Thursday, April 3, 2008

Eighth Grade Just Isn't Like It Used to Be...in 1895

Thanks to my chairperson, who passed this along to me. Gives a whole new meaning to the good old days.


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, KS, AND REPRINTED BY THE SALINA JOURNAL.


GIVE NINE RULES FOR THE USE OF CAPITAL LETTERS.
NAME THE PARTS OF SPEECH AND DEFINE THOSE THAT HAVE NO MODIFICATIONS. DEFINE VERSE, STANZA AND PARAGRAPH.
WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPAL PARTS OF A VERB?
GIVE PRINCIPAL PARTS OF "LIE", "PLAY", AND "RUN."
DEFINE CASE; ILLUSTRATE EACH CASE.
WHAT IS PUNCTUATION?
GIVE RULES FOR PRINCIPAL MARKS OF PUNCTUATION.
WRITE A COMPOSITION OF ABOUT 150 WORDS AND SHOW THEREIN THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THE PRACTICAL USE OF THE RULES OF GRAMMAR.

NAME AND DEFINE THE FUNDAMENTAL RULES OF ARITHMETIC.
A WAGON BOX IS 2 FT. DEEP, 10 FEET LONG, AND 3 FT. WIDE. HOW MANY BUSHELS OF WHEAT WILL IT HOLD?
IF A LOAD OF WHEAT WEIGHS 3942 LBS., WHAT IS IT WORTH AT 50CTS/BUSHEL, DEDUCTING 1050 LBS. FOR TARE?
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?
FIND THE COST OF 6720 LBS. COAL AT $6.00 PER TON.
FIND THE INTEREST OF $512.60 FOR 8 MONTHS AND 18 DAYS AT 7 PERCENT.
WHAT IS THE COST OF 40 BOARDS 12 INCHES WIDE AND 16 FT. LONG AT $20 PER METER?
FIND BANK DISCOUNT ON $300 FOR 90 DAYS (NO GRACE) AT 10 PERCENT.
WHAT IS THE COST OF A SQUARE FARM AT $15 PER ACRE , THE DISTANCE OF WHICH IS 640 RODS?
WRITE A BANK CHECK, A PROMISSORY NOTE, AND A RECEIPT

HISTORY (TIME, 45 MINUTES)
GIVE THE EPOCHS INTO WHICH U.S. HISTORY IS DIVIDED.
GIVE AN ACCOUNT OF THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA BY COLUMBUS .
RELATE THE CAUSES AND RESULTS OF THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR.
SHOW THE TERRITORIAL GROWTH OF THE UNITED STATES.
TELL WHAT YOU CAN OF THE HIST ORY OF KANSAS .
DESCRIBE THREE OF THE MOST PROMINENT BATTLES OF THE REBELLION.
WHO WERE THE FOLLOWING: MORSE, WHITNEY, FULTON , BELL , LINCOLN , PENN, AND HOWE?
NAME EVENTS CONNECTED WITH TH E FOLLOWING DATES: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, AND 1865.

ORTHOGRAPHY (TIME, ONE HOUR) : (DO WE EVEN KNOW WHAT THIS IS???)
WHAT IS MEANT BY THE FOLLOWING: ALPHABET, PHONETIC, ORTHOGRAPHY, ETYMOLOGY, AND SYLLABICATION.
WHAT ARE ELEMENTARY SOUNDS? HOW CLASSIFIED?
WHAT ARE THE FOLLOWING, AND GIVE EXAMPLES OF EACH: TRIGRAPH, SUB VOCAL, DIPHTHONG, COGNATE LETTERS, AND LINGUAL.
GIVE FOUR SUBSTITUTES FOR CARET 'U.' (HUH?)
GIVE TWO RULES FOR SPELLING WORDS WITH FINAL 'E.' NAME TWO EXCEPTIONS UNDER EACH RULE.
GIVE TWO USES OF SILENT LETTERS IN SPELLING. ILLUSTRATE EACH.
DEFINE THE FOLLOWING PREFIXES AND USE IN CONNECTION WITH A WORD: BI-, DIS-, MIS-, PRE-, SEMI-, POST-, NON-, INTER-, MONO-, AND SUP- .
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.
USE THE FOLLOWING CORRECTLY IN SENTENCES: CITE, SITE, SIGHT, FANE, FAIN, FEIGN, VANE, VAIN, VEIN, RAZE, RAISE, RAYS.
WRITE 10 WORDS FREQUENTLY MISPRONOUNCED AND INDICATE PRONUNCIATION BY USE OF DIACRITICAL MARKS AND BY SYLLABICATION.

