## Dumbing down our education

Well, 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. 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.

Students were given FIVE HOURS to complete.
’ a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?! No wonder they dropped out after 8th grade. They already knew more than they needed to know!
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I’m buggered if I could pass that, even after college. It appears mostly to be fact and rule based memory work. A very tough test, but not much requirement to think for yourself or express original ideas. We are more enlightened now because we appreciate that wrote learning is not as valuable as the kind where you learn to analyse information and express your originality.
Or do we?
Contrast with the attitudes of those responsible for education policy today in Texas

Texas Republican delegates met earlier this month to put together their 2012 platform. Much of this focused on the educational system. Alarmingly, they openly state that they oppose schools teaching critical thinking, on the grounds that it may challenge ’student’s fixed beliefs’ and undermine ‘parental authority.’ Page 12 of their official platform(Pdf) discusses their thinking on teaching thinking."

In other words, if kids can learn how to think critically they might reject their religious teachings and realize how dumb their parents and law-makers are.
It must be really difficult to teach kids who can think, if you are as intelligent as a horse’s ass.

The party also notes its encouragement of legislation that prevents “non-citizens unlawfully present in the United States” from enrolling in public schools, a stance that federal officials have previously deemed against the law.

At least Texas still has corporal punishment in its school, so dumb-ass teachers can beat the shit our of any kid who thinks he understands something.

1 Vote
##### In answer to dumbing down education by Anonymous

Good article, but, some of your comments are somewhat off base. Also, if you could pass the 8th grade test of your grandfather, you would probably know the difference between wrote and rote.

In order to think, you must have something in your head to think about. The more facts you know, the more you are able to assimilate them in critical thinking. You can’t teach people to think. What you may be able to do is teach them a method (and mind set) for analyzing facts they have acquired.

Just for fun, lift your head, look at your ceiling and surroundings. After thinking about it, draw an accurate diagram of the electrical system. You’ll find that you need a few facts and a method, previously stored in your brain.

Another, very old, thought experiment is to meditate; empty your mind of all symbols; and wait for a pure thought to come, without the use of any symbol.

On the subject of the dumb-ass teachers; Someone very close to me once expressed the thought that the teachers should at least be as smart as the kids they are trying to teach.

On the subject of “non-citizens unlawfully present in the United States”; Why would I want to spend my (tax) money to educate criminals?

Keep up the thought provoking articles.

##### RE: In answer to dumbing down education by Occams

Intereesting thoughts, thanks.

I was so incensed by the suggestion that children should be denied instruction on critical thinking that my anger caused me to go of somewhat half cocked.

I think that a child can and should be taught critical thinking (how to think, not what to think) before he (herin male pronouns include the female) is exposed to a huge range of “facts”. Some of those facts will probably be political and religious instruction, and it would be better if kids had the tools to make up their own mind about whether what they are being taught is true. They should know to ask themselves questions like: Why is he telling me this improbable stuff? What are his assumptions, beliefs, and prejudices? What is the evidence? What does he have invested in my belief? What do other credible educated people think? Where can I get the full story?

Also, if you could pass the 8th grade test of your grandfather, you would probably know the difference between wrote and rote.

Got me there. True, but spelling is merely arbitrary knowledge and therefore not intrinsically very valuable or interesting in my opinion. This is probably why I never wrote this one to memory. You got my meaning, so my communication was effective. I agree that it can sometimes be important, so an educated person should have a good knowledge of spelling. Really that is only because there are so many pedagogues, like you, who feel superior because they can spell well. These errors are usually overlooked on international forums like this. I have lived most of my life where they use English English, so my spelling is a bit off sometimes by parochial standards..

For me, knowlege is either intrinsically true and valuable, or arbitrary and man made and therefore of limited value. To illustrate this, Compare an engineer with a lawyer. The engineer understands science, the laws of nature and the universe. He can use this to make huge heavy machines fly over oceans, and to send HD color movies through space. This is because those laws apply everywhere and to everything. (Scottb will no doubt have sub atomic quantum examples where the engineer’s knowledge is wrong, but that is still scientifice knowledge that can be applied to technology). By contrast, the lawyer has a sound knowledge of the legislation and court practice of one, or a few jurisdictions and his knowledge is incorrect if he moves very far. He can ( often, but not without major risk) achieve a favorable outcome in a court where the man made laws are supreme, but he does not understand how his toaster works.

I don’t think that good teachers must be more intelligent (smarter) than their students but they should be able to recognize the bright ones and help them to reach their full potential. Critical thinking skills will be the key to that.

On the subject of “non-citizens unlawfully present in the United States”; Why would I want to spend my (tax) money to educate criminals?

Duh! Isin’t it obvious? So that they will not be standing around on street corners dealing drugs for a living because that is all they know how to do. They are not all like that but you confined this discussion to the criminals among them. While those people are living here, they represent a resource of the United states. It would be fooliosh not to develop the full potential of that resource for our economy. If they were able to get good employment, serve in the military, care for their families and pay taxes, this country would be better for all of us and you would get a full return on your tax dollar that was used to educate them. Once they are paying fair taxes they are not freeloading on the welfare system or the education system.

The Asians who came here after the Korean and Vietnam wars were given a good welfare deal and have proved that they are as hard working and productive as the rest of us (on average, moreso).

When Texans find themselves talking like this they shoiuld take a deep breath and have a fresh look at the world, without the selfish distortions of their conservative upbringing and political environment. They need to develop their critical thinking skills.