Wednesday, July 11

Teaching Applied: What We Knew In 1895

A friend of mine recently shared some exam questions, reportedly used as a final exam in Salina, Kansas, circa 1895. The purpose of sharing the exam is meant to surprise people at how much more difficult an eighth grade education was in 1895 compared to, perhaps, a high school education today.

Two things struck me in reading over the exam. The first was that I wasn't taught all of it in school. The second was that the teachers in 1895 were doing something that not all schools do today.

While there is a certain amount of rote memorization, many of the questions suggest the instruction was tied to the real world. Right. The students weren't only being taught material in preparation for the next class but also how they might use the instruction in their lives if there wasn't going to be a next class.

The Questions From An Eighth Grade Final Exam: Salina, Kansas (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 metro?
8. Find the 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) 
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 û.
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.
7. 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.

The Difference Between Educational Success Is Set By Expectation.  

There was something else that struck me about these questions. My son just graduated from the seventh grade but he wasn't expected to know most of it or any modern equivalent. There were only two possibilities why he wasn't expected to learn it, we surmised.

The first assumption was that it's just not considered important anymore because new material has supplanted the need. The second was that this instruction would come later in his education, which made wonder. There are dozens of people who want to delay education for one reason or another.

While I understand the reasoning, delayed education is one of the key ingredients that has caused many educational structures to underperform in the United States. Instead of fearing a child might be "left behind," we might be better off instilling a cultural model where no child is "held back."

And no, I don't mean pass students who are not ready. What I mean is that we ought to expect all children can excel by setting a higher standard and never holding back any child who is ready to excel. Ergo, if we want to create an environment where children can learn at their own pace, then there is no reason to hold back those who are ready to excel. And those who need extra help can always find it.

As the 1895 test might illustrate, it's not about the grade level. It's about what you learn and apply.
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