GEOGRAPHY (TIME, ONE HOUR)
WHAT IS CLIMATE? UPON WHAT DOES CLIMATE DEPEND?
HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR THE EXTREMES OF CLIMATE IN KANSAS ?
OF WHAT USE ARE RIVERS?
OF WHAT USE IS THE OCEAN?
DESCRIBE THE MOUNTAINS OF NORTH AMERICA .
NAME AND DESCRIBE THE FOLLOWING: MONROVIA , ODESSA , DENVER , MANITOBA , HECLA , YUKON , ST. HELENA, JUAN FERNANDEZ, ASPINWALL AND ORINOCO . NAME AND LOCATE THE PRINCIPAL TRADE CENTERS OF THE U.S.
NAME ALL THE REPUBLICS OF EUROPE AND GIVE THE CAPITAL OF EACH.
WHY IS THE ATLANTIC COAST COLDER THAN THE PACIFIC IN THE SAME LATITUDE?

DESCRIBE THE PROCESS BY WHICH THE WATER OF THE OCEAN RETURNS TO THE SOURCES OF RIVERS.
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?

14 comments:

BrooklynWolf said...

You might want to check this out.

The Wolf

d said...

Wolf - I was about to look for some enlightenment from Scopes when I saw that you beat me to it. It sounded fishy - too good to be true.

Hey, Chazal say אם הראשונים כּמלאכים אנו כּבני אדם ..., but I thought that was a Jewish thing.

Anyway, I would like to make two additional points to add to what Scopes says.

1) I believe that graduating eighth grade then was not like doing so today, rather perhaps like college or HS today. The percentage of youngsters who were educated to high levels was low. The masses didn't get far usually, that was mostly the province of a small group.

2) There are different ways of making tests. One way is to make it very hard so that a 100% score is basically unattainable. That enables better evaluation of the higher scorers. On the other hand, that tends to be seen as too harsh nowadays and not done all that often, if at all. Anyway, I think the 1895 test may have been of the first type, so that explains why it seems so hard.

Numi said...

Brooklynwolf and D, I also went to Snopes, but your comments don't tell what Snopes said. This test is not a fake. It was really given where and when it said it did. It is not an urban myth.

Snopes objection was to the asking if we today could pass this test. The point the authors made was that different things are important at different time periods, and we don't teach a lot of what was tested then any more. They also make the point that the students who were taking this test had just learned the material and had studied a lot for the test.

As to their comment that who learns the stuff on the test any more, some teachers do teach this material, maybe with different names then are used in the test. Useless information today? We could use a lot more grammar and spelling today. Americans murder their language, beginning with our President. Basic arithmetic? Being obliterated with our dependence on electronic helpers. Geography? Americans score just about the lowest in the world in this subject. May be why our country is so sure that Iraq and Afghanstan were so vital for the US--they are right around the corner, didn't you know?

mlevin said...

numi - and how many Americans finished 8th grade in 1895? Exactly, not everyone finished school in those days. Only the ones who wanted to, or ones who were forced to by their well to do parents.

Now let's take away from the main population today those people who couldn't care less about their education and then remove majority of the poor and lowest middle class. Now that you have accomplished that, please ask your questions about math, geography, sciences and grammar those people that remained. Your statistics are going to give a different result. Right?

I'm really sick and tired of how people complain about American education and then go to compare it to other countries, without regard to other countries' educational system. Let's take Russian education for example. Everyone claims that Russian highschooler graduates know more than American. But what they don't take into consideration that in Russia after 8th grade one has a choice of going on to high school or a trade school. In trade school one learns a trade and makes some money, in high school one learns academics and doesn't bring money. So, only best, brightest and richest go on to high school. The rest do not know math, geography, grammar, literature and etc.

ProfK said...

Okay, perhaps a few facts about compulsory education in the US.

"Until the 1840s the education system was highly localized and available only to wealthy people. Reformers who wanted all children to gain the benefits of education opposed this. Prominent among them were Horace Mann in Massachusetts and Henry Barnard in Connecticut. Mann started the publication of the Common School Journal, which took the educational issues to the public. The common-school reformers argued for the case on the belief that common schooling could create good citizens, unite society and prevent crime and poverty. As a result of their efforts, free public education at the elementary level was available for all American children by the end of the 19th century. Massachusetts passed the first compulsory school attendance laws in 1852, followed by New York in 1853. By 1918 all states had passed laws requiring children to attend at least elementary school. The Catholics were, however, opposed to common schooling and created their own private schools. Their decision was supported by the 1925 Supreme Court rule in Pierce v. Society of Sisters that states could not compel children to attend public schools, and that children could attend private schools instead."(A History of Public Education in the United States by Deeptha Thattai)

Further research shows that Kansas fell in the middle of the group requiring at least elementary school education, so that by 1895 all WHITE children, with exceptions made in some areas for women, were in school at least through 8th grade.

