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Thursday, February 16. 2006
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8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, Kansas - 1895
Is this a hoax or not? It is not, after further research. For details of its provenance, read footnotes on page here.
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 from Salina, Kansas. It was taken
Grammar (Time, one hour)
Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
Orthography (Time, one hour)
Geography (Time, one hour)
The top of the test states > "EXAMINATION GRADUATION QUESTIONS OF SALINE COUNTY, KANSAS
According to the Smoky Valley Genealogy Society, Salina, Kansas "this test is the original eighth-grade final exam for 1895 from Salina, KS. An interesting note is the fact that the county students taking this test were allowed to take the test in the 7th grade, and if they did not pass the test at that time, they were allowed to re-take it again in the 8th grade."
(Image is the Grapetown, Texas, one-room schoolhouse, built around 1880. Please leave your guns on the front porch, kids.)
For a related link on historic American education, click here.
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Absolutely incredible..... and I'm old enough to have attended school when kids were still educated properly. I don't think I could pass that test, even today.
Oh, crap! I looked at the first few questions and knew I had no chance of passing. I know I used to know some of these things, but as I am now 50, I have forgotten most.
And most of the questions I cain't answer! Good Heavens!
I feel so uneducated! And I always thought Robert Heinlein's musings on education at the beginning of the Twentieth Century - with Latin and Greek classes in elementary school! - was a load of hooey!
Now I know. He was right, and I was under-educated.
Great post- and humbling too.
We aren't as smart as we'd like to think...
Having lived through the experience of private elementary, secondary, college, and law school, I think I can safely say I feel none of my graduating high shcool, college, or law school classmates could have passed that test.
I want to go beat down the doors of all of those institutions and demand my money back!
Outstanding post. I wish you could get wider distribution for it. I am old enough that I went to grades 1-12 in schools before political correctness and in an area where the NEA didn't have a strangle hold on the teachers and schools.
But, I must admit that my 8'th grade was not nearly that tough. Also, I do remember talking to my grandparents, who only finished high school, and marveling that their eduction appeared to be on a level with what I was learning in college. In some cases, e.g. history, penmanship, spelling, English--their HS education was superior to my HS plus my 4 year college degree education.
Thank you, this posting made me think and brought back some very pleasant memories of my parents and grandparents.
Sorry to spoil this for all of you, but definitely an urband legend/ hoax.
Check it out:
Actually, Snopes doesn't claim it's a hoax.
"Claim: An 1895 graduation examination for public school students demonstrates a shocking decline in educational standards.
Snopes then goes on to say:
Origins: This item, purportedly a final examination for graduating eighth grade students (or graduating high school students, depending upon which version you have) is of interest because it's supposed to be documentary evidence of how shockingly our educations have declined over the last century or so. Why, most adults couldn't muster a passing score on this test today, people think; that mere schoolkids were expected to pass it is proof that the typical school curriculum has been steeply "dumbed down" over the years, pundits claim:
The object of this exercise was only to reveal what many of us have known for some time. The dumbing down of American public education over the past 100 years has been substantial, particularly in the last 50 years. When Great-grandma says she only had an eighth-grade education, don't smirk.
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 this is an actual test, it reveals that we don't teach a lot of things we should. But we do teach touchy-feely garbage best left to Family, not a school.
Read Snopes closely...they aren't saying the exam is a hoax...they're saying it the test isn't relevant, or something...I'm not sure what Snopes is trying to prove here, but they definitely aren't rendering an opinion as to the authenticity of the exam.
This test was around long before Snopes. I was given a copy similar to it by the mother of one of my fifth grade students fifteen years ago. She collected antiques and old books and acquired a copy of it. I showed it to my grandmother and she remembered taking tests similar to it.
I have letters my great great grandmother wrote to my great grandfather and her handwriting was elegant and her writing was very grammatical and full of interesting observations.
