Are You Smarter Than A (1895) 8th Grader?

There’s lots of consternation today among my greader sharebros (sup y’all). The object of their ire is this 1895 8th grade test. Eyes on your own work, kids:

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 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, 1.25 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 50 cts. per bu., 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 m?
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 are, 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:

There are two more sections on geography and orthography, which I had to look up. Spolier alert: it’s just fancy-pants talk for spelling, y’all. La Dee Da, Little Lord Fauntleroy. The general consensus seems to be that ‘we generally couldn’t do this; therefore we dumberer than those kids’. Further, this is some kind of crying shame.

But my colleague and heterolifemate friend Dan Rothschild tweefed a contrarian idea. Dan’s thesis (which I agree with); there’s no objective good in knowing this stuff. Instead, not knowing this stuff is a testament to the specialization, diversity, abundance, and interconnectedness that flourish in a relatively free society. There’s no necessity for us to know most of this, and we shouldn’t feel bad. We’re all adults, with constructive, productive lives, and if we don’t have to know what this epoch of American history is, it just means that our brainpower is being used for other tasks with a higher utility. That’s good, and we shouldn’t be ashamed by some stupid olde tyme 8th graders. They probably all had to live on a stinky farm, anyhow.

Update: Snopes says basically the same thing. Apparently this has been floating around since 1999. In their words:

Although this exam may indicate, as Velz wrote, that “[o]ur notion of nineteenth-century education as primitive and backward may need modification,” perhaps what it demonstrates most is the truth of the aphorism that the more things change, the more they stay the same.


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