Thursday, February 5, 2009

An 8th Grade Education

This has crossed my desk before but not one so well documented. It is the eighth-grade final exam for 1895 in Salina, Kansas. The original document is on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in that city and also reprinted by the Salina Journal.

Given the importance of children in a rural setting to help with the work, they often did not have the luxury of twelve years to learn the basics. According to my mother who did teach in a one-room school, the instructors rarely had more than a high school diploma. After you examine this test you will have an excellent idea, without formal grading, of how well you would do if you took it. I’ll wager you will be hard pressed to get 70% correct and complete. It will also not take you five hours to make that determination.

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, sub vocals, 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.
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.

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?! Take a glance at the wall and figure out how many framed certificates of advanced education you have past high school and consider the time you spent acquiring your knowledge. Do you find it a little bit embarrassing? I did. One of the refreshing features of this “quiz” is that one is presumed to have a lot of general knowledge. They furnish scant information to figure the price of the farm so you must already know what is meant by 640 rods. One also needs to know the number of square rods in an acre (160). In question 5 in Arithmetic, you must have knowledge of the relationship between a pound and a ton.

I watch my Amish neighbor’s children at their simple frame building schools as they also only have facilities through grade eight. Since we live in the middle of the community, we have more than casual contact and can appreciate the immense learning which they are able to acquire in that brief period. They come to those tiny buildings, heated by wood stoves in winter, lugging book bags and, no doubt, hoping that they don’t have to use the outdoor privies close by. They have neither electric, nor indoor plumbing facilities. Watching their exuberance at play is uplifting. Some of their remarkable progress is no doubt attributable to having the girls in one building and the boys in the other. The teacher’s horse placidly munches grass near the parked buggy. Altogether it is a bucolic scene.

So there you have it; you may now feel inferior to a 114 plus year old Kansan. One does wonder how they would fare in today’s world of unimaginable technology.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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