My grandmother told me that in many rural communities in her day children only went to school about three months out of the year; the rest of the time they worked on the farm or homestead, helping out the family.
She also told me that they all loved to read Dickens. I don't think Dickens is required reading even in high school anymore and yet Dickens is what was popular a hundred years ago.
I have a masters degree and consider myself to be generally well educated, but when my high school aged daughter brought home a test from her "great, but hard teacher", I was astonished! I could not have answered a quarter of the questions! I agree with Snopes, that unless one has recently been exposed to the material in a class where it has been explained, the tests given on that material will be difficult for most.
Actually, it is claiming that it is a hoax in terms of the "1895 final exam line". It was never given as an exam. That is the hoax.
The truthorfiction.com website has seen the original test and it has nothing on it that says it is for 8th graders, in fact, it has parts that infer it to be some type of certificate passing test.
Here is the truthorfiction web page:
Why should we believe it to be an 8th grade test just because someone says it was, I think the proof needs to be from the person saying it is an 8th grade test, not from truthorfiction.com to say it isn't an 8th grade test.
It seems to many that many of the questions are pitched towards the way that people saw and understood the world at that time. Many of the questions I couldn't answer because I didn't understand that verbage that they were using.
Imagine if you were at Caveman High School and your final exam was to flint-knap a Clovis point. We'd all fail. Does that mean that we're ignorant? No, it just means that they are testing the skills that are relevant to their society at that time.
> 7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell,
> Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
This line makes me wonder about when this was actually written. Why would they say "who were" about Bell? Alexander Graham Bell died in 1922, long after this test was supposedly written.
I remember some similar questions in school (back in the 50's and 60's) but this would not be one final exam - looks like a compilation of multiple exams with all the hardest, most obsure, and specialized classes of about 50 years of schooling - at one time when I was studying some of the specialized areas like the math and measurements I could probably have passed that part, Other years the history or grammar sections (I remember the teacher trying to get me to learn just about everything there, but only understood about half of it at the time) I did read encyclopedias and dictionaries like people browse the internet now, so I had an advantage in learning a wide range of history and geography, but even then that was unusual. Now people learn different things, but too much basic background is sometimes left out, teaching to the lower common denominator so that almost everyone can be above average (on something) -JG
Bet none of the kids in 1895 could answer any of the Computing question my kids got in their standard Grade 5 tests, or for that manner, anything about WWI, WWII or the periodic table of the elements. Kids aren't given any more school hours, but they have to learn heaps more nowdays.
This is an interesting idea, however, would a young person from 1895 understand how to "surf the net", send a text message, pay a bill online, operate a satellite tv remote...in short, modern life certainly comes equipped with a fairly steep learning curve that we shouldn't just dismiss because the youth of today are incapable of naming "the principle trade centers of the US". Modern life is abstract, and our youth are no less capable than any other era..............
...just a thought.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
There was the assault on the Death Star, then the ice battle on Hoth, then the Empire's demise (in part) on Endor's moon.
This test is of course going to make you feel like a dullard because it is taken out of its relative time frame. This is just like compare prices of things now as opposed to the 1940s. For example, a loaf of bread only costing $.05 compared to a dollar or more now (depending on the bread) or being able to go to a movie for $.25 as opposed to now having to pay $10 or more; these comparisons are not valid in the least. In order to truly compare price differences between time periods, one has to think relatively. A person making a couple hundred dollars a month would be very well off in the 40s, but now a person making that would probably starve.
I think that something to consider is the change in the standard syllabus and pedagogy as time has gone on.
The material covered by this test is something that the students would have learned in class, but it also reflects the time in which it was taught.
Teaching styles have changed over time, as well as the importance given to each subject or criterion within each subject. The differences cannot be compared.
While defining a paragraph, stanza, and verse are important, I know that my teachers placed more emphasis on say, understanding the context and content of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. It was important to have a basic grasp of the above definitions, but the exact meaning wasn't required.
