In any event, assuming all goes well, this will culminate the formal educational process for the Jackson family. All three kids will have successfully completed college. Their mother and I are certainly proud of them. And if they choose to pursue more education, we will be even prouder of them. But they are on their own for graduate school!
Observing my son in his endeavor to get everything done before graduation, I was reminded of that season in my own life. At the time, for me, it seemed like a very frantic process. In retrospect, it really was not all that bad.
When I graduated back in 1983, Mercer University had just implemented a new course that was required for all graduating seniors. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the course; but I do know that it had to do with being able to demonstrate a basic grasp of the history and collective wisdom of western civilization. I managed to pass the course.
I do not know that it is still required. It probably is not. One thing is for certain though: education itself today is quite different than it was in the past. This is true of most every component of modern educational theory - including educational philosophy, objective, approach, curriculum, technology, etc… I shudder to think what would happen if I were to find myself immersed in the classroom as a student today. I fear that I would be in for a major pedagogical culture shock.
But the same would have probably been true for my forebears as well. I can only imagine what they would have thought if they had found themselves suddenly thrust into class with me when I was in school. In some respects, they may have felt bewildered. And yet, in other respects, they may have felt a little over-qualified.
Recently, someone sent me an e-mail containing the questions from an exam dating from 1895 A.D. which I thought I would post here today for your bemusement. Purportedly, this is the eighth grade final exam from 1895 for the Salina, Kansas, USA school system, taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.*
Try taking this test yourself. (Before you do, however, note that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.) If you do take it, I assure you that, as a result, you will have a new appreciation for your parents, grandparents, and /or great-grandparents, many of whom once stated that they (only) had an eighth grade education.
Eighth 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. 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, and 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, and syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, lingual?
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.'
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 ten words that are 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.
7. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
8. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
9. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the
So, how did you do? Don’t feel bad… I myself have an earned doctorate; and yet I have never even heard of orthography!!! No wonder so many of our forebears dropped out after the eighth grade. They probably figured that they already knew more than they needed to know!
No doubt my poor son feels the same way right about now, some four years after having started college, and two weeks before he graduates. But one day, should the Lord tarry in His return, his grandchildren will marvel at the changes in education since he went to school, no doubt amazed at what all he had to learn back in his day, as well as what all he never even knew about!
*SOURCE: This version received via e-mail. As will always be the case, e-mails tend to grow and develop iterations as they spread. The version I received it thus slightly different from the original posted at: http://www.salina.com/1895test/.
The Salina Journal newspaper article itself is posted online at: http://www.salina.com/rdnews/story/Eighth-grade-test.
TruthorFiction.com points out that there is evidence both for and against the historical validity of this particular school test. (Cf. http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/a/1895exam.htm#.UXk7OsfD85s.)
Snopes.com itself does not debunk the authenticity of the test, but only the notion that we are somehow less educated today than in that day. (Cf. http://www.snopes.com/language/document/1895exam.asp.)
In truth, few of us today need to know all that much about farming as did our forebears. By contrast, however, it is critical that we know technology and be computer savvy, things to which they themselves were completely oblivious.