Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Public Schools: Salina Kansas eighth-grade final exam

Below is the 1895 Salina Kansas eighth-grade final exam. It was taken from an original copy on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina and reprinted in the Salina Journal. Unfortunately, the date of the newspaper article wasn’t given, so verification is difficult.

Remember when old-timers used to tell us they only had an 8th grade education? That might be more meaningful that you thought! Read on...

For a short time someone I know very well “taught” Science at Concord High. She did almost no teaching.

The high school did not have enough textbooks to go around. Students could only use the books during class and couldn’t take them home to study. Homework? Forget about it.

Some of the students sat at their desks and participated during class time, but many listened to portable radios, used cell phones, walked around the room, talked noisily to each other, and even engaged in fist fights in the classroom. She tried almost everything short of pepper spray to maintain classroom discipline. She complained that she was little more than a babysitter.

The school administration would do nothing to restore order. She was told not to kick students out of class. She was told that if she did not adopt a more passive attitude, she could be fired.

With all the distractions, the students who wanted to learn were very nearly prevented from doing so.

After half a semester of being threatened by the students for trying to teach and by the school administration for trying to discipline, this beleaguered teacher called it quits and went on to something else.

But not all the fault can be placed with the schools. Many years ago I was active in the local PTA and Site Council at my children’s schools. I wrote a research paper – which I might use as the basis for a future post – concluding that, all else being equal, there were four major causes of low academic achievement.

  • Blue-collar vs white-collar families. Parents with higher education have different attitudes toward school than those who only finished high school – or less.

  • Families in which English is not the primary language. This observation is reversed in families from Southeast Asia, whose students characteristically excel. ESL does a lot to help, but the school system can only do so much.

  • Single parent families. A single mom has to do more than is humanly possible. So-called “latchkey” kids get into a lot of mischief while mom is working, and don’t get as much help with their homework. This problem also tends to exist in families where both parents work.

  • “Minority” families. The problem here is that many minority parents have low expectations. They haven’t seen the system work for them, they have experienced lifelong prejudicial treatment, and they transmit their cynicism, frustration and despair to their kids.

You could add our “entertainment” industry to this list. My previous post, Hollywood’s Three Big Lies, dealt with this subject. More articles are planned. Our “entertainment” industry produces mostly a virulent mixture of dishonesty, sex, and violence, so that even in the best families, parents fight an uphill battle.

The result: we are turning out students who are totally unprepared to be productive members of society.

It all begins in the home, folks. The failure of the home is arguably the greatest peril our society faces today. With all that having been said, here’s the exam.

Could you pass this test?



Eighth Grade Final Exam: Salina, Kansas - 1895

Grammar (Time: 1 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 do, lie,lay 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 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. bushel, deducting 1050 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 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 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 arce, 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.

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, and 1865.

Orthography (Time: 1 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 caret 'u'.

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: 1 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 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.



This gives a whole new meaning to our grandparents saying, "I only had an 8th grade education." I don’t think there are very many college students today who could pass this test. The dumbing down of America is almost complete. But of course, today’s students are being well prepared to wait tables at a local restaurant or to work as a security guard. And there are always "guv'mint" jobs. So what am I complaining about?

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