When I was in high school, figuring out the price of coal wasn't as important as determining how to find the derivatives in a complex calculus equation. And students in 1895 would never have been asked to modify bacterial DNA via electrophoresis like I was asked to in my senior year biology class.
Neither curriculum is better or worse, in my opinion. They're just so different that it's almost impossible to compare the two. Let's also not forget that not everyone even reached this level back in 1895!
The only people here in need of a bit more education are the ones that feel this shows a decline in educational standards. The test is all but completely irrelevant to what people today should be experienced with, and anything relevant today (i.e. capitalization rules) is nitpicking over things that even in 1895 people were eager to forget after the test was over. Do you honestly think we should be well versed in bushels?
I will rreappear begining now and I will stay for one year. This exam is a hoax, but the materials are not. I am not a hoax. I have important information.
Many of these questions seem to be based on the rote theory of educating that was the standard back then (and for many years after). Pupils would have certain definitions drilled into their heads by recitation and writing. A good example of this is:
"3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?"
I'm sure that the students spent an inordinate amount of time learning these definitions by heart so a test such as this would be perfectly understandable in this context.
I wouldn't make too much of this test - even if it really is what it purports to be. It is simply based on the standards of the time. Notice how question 2 in the Arithmetic section asks for some specific calculations but assumes that the students know the amount of space a bushel will occupy. That's because back then a bushel was a standard form of measurement in farm states. Today we might ask the same question but substitute gallons of milk instead.
The section on US History is a prime example of situational awareness. In 1895 the Civil War was recent history so almost any school kid would be expected to learn the battles and be able to answer them correctly in a test. Today, we have more than 100 years more of history (and quite a bit of it too) so Civil War battles are not emphasized as much as other topics.
10.Write 10 statements by a leader which frighten you.
10) "I want you to know. Karyn is with us. A West Texas girl, just like me." —Nashville, Tenn., May 27, 2004
9) "Then you wake up at the high school level and find out that the illiteracy level of our children are appalling." —Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, 2004
8) "Free societies are hopeful societies. And free societies will be allies against these hateful few who have no conscience, who kill at the whim of a hat." —Washington, D.C., Sept. 17, 2004
7) "I want to thank the astronauts who are with us, the courageous spacial entrepreneurs who set such a wonderful example for the young of our country." —Washington, D.C. Jan. 14, 2004
6) "We will make sure our troops have all that is necessary to complete their missions. That's why I went to the Congress last September and proposed fundamental — supplemental funding, which is money for armor and body parts and ammunition and fuel." —Erie, Pa., Sept. 4, 2004
5) "After standing on the stage, after the debates, I made it very plain, we will not have an all-volunteer army. And yet, this week — we will have an all-volunteer army!" —Daytona Beach, Fla., Oct. 16, 2004
4) "Tribal sovereignty means that; it's sovereign. I mean, you're a — you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities." —Washington, D.C., Aug. 6, 2004
3) "I hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft." —second presidential debate, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 8, 2004
2) "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." —Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004
1) "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." —Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004
Much of the math was simple conversions. I don't know the units involved, but I'm sure that bushels and acres were much more common knowledge for a Kansas kid in 1895.
Likewise, the history- and the answers they wanted- is a product of time and place.
One thing I will agree on is that students today do not learn enough about the mechanics of the English language. I was in the last wave of students who had to diagram sentences (I'm 30, for reference) and I'd love to see more emphasis on proper grammar. They are called grammar schools for a reason - although I notice most places have switched to calling them elementary schools.
I read an article, can't remeber to quote source, that indicated Japanese highschool students have the same knowledge and profeciency levels as graduates of american colleges. The interesting dichotomy was that the same study showed that Japanese college graduates were no more knowledgable or profficent then their american counterparts after 4 years of college. The point? Foriegn cultures tend to focus heavily on primary and secondary school education while america tends to focus the bulk of it's learning at the post-secondary level. This leaves a severe skill gap in america for those that don't have the desire or opportunity to go to college.
