Wednesday, July 01, 2009

An Eighth Grade Edumacation

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. 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?!

NO, I don't have the answers!

This came in an email today. It's interesting as an indication of what was considered important knowledge, back at the end of the 19th Century. A lot of this is still important, and some is important only in an agricultural community.

Please note that there are no questions about the arts (except for writing), and not a whole lot of science!


  1. The standards for a Victorian era education were -wildly- different, wow! I knew that, but to see it in print is another kettle of fish. Still, it's reasonable. There has been an exponential explosion of information. The shear amount to learn is so much more than it was. I personally am glad for more emphasis on science and arts now. I think there's more realization now that language flows and evolves like a river. Now if we can just drag English teachers into -teaching- it like that... (Don't look at me. I'm still trying to figure out how!) ;)

    PS Orthography! Squee! I -loved- orthography in college! And I'm -lousy- at it! (The written symbols to write the exact pronunciation of words...sorta.)

  2. Shear. Good grief. Sheer, please. No sheep involved.

  3. No sheep, Sherlock?

    I never learned orthography. I did pick up some of the symbols, because I sometimes read dictionaries.

    (I'm a dork, and a bored dork, at that...)

  4. I learned some of the pronunciation symbols, but I think they have changed. I've seen some online dictionaries that have some really odd symbols. if you want a good laugh, search wikipedia for something gaelic and see if the pronunciation guide helps.

  5. This doesn't surprise me. I have heard it said that our college grads are the equivalent of many other nations high school grads. We are not learning what we used to. But we are taking lots of standardized tests.

  6. Part of the problem is that there is so much more to learn these days. In 1895, a person could expect to be born, live, and die in the same place, and never travel more than 100 miles from their place of birth. Remember that the speed limit for cars was around 12 mph at that time.

    Now, when we try to give kids more of a sampling of a broader range of knowledge, something has to give, or they would be in school 24/7!

    On that test was no world history, no art, no theater, no music, no foreign language, and not a lot of science.

    The body of human knowledge has grown exponentially since then.

    Of course, that doesn't explain why Americans are so far behind the rest of the world.

    And the standardization sucks, for sure!

    There is a lot to be said for learning the three Rs at Mom's knee...problem is that Mom's knee works outside the home, and life has changed too drastically to do that, any more. Thus, we expect the schools to do so much more, with less time, and fewer incentives (like rulers and paddles), than ever before.

    I really think that the best thing for parents is to consider what the schools teach to be just a jumping-off place, and to devote at least a couple of hours a day to furthering their kids' knowledge.

    I made mine listen to NPR in the car.

  7. Very interesting! I am currently reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose - the story of Meriwether Lewis' expedition after the Louisiana Purchase. His spelling of words in his journal (1803-1806) indicate phonetic spelling of many words. My grandmother had little formal education (probably 8th grade at most) and she spelled words the way they sounded.

    In order to go to graduate school, I had to demonstrate "currency" in the math and sciences, so I opted to get another BS degree. When I took chemistry in 2003, the periodic table had changed!

    There is no way I could pass that 8th grade exam, and I certainly could not pass my daughter's 10th grade chemistry, math & physics courses without a huge effort. What she learned in 10th grade, I had only part of it in college - and I was an engineering major the first time around, so I had physics, chem, and more math than any human should have to do in a lifetime!

    I fondly remember having music education from 6th grade to 12th grade and how much I enjoyed and looked forward to those classes. We learned to sing, how to read basic music, and about the classics. My adult life has been so enriched as a result of studying music. (I also play a few instruments too, and that has been a source of pleasure as well).

    Good "government schools" are few and far between. It takes the involvement and drive of the citizenry to insist that education be a priority in our communities.

  8. Amen, Goldie! Again!

    We didn't have music or theater, and I took art by correspondence one year; the school was so small.

  9. Hee! Leila and I were just discussing that this afternoon. We both read dictionaries and encyclopedias for fun, and have since childhood. My husband says I'm weird. I can deal with that. ;)

  10. When I was in high school, my most prized possession was a 1926 Encyclopaedia Britannica. That's where I first saw Picasso's "Old Man With Guitar," a print of which I am looking at over my right shoulder.

  11. Goldie, here in Williamson County, the main focus is to keep "Intelligent Design" in science books, and sex education out of them. That's what the majority of parents campaign for, and the rest of us are sort of pariahs. The quality of education is not a priority--the "Baptist-ness" of it is.