The picture above shows my Grandma (2nd from right, front row), born in Kansas City in 1884, with some of her schoolmates. Below is the text of an email that is being sent around the internet about how very much more school kids in Kansas learned in Grandma’s day than they do now. Any of the kids in the picture could have told you all about syllabication and the the inclination of the earth, I would bet.
How could kids today know as much as Grandma learned in her Kansas school? There is nothing on the final exam shown below that could not be easily learned by a student with a mobile in her pocket that browses the internet. Grandma would have loved it BTW. When she was a young woman she was a high tech secretary skilled on a typewriter by around 1900.
UPDATE: A reader sent me this message to my email: “The test appears to be a hoax that’s been circulated by email for several years now. [Link to Scopes.] Didn’t want to point this out in the comments though.” I appreciate this reader’s heads up very much, and have just read the Scopes evaluation.
I find it fascinating that Scopes does not seem to say the exam itself is a hoax. Instead it states: “Claim: An 1895 graduation examination for public school students demonstrates a shocking decline in educational standards. Status: False.” [ital. Scopes'] Scopes then launches into a lengthy criticism of this “false” email content along these lines: “Just about any test looks difficult to those who haven’t recently been steeped in the material it covers. . . .” I actually had 2 grandmothers educated in Kansas public schools before 1900, both of whom I knew well. I am certain they could have done the arithmetic in the test, and guess that they would have known most of the other questions’ answers. They were both grammar whizzes with beautiful penmanship. I got my public school education in Texas in the 1940s and 1950s, and recall learning most of the answers to the questions on this “false” list. Even if such tests were not given in Kansas in the 1890s, I know first hand that they were given in Texas in the 1940s.
All of that aside, what I wrote in this post originally stands: Any generation would benefit from having what is known by humankind in their pocket. Today’s kids do, and my Grandmas both would have loved it!
UPDATE #2: After writing the above update, I decided to check my bravado about being able to find things on the internet. Here, from the Salina Journal is a report directly from the Kansas source: 1895 Salilne County exam continues to raise interest.
THE TEXT OF THE EMAIL:
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, KS, 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.
8th GRADE FINAL EXAM
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, lay 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, 1.25 hours)
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 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1050lbs. 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 cost of 6720 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 meter?
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 around 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. (more…)