It's not the difficulty of the material that seems extreme to me -- the math section consists only of simple story problems, for example. Rather, it's the AMOUNT and the time allotted.
Look at the History section. It asks students to write FIVE essays, a paragraph each on seven different people, and a few short answers, in FORTY-FIVE MINUTES! If the essays take twice as long to write as the paragraphs, and we assume the short answers takes no time (it's just listing names of things, which really shouldn't take more than a minute per list if you know the answers), that means students would have two minutes and forty seconds per paragraph and five minutes and twenty seconds per essay. Does that sound reasonable?
Meanwhile, students are given 75 minutes for the Arithmetic section, which consists of eight simple problems (no algebra, barely any geometry) plus two written answers. The problems shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes each, which leaves students with an hour for the two written answers. Very generous!
It covers topics that were common knowledge at that time, and covered in the classes at that time. Try putting up a test of today, and let someone from 1895 try and answer it.
Since when has public schooling ever been quality? Knowing how many bushels of wheat fit into a specific volume is math I learned before 8th grade. Conceptual knowledge is the only kind that is portable, and you hardly learn that in school. Verbage is relative to the times. Imagine if we asked those people of yor to explain how the internet works? I'd imagine they'd be lost too. Exercises like this give no insight into the level of education or knowledge obtained by our species, they merely make the sheepminded nod in sync, "hey, that guy's right, there IS a problem". So buy it if it makes you sleep at night, but you're still an idiot, and all of that education really was for naught.
I agree that some of this test is totally illrelevant to today's society and I am afraid much of what is taught to our children is, I do agree, however, that we are not providing our children with even the necessary education to function in the real world. The question on how to write a check, for instance, my daughter says she had to learn that from me. I also agree that there is too much being taught in school that should be taken up at home. It is my job as a parent to teach my child morals and proper behavior before they get even to pre-school, if I am not doing this I am failing as a parent. I can't expect others to do my job. I think if we woudl get back to a few basics on the home level and at school our children would not be graduating from high school unable to read above a 2nd grade level and those in higher places would know what part of speech to put where and what punctuation mark to use in writing a simple sentence. Dumbing down education, no not education just those that receive the education!!!
This is actually not a test for students (though some of the same questions would no doubt show up on a student exam)- it was the exam for a teaching certificate- which makes considerably more sense.
this is stupid...schools teach you what you need to know at the time... if something has "x" height, "y" width, and "z" depth...HOW MUCH WHEAT CAN IT HOLD?! My answer is who the fuck cares! I'm not interested in Wheat...that helps me in my life in NO WAY...by the way...the actual answer would be "not enough information" one would have to know the dimensions of a bushel of wheat in order to answer that question...
Thanks for coming to camp
Well, as I'm looking at this test, one thing I'm noticing is not that it's necessarily hard, it's just using terminology that isn't that frequently used anymore. It's much like how I recall the progression of my math books, statements got more and more snooty.
"Solve the Problem."
"Solve the Problems Given Below."
"Supply the Answer to the Problems Below Based on the Variables Given."
"Based on the Defined Operands and Variables, Supply the End Resultant of the Algorithm."
Ahhh, the good ol' days before we had political correctness.
I think my children are definitely not learning all they should be learning-- especially when it comes to history and literature, specifically, but in some other subjects, as well.
My daughter was telling me that one of her classmates asked her English teacher to help with an assignment, and the teacher said, "I don't know how. . . you know I can't spell. hahaha!" The student said, "But you're a teacher, can't you help me with this?" The teacher said, "No, I don't understand it. Sorry."
I think that the fact that teachers today are majoring in "education", rather than the subject they're teaching is mostly to blame. A minor in education, or a certificate program would be of use, but an English teacher should understand English. A history teacher should be excited about history.