The test posted here, therefore, was not only for children from wealthy homes, nor only for those who "wanted" to go to school. School was required.

The posting does not say how many of the students passed the test, nor with what scores. A fact of educational life is that some people do better in school than others, for reasons of interest or ability or personal background. That was true back then and still holds true today.

As an educator and one who went through the American public school system, I can state from experience that curriculum has changed, emphasis has changed and accomplishment has changed.

"During the 1980s and 1990s, virtually all states have given unprecedented attention to their role in raising education standards. A federal report published in 1983 indicated very low academic achievement in public schools. This resulted in states taking up more responsibility and involvement. This report, A Nation at Risk, suggested that American students were outperformed on international academic tests by students from other industrial societies. Statistics also suggested that American test scores were declining over time. As a result, most states have implemented reform strategies that emphasize more frequent testing conducted by states, more effective state testing, and more state-mandated curriculum requirements." (op cit)

Mike S. said...

Frankly, I wish schools would change their curricular faster. Take the case of math. When I was a kid, we learned to take square roots by hand--even in those days, a total waste of time. The algorithm, as we were taught it, offered no insight into the mathematics of square roots, and was of no practical value, the slide rule having been invented 150 years earlier (the pocket calculator was yet to come). There is today no justification for teaching kids long division, although every school I know does it; it similarly offers neither insight nor practical importance. The time would be far better spent helping the kids really understand the relationship among multiplication, division and fractions, something many kids struggle with.

Similarly, time spent on cursive penmanship is a total waste, and a further way to frustrate the boys, who often have trouble with fine motor skills at the age when cursive is being taught.

Ditto the science lessons, which are far more often vocabulary memorization than anything interesting, important or representative of what science is.

d said...

If you dig deeper and go to one of the articles about it given by scopes (http://www.salina.com/rdcommunity/progress/story/1895-Eighth-grade-test-SE1-0123082008-02-22T16-03-32) you will see that the test was only given once, so it may have been an experimental thing and not a typical test.

Prof. K., honestly, do you believe that typical Kansas males in 1896 were all so well educated ?

Another point to ponder is that even if a law was on the books requiring education to eight grade for all males in Kansas then, does that mean that it was so widely observed? Perhaps it was more honored in the breach than in the observance.

A bigger question might be if the school that offered this test was a typical school, which people seem to be assuming. Perhaps it was some kind of extra-special, high-level, exclusive school, for rich kids, children of educators, the super-smart/high-achievers, that type of population. Maybe it was a school which produced teachers ?

Bottom line - I don't buy the notion that they were all so-great and that we are all so much behind them.

It reminds me of people that say or give the impression that everything in 'der alter heim' was so much better than today, and that the 'good ol days' were all so great, that Yeshiva bochurim years ago were typically so much better than those now.

Not necessarily so in those cases and not necessarily so here (the exhortation in Koheles about saying that the olden days were better comes to mind too).

P.S. Also my point about using very hard tests to better evaluate students was not responded to above. Let us ask, what average marks were on such type of tests then vs. average marks on tests given today ?

ProfK said...

d,

Re " honestly, do you believe that typical Kansas males in 1896 were all so well educated ?"--careful, your New York/east coast ethnocentrism may be showing. The great waves of immigration swamped the two coasts, the East Coast in particular. Test scores there would be expected to show wide diversity because of the diverse and somewhat "under educated" population. The heartland, and Kansas qualifies, would have had a more homogenous population where facts about country and culture would have been fairly widely known and would not have been in competition with a number of other cultural pieces of information. Methodology would have remained fairly constant.

When I was in high school my school was consistently ranked among the top 10 schools in the US--in Portland, Oregon. Oregon, Kansas, it's not the state, it's the attitude and aptitudes and cultural climate of the inhabitants, the school boards and the students.

"Let us ask, what average marks were on such type of tests then vs. average marks on tests given today ?" The scores cannot be compared nor the tests either. It's one of those common fallacies that people fall into when using statistics. In order to compare two items there must be congruence between them. Since testing involves students and also involves what those students were taught, those would need to be identical in order for the comparative statistics to be valid and meaningful. Average taken how? The median? The mean? The mode? What was the passing mark? What tests do we have today that are 5 hours in length, cover the multitude of subjects the 1895 one did, and are administered to youngsters in the eighth grade? What was the scoring rubric used for both tests? Are they comparable?

Please note that there were no multiple choice questions on the test posted. Now look at the "national" tests in use today--multiple choice across all of them. Comparing scores on a test such as the PSAT or the Iowas, with their multiple choice format, to the scores on a test such as the 1895 test, with its essay question format is, as my mother would put it, comparing tzitzis with matzahs.

