and knowledge of human anatomy play into the art of the great Renaissance artists? Explain.

Offline LaCroix

I have to agree with the points that Trieste brought forth and back them up in some fashion if I can manage it. Kids today, people today, are definately not less educated than any generation that has come before.

I, myself, am a college graduate and I could answer a handfull of those questions but the simple fact of the matter is I haven't studied for the test. The kids who were taking that exam, who were expected to complete and pass that exam studied for it. They prepared for it weeks, maybe even a month or more ahead of time in advance.

To provide further evidence how much of your education through gradeschool and middle school do you actually remember? Without looking it up, those of who had to memorize the Gettysburg address for example go ahead and quote it back word for word and lets see far along you get with it.

Language, math, the aplhabet, common knowledge that you learn and then use again and again in everyday life you retain and keep with you. Other things, things that you had to learn for a test, for an exam, that you never use again after that is over with you generally simply do not retain and just because you can't remember that doesn't make you stupid.

I, for one, as someone else pointed couldn't solve the question using a bale of hay (or wheat) I forget as a standard unit of measurement as it seemed from the question that it was and that doesn't make me stupider than someone who in 1895 could solve the question because it was common knowledge.

It would be like me going back in a time machine, asking some businessman or other highly educated individual to solve some algebra forumla using my texas instrument calculator and then when he looks at me like I'm insane, pointing at him, laughing in his face and going "Aha you dumbass! Goddamn you people were dumbasses in 1895!"

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

That's alot of blame to be passed around.  With so much going around the solution might not be a simple change in who runs the place.

Also, saying people are dumber today is a bit off.  I mean, just because this test looks hard doesn't mean we had geniuses walking around.  Considering the amount of beliefs regarding the inferiority of race and sex they believed, I'm not going to say we got dumber.  We may not be smarter, but I seriously doubt we are dumber.

Online Darwishi

I can confidently say I'm an intelligent person, but I struggled with my high school education and barely managed a basic pass. Its sad that your only deemed intelligent if you can conform that brain power in a fashion they recognize. And I do agree with you there, I see it as well. Many people my age (late teens) may be able to work the register, but when it comes to looking you in the eye and having a flowing conversation, they're utterly lost.

See now, calling a person dumb because they can't hold a conversation is rather judgemental.  I mean, I've got a pretty good skill set at my disposal.  I do video editing, writing, and animating.

Now, only one of those things are taught as a core class in schools.  I actually hated English in school because I had to read what other authors did, or write reports.  As I got older, the creative writing assignments all but dried up.  It actually took me going to an art school for animation to realize that I really do love to write.  Point being, that they don't always teach the students what they're passionate about.

So how does that tie in to the quote? Well I can't really hold a long conversation with anyone, mostly because I run out of things to say.  Or if it's with a woman, then my brain shuts down and I can't think of anything.  At all.  Then again, that happens whenever I get nervous, and around strangers, especially women, I just can't speak.  Not because I don't want to, or can't, or that I'm dumb.  It's just, my brain either gets overloaded with information, or I can't think of anything to say.

And honestly, I'm not one for gossip.  I don't really feel like I should say anything unless I feel it's necessary. 

----------

Alright, that's my little vent on that topic.  As for the education system, you can blame Bush for that one.  No Child Left Behind dictates that every student learns in the exact same way, at the exact same level as everyone else.  This means that the government hands out lesson plans and the teacher HAS to follow them or they're penalized.  Teacher's are not allowed to be creative, and it hurts the students.  If the teachers try to be creative, let's say there's a lunar eclipse, then they cannot give special assignments to teach the students about a lunar eclipse. 

The education system, for a long time, has been just going down hill.  Every time they get rid of something creative it just slides a little bit further into the communist frame.  And if you don't think public schools are little societies of communism, you really ought to take a second look.  Especially with No Child Left Behind, but even before that, a superb teacher gets paid the EXACT same amount as that suck-teacher that didn't teach you a damn thing.  The only way teachers get paid more is if they have worked longer.  But there again, the suck-teachers (I'm refraining from curse words) that work as long as the others, still get paid the same amount. 

And now they're treating students like they all learn the same way.  Personally I'm a very, very, visual learner.  I have to have my hands on it to really get what the hell is going on.  Sure, I can memorize stuff for a test, but I'll forget it.  Other people are auditory learners, they remember anything they listen to... Point is, everyone learns in different ways, which means teachers have to teach in different ways to make their students understand the concepts. 

Private schools don't have this problem.  If a teacher does well, they pay them more, if they do too poorly they can just fire the teacher.  Not to mention they don't have to follow the public school mandates.  But on the flip side of that is that not everyone can afford private schools.  So it's not as if we can just do away with public schools either.  I mean, sure, if your parents happen to have the money for them, then that's great...but what about the majority of the populace that doesn't have the money?

Offline RubySlippersTopic starter

Sure the parents could afford private schools just eliminate Federal and State funding for education K-12 and above and take tat share of tax revenue giving it back to the parents. Then let the free market create schools and various models from home schooling to perhaps fully local community funding of localized public schools. That way parents and local government will have all the control and can decide to fund it, what model to have and can tell the teachers union they are not welcome. But you give people something free they won't usually respect it. You give the government control over schools you get more government mandates and the parents lose their control, the more layers of government red tape the more this is worsened.

And I went to a private school and as a Catholic School was rather affordable and I was well educated and no I'm not Catholic they didn't care.

Online Darwishi

When you say, "give it back to the parents" do you mean giving them the actual money back?  Because, some parents will take that money and pay their bills with it. 

I get where you're coming from, I tend to agree with the libertarian party more than any other party, the education slope is about the only slippery slope I see.  Actually there's always a crap ton of slippery slopes in politics, but this is the one I'm most concerned about.  Well that and economic collapse, but that's a whole different story.

Mostly I believe there should be less government mandates over schools and the teachers should work in a captalist based program. I really don't even begin to know how that program would work, but at the very least it'd give teachers some incentive to be good teachers and do more for their students.  Yeah, it should come from the heart, but honestly even the one's that start out doing well my get a little burned when they suddenly realize that "Hey this isn't fair." 

Give recess back to the kids, let them have fun during the school day, don't squash the arts, and don't do stupid communistic (is that even a word?) generalizations and test kids to death.  Teachers that teach to a test means that kids don't learn...except maybe to memorize.