About this test, though. As much as it would be nice if we all knew the answers, is it really horrible we don't? I can write and spell better than many, but I don't know all of the answers in section one, and I don't see what use it would be to me if I did. Further, if I did know the answers, I don't think that would necessarily make me better educated.
Nothing on this test teaches critical thinking skills, either. But, I do have to add that I'm not sure that today's schools are teaching this either. I know all of the educators use this as one of their buzzwords, but I see this as a big failure. When children are constantly taught moral ambiguity, it's impossible, I believe, to be simultaneously thinking critically.
HA!!!!!!!!!! Number 8 under Geography is a classic TRICK QUESTION!!!!
The Pacific Coast is colder than the Atlantic coast at the same Latitude. Sneaky devils those teachers were!!!!!
So is there a place where we can read the solutions? You should post em!
Looks like this isn't real after all.
i could probably b.s. my way through most of it, if only i had a clue how much wheat was in a bushel.
i don't think that products of modern education are "dumber" than those of the 1800's, it's just that we've all had to learn a much broader curriculum. i remember in 8th grade i had english, history, science, math, band, home economics, and physical education (and probably other stuff i've forgotten).
a lot of the stuff that seems difficult on this test have really become part of specialized fields and would actually be something you'd learn about in college; you'd have to major in lingiustics to get half the questions in the orthography section.
back in the 1800's 8th grade was pretty much the end of their education. according to the test, they only had four subjects to cram for, and aside from the grammar and arithmatic, it was pretty much just memorization. most people who didn't go on to college were either merchants or farmers, so an 8th grade education was a decent one, as it gave them knowledge to keep from getting ripped off when they sold their crops or needed to buy stuff or take out a bank loan, and it gave them a good sense of what it meant to be an american, where they stood in the world and how their language worked.
there are a lot more options for employment today, and educators just want to cram as much general information into students' heads as possible so they'll have more of an idea of what profession they'd like to enter.
US HISTORY #6-
Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
THERE WAS NO REBELLION, WE SECEDED!
Hugs & Kisses From Dixie
Actually Jeff, I read the Snopes thing pretty carefully and it never seemed to say that the exam wasn't authentic. It did make some good points though.
I think anyone interested with education now or then has something good going for them. regarding our system today. Take time to enhance a childs mind. present this test to a kid. find out what question is most interesting. get on the web and find an answer. Because we can.
There are few things more gratifying, than seeing the future develop within our hands.
Hoax or no hoax, knowledge is power.
What the hell is wrong with all of you. That test is a joke. It's not hard and is completely reasonable to expect any contibuting member of our society to know things as basic as above.
If you can't pass that test you had better get your shit together and stop watching so much TV.
The initial point here is that these are supposed to test on basic grammar, math and geography questions that people should know. These days children are not learning the basics of reading, writing, geography and arithmetic, but instead how to use technology. It is important not to forget these skills because there is no point in learning how to use a computer if you don't know what you are reading on the screen or writing in an e-mail.
The answer on the page about the boundaries of the US is a little wrong.
They forgot about Seward's purchase of Alaska in 1867.
Post #49, how could you pass that test when you can't even spell contributing correctly?
Lets solve this test together...sorry i'm feeling to lazy to even try...
From the perspective of someone who has actually taught Grade 8 (and pretty much everything up to Grade 12, as well) :
We need to remember that just because one cannot pass a certain test doesn't mean that one isn't educated.
Several people have noted the test's deficiencies in terms of recognizable (rather than archaic) terminology and its focus on rote learning rather than analysis, synthesis, or other higher-order thinking skills.
But no-one seems to have commented on an important social reality of 1895: most students taking this test will have been those who managed, one way or another, to stay in school as far as Grade 8. This means either that they had money, or aptitude, or both. Others will long since have dropped out, after learning basic writing and arithmetic, to work.
It's pretty fair to say that probably the top 20% of our current students could -- given an understanding of the terminology and enough time to memorize the facts it requires them to recall -- pass this test. Does that represent any fewer students than would have taken it in 1895?