Re "Bottom line - I don't buy the notion that they were all so-great and that we are all so much behind them." I'm not sure that that is really what we should be getting out of looking at the test. It is we, today, who reverse your statement and say that we are so much better, whatever that is, then they were then. There seems to be an assumption that educational progress follows a direct time line in a straight line: time passes and we improve. Educational progress goes up and down over time and sometimes stalls and flat lines.

What I find kind of amusing is that reactions to the publication of the test over the past few years have mostly been defensive ones. Why not just look at it as another puzzle piece in the history of education in the US?

ProfK said...

Mike,

Cursive writing is not taught at all now in many school systems due to the preponderance of computers in the country; keyboarding is considered the more valuable skill. My students have to type all work submitted to me. Just a wry observance though. Handwriting has become so awful now, with some people who don't know script at all, that I can see us coming back to people marking an X where it says "signature" on documents because they don't know how to write their names.

The dependence on machinery for mathematical functions produces some truly strange practical problems. Many times I have been in stores shopping where there have been signs advertising "% off" sales. Many times I have heard younger shoppers trying to figure out just what the price of the item will actually be after the sale discount, and they are off, way off, because estimating is not taught any longer. If you use a calculator how will you know if you have gotten the right answer, and didn't, perhaps, press the wrong keys? You need to have some familiarity with basic concepts and terminology.

I was a high school AP when the Regents first allowed calculators to be used on some of the Math Regents questions. Along with the answer key for marking the Regents we were also sent an ironic note by the state. We were told that if students marked the wrong answer on those questions for which they were to use a calculator, we were not to mark them wrong, since the mistaken answer could have been as a result of error in using the calculator.

Language acquisition starts with basic words and builds up to sentences. Science works somewhat the same way: first you need to know the words, the terms, before you can fully "speak science" in a meaningful way.

Does our curriculum need overhauling? I believe it does need to be revamped. I think we are heading in the wrong direction in some areas. Unfortunately, with all the "cooks" involved in education today, change comes verrrry slowly when it comes at all. And change to curriculum in many yeshivas comes not at all, or goes in the wrong direction completely.

mlevin said...

Prof K & Mike - I agree and disagree with you both. Yes, we do not need to teach penmanship, but we still need to teach how to write in both script and print. Penmanship in my understanding is a perfect way to write letters. We do not need to require perfection in this area because computers are there, but we still need to require knowledge.

Same goes for Math. One does not need to be fluent in long division, but children must know the mechanics of long division before being allowed to use a calculator.

Sciences are not being taught right. I agree. One does not need to memorize pages of definitions in order to understand scientific concepts. Eventually, after hearing the same terms over and over again, one will know these terms without suffering through memorization nightmare.

For example I spoke to someone who went through medical school. She said that you have to memorize all bone names for the MCATS. Well, she did, but she forgot them all after that exam. In medical school, however, they were referencing bones by name all the time. By graduation, she already knew them in her sleep.

I am very much against memorization because it does not teach one to think or to be logical.

Mike S. said...

Prof K.: I am all in favor of teaching kids to estimate, to know how to do a division problem to 1 significant figure and the like. Those are both useful, and related to a conceptual understanding of the operation. Anyone who wants do divide 623874 by 28 using long division is an idiot.

As far as signatures, what good are they? I don't even sign my tax returns anymore. I still have to sign credit card slips on those silly machines, but I don't see how one could prove I had done so if I challenged one. My children certainly wasted time on it though.

As a physicist, I have to disagree with you strongly about the science. Yes, you need to know the vocabulary, but you learn that in passing as you use it to discuss real concepts. Look at what happens when you start studying physics is high school; you learn all kinds of new concepts, and learn the vocabulary as you go; no one would think of beginning a physics course by spending the first 2 months giving definitions for all the terms to be memorized. Yet I have seen many children who attend well regarded schools have science lessons that consist of nothing other than vocabulary drill for years. A kid who can define "homeostasis" but doesn't understand the role of experiment in science should make us all weep.

mlevin said...

Mike S. you said "no one would think of beginning a physics course by spending the first 2 months giving definitions for all the terms to be memorized" Oh, you're so wrong. Have you seen the current high school math curriculum in NY. First year an a half is mostly definitions which must be memorized and passed or no HS diploma, and then the second year and a half is actual concepts. I really want to meet an idiot who came up with that idea.

Basically children who go HS in NY end up hating Math (unless they were taught on a side) and do not want to take the second half. Those who actually take that second half are amazed that math could be interesting.

Mike S. said...

mlevin: OK. I take back that part of the post. Since I don't live in NY, I didn't realize they could be so silly.

ProfK said...

Mike,
Mlevin's comment illustrates what I meant about the course of education not being a straight one with real progress at every point. Some of the curricular approaches defy logic and reason.