Education, Yesterday and Today

I’ve seen this before, but it is making the rounds of the internet again.  It is a copy of the questions on the 8th grade exam given in Kentucky in 1912.  The questions are hard, and much is way beyond what is taught to our 8th graders today.

The kind of math is also extremely practical for a farming, rural community. If they were to function in the world, young adults needed to know these things.  As for grammar and spelling–well done here! I’m personally appalled at the extreme lack of ability many high school graduates have  to express themselves properly in writing that I see today.  Why these things aren’t taught is beyond me.

We have the best of athletic facilities, band and performance halls, extracurricular activities that take up every spare moment. But are our children really educated to deal with the world they will face?

How many know even the basics about personal finance? How many understand how completely the world is linked together and the real necessity of understanding other cultures and learning other languages with comfortable fluency? How many have any real understanding of basic biology, the workings of their bodies and what is necessary for healthy living? How many actually understand our governmental structure and are willing to participate in the political process? How many have the math and literacy skills just to fill out an insurance form or decipher a hospital bill?

They can shoot hoops and tackle opponents and make great music. This is wonderful. But there is a whole lot more to life.  Just basic literacy and an ability to write a grammatically correct sentence goes a long way still.  Texting language will not make it in the world of commerce, and we’re going to have a bunch of handicapped former students screaming for special privilege someday or wondering why they can’t get past an entry level position.

Most of the children in 1912 knew school was a privilege, did their school work in facilities that we would be appalled at, went home and worked the family farms, and still managed to get to church on Sundays.  We don’t need the same knowledge as they had–we live in a different world.  But we do need to know some things well, and I am really wondering if those things are being taught.

Here’s the exam.  See how you do on it:

4 thoughts on “Education, Yesterday and Today

  1. I totally agree with everything written by Angie Hammond, and I underscore her comments about the TAKS, etc., tests. Those have surfaced since I retired from teaching, but I’ve observed their process, the enormous stress/pressure they cause teachers and students, and the amount of time spent on preparation for the tests–which rob teachers and students of quality classroom time.


  2. Ok, I just have to chime in on this one. I teach at the Methodist Children’s Home school in Waco,Tx. I teach two of the hardest high school subjects: Chemistry and Physics. My classes are small by normal standards my largest having only 9 students. Here is the difference. My students are the ones that have already failed in previous settings and they all have some kind of life issue that landed them at the Methodist Home. It is my job to teach them not only chemistry and physics, but about life and what they will need to be successful when they leave the Methodist Home.

    You ask the question what do we need to be doing? Well for starters, pay the teachers a fair wage. By this, I mean one they can actually live on. Back in the day, teachers were taken care of by the community they served. They were valuable because they taught needed skills.
    Do you realize that no matter who you are or how far you go in life in a job, you started out with some kind of a teacher? All of us had an elementary teacher that taught us how to read, write, and do math. Then we went farther and we had more teachers.

    Second speaking as a teacher, I truly believe that if we took all the money the state spends on testing students to see what they’ve learned and spent it on actually educating our students that we’d be better off. In other words, do away with the TAKS and the new STAAR and EOC tests required for graduation and use the money to pay teachers and provide technology in the classrooms. Money well spent if you ask me.

    Finally actually teach the students how to live in the world today. Teach them what they need to survive and thrive in whatever field they are interested in. Don’t just teach Chemistry or Physics because everyone has to have them to graduate on the recommended plan. Teach them to those who need them for what they want to do in life and let the rest learn about science in a more general way so they can still be well rounded but not dumb founded by something they have no interest in at all.

    In answer to your question about what is being taught. I teach what the state of Texas says I must teach in chemistry and physics and then I lead by example when it comes to life and my faith. That is the best I can do. And as a teacher at the Methodist Home, I offer hope to students who often come without it.


  3. Well, you just ruined my day. I’ve been under the delusion that I was smarter than the average bear–until I read this 8th grade exam. Perhaps there was a time (when I was in college) I might have passed it, but now . . . . . I was somewhat pleased with myself as I examined the spelling and grammar sections, and even the beginning of the math; but soon I was a pathetic failure. And I was a teacher! I think I once knew most of the history section, but those historical facts have long since faded from memory, along with the physiology. One thing is certain: today’s generation of youth is not receiving a quality education in most schools. (Am pretty certain “is” is the correct verb for the subject “generation,” but did have to stop and think!) This is sad. I shudder to think what my grandchildren are not learning/did not learn. I wish I knew how we could reverse this situation. One thing, however, that we need to remember when comparing the education system of 1912 with that of today’s America. Then, classes were much smaller and in many places schools didn’t even try to education the masses, particularly females. Many of the poor either didn’t go to school at all or dropped out at early ages. Today’s classroom teacher faces overcrowded classes, populated by multiple cultures, students with language difficulties, unsupportive parents, students from broken homes, students with disabilities, etc. I know. I’ve been there. The last years I taught, I had more than 30 students in a class. Impossible. Nancy Pannell


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