Yeah, but we get to play with Nuclear Weapons... cause we be smart.
If you've ever read Laura Ingalls Wilder, you'd know that she passed a test quite a bit like this one to be granted a teaching certificate. You could become a teacher at age 16 (Laura became one at age 15, she wasn't asked her age by the examiner).
I wholeheartedly agree with you J:K. As a foreigner, who studied in the US at a US university, and who had learned English not as a second but literally as sixth language, I had to enroll in a class for non-native speakers and so-called disadvantaged Americans. I was appalled to realize that my fellow students, practically all of whom were Americans (!), had no idea of a genitive or possessive versus a third person singular of to the verb “to be,” e.g. “its” versus “it’s.” It only got worse after that. How anyone of those people ever received a HS diploma, or a GED, was and is beyond me.
As to Jo_Ava stating, “[w]e need to remember that just because one cannot pass a certain test doesn't mean that one isn't educated,” I can only wonder. There’s a big difference between street smart, intelligent and educated. To be educated means to be intelligent enough to know that street smart and educated are two different things all together. And it entails the stamina to complete one’s formal education.
unless one has recently been exposed to the material in a class where it has been explained, the tests given on that material will be difficult for most.
I am considering becoming an elementary education teacher after being out of college with two BA degrees for over 20 years. What I have found is that not having been exposed to math (fractions & such in many years)...due to needing to make a living trumped educational pursuits...I am currently going through a freshman math class with software from this textbook. You will not believe the amount you will have forgotten over the years.
Am hoping this will allow me to take & pass the teaching examination this next school year.
in the time frame that the test was you would know how much area one bushel of wheat took up so you would have all to information for the problem.
Not quite finished with the Bush-bashing? This was an interesting thread til your post.
Well, I went to Snopes right away. Too good to be true, I thought. Snopes marked it as false, but it did so, not on the grounds that it was made up by an identifiable hoaxer, but that is was too good to be true. Shame on Snopes. On the other hand, I went to the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society Web site and found the document, which looks great, has no misspellings, and is properly punctuated, but that is labeled as having been transcribed from the original document. I think I'd have to travel to Salina and see it for myself.
But not to worry! I'll be using this in every class I teach from now own, both undergraduate and graduate, along with what I already use to get their attention: selected writings of William James and Abraham Lincoln's Cooper Union speech.
Sorry to pu this down but i have seen with my own eyes many test from 1840s to 1900 and they are very close to this same test.It was easy to find out some of this stuff. go to a school that has been around along time, or school boards that have stored these records,liberys that have been there over 100 years or may carry these test from the old days. i found mine at the local historical socites. they where "organal" test papers not copys
Well if all you folks that say this test is a urban legand or fake etc, do yourself a favor. research it. i did and found alot of test papers from that era 1840 to 1907 i found then in public libarys,historical socities,schools and chamber of commerce. i saw the orginals not copies. i also talked to older folks and showed copies to them and they agreed it was the same or close to the same. so the proof is there dont take anyboys word for it. bottom line we have been dummed down thats a fact.
i've read all the post here and went to all of the links given.
alot of good points were placed on knowledge not used is forgotten and differnt times bring differnt needs on what is to be learned. now wheter this is an 8th grade test or as it was stated could be taken in the 7th grade and if not passed taken in the 8th really isnt important cause if one reflected on that time some ,many,7th and 8th graders were in their late teens not 12 or 13. and what i see as being taught that is so sorely missed in todays education was the knowledge to be self sufficent in the world and to know how to manage money. and to make something of one,s self
stop trying to answer the questions and read what was being given for them to survive and see how we are hindering our kids
I would guess it might be a typographical error, based on the structure of the erroneous word.
Absolutely! You said it far more eloquently than I was going to!
8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, Kansas - 1895
Could I copy and have it printed in my local news paper?
Great stuff. We need more of this in school today!