8th Grade Test from 1912: The dumbing down of America?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Peregrin5, Dec 15, 2013.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Dec 15, 2013

    http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/newly-discovered-eighth-grade-exam-from-1912-shows-how-dumbed-down-america-has-become

    I don't know about how I feel about this. I think some of the questions could simply have been more important around that time than they are today, but it does seem to be asking them to remember a lot more. But maybe it's a comprehensive test.

    Anyway, some of the points the author makes:
    - we pass everyone regardless of level
    - we teach to lower standards
    - some complaining about the youth of today

    I don't know if I fully agree with everything the author states. What do you guys think? Has America become dumbed down over the generations.
     
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  3. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    No, I don't agree at all. First of all, most kiddos would have never taken that test in 1912. It would have been limited to the highest-achieving kids whose parents had the most money. Secondly, there's nothing there about literature, nothing about thinking... it's purely spitting back bits of trivia. You could get a 100% on that test without ever setting foot in an art, music or PE class. For that matter, you could have passed it had you never so much as cracked the cover of a book other than whatever textbook your teacher may have made you use. You have to have at least a vague understanding that countries outside the Western Hemisphere exist, but you certainly don't need to know anything about their history.
     
  4. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Also, they have to keep renorming IQ tests every few years because kids start doing better on them. The average American from 1900 would qualify for Intellectual Disability services under IDEIA today.
     
  5. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    I think this is true:

    But I also have a cousin who attends a prestigious private high school, gets good grades, and yet sometimes she'll surprise me with "common" knowledge she doesn't know.

    Some of those questions are hard! I would certainly fail the test.
     
  6. knitter63

    knitter63 Groupie

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    There are parts of the article that I do believe. I do believe we are dumbing down academics, so that students will "succeed". I also believe that Americans spend too much time on entertainment, and that is proven by the salaries that entertainers (and sports players) make. Attention spans are so low, it is hard to keep students motivated.
    I don't agree that we all youth are dumbed down, however. There are many that have succeed, and beat the odds.
     
  7. bora

    bora Rookie

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    Years ago student weren't required to give their opinion on a subject, but only memorize, memorize, and memorize. That's the only thing they were asked to do. Their opinion didn't count. It was just theory. Now students are required not just to memorize as they did then, but to be critical thinkers, problem solvers. As gr3teacher mentioned, you don't have to learn everything in school.
    After some years you will no remember most of it anyway. In my country we did Geography in school from fifth grade in elementary to Senior year in HS. Until now, what I learned didn't help me much, since I didn't get to use it. Kids need skills and knowledge that will serve them and are important for their future, and not just knowledge for school, or trivia contest.
     
  8. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I see a lot of questions on that test though that require critical thinking, such as compare the size of the liver with other organs, compare arteries and veins as to function, How long of a rope is required to reach from the top of a building 40 feet high to the ground 30 feet from the base of a building?

    I just don't know what the difference would be between the way they are asking questions in that test and the way we are asking questions now which are supposedly meant to stimulate critical thinking.

    What makes a question a critical thinking question?
     
  9. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    :lol: when the test asked 'Sketch Sir Walter Raleigh and Peter Stuyvesant', I thought it meant draw a picture...:woot:
     
  10. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    It says reading and writing are given by the teacher...that is why there is no literature on there.

    I think the math questions are very much critical thinking and application of knowledge!
     
  11. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    Me too!
     
  12. RadiantBerg

    RadiantBerg Cohort

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    And to think...no calculator!
     
  13. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Being able to actually think and not spit out trivia? It's been almost 15 years since I took biology. I can't compare the size of most organs to one another, but I do remember that the liver is the largest internal organ, so I'd get that question right, even though I have no idea at all how much bigger it is (and frankly can't imagine why I would care, unless I went into the medical field), and have only a vague understanding of what its function is. Veins carry blood to the heart. Arteries carry blood away. Again, that's a trivia question. The Pythagorean Theorem question could probably be considered critical thinking, since you at least have to recognize that it's a Pythagorean Theorem question.

    A critical thinking question for the liver might be... Why is the liver larger than any other internal organ? You can't just take one bit of memorized info and spit it back.

    These questions don't reward thinking skills. They reward memorizing information. And for that matter, they generally reward memorizing information from a fairly limited reservoir. The only history of any sort you need to know is American history (although even then, you only need to know the names of 6 of the at the time 26 men to have held the office of president... and of those six, the only 1 with any real historical significance is Lincoln... granted, you need to know Washington and Andrew Jackson also, but not as president). You don't need to know any science whatsoever outside of Physiology. So yes, students in 1912 Bullitt County probably knew more about Physiology than students today, but students today probably know far more about Earth Science, Life Science, Chemistry, Physics... Students then probably knew more about grammar (the one place I'll agree our curriculum is dumbed down is grammar), but anything else even remotely related to Language Arts? I'll take one of my third graders, thanks.
     
  14. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Well it is an 8th grade test. Maybe it's specific to the subjects learned in the 8th grade?

    Also many of our students will not be going into a lot of fields that we require them to learn the knowledge of. We still require that they learn it (even if they aren't going into the medical field). I think the point the author is trying to make is that this information would be the expected level of knowledge of 8th graders at that time.

    These days we often have the excuse of the horrors of rote memorization and why would they ever need to learn these things when we should be teaching them critical thinking? But then we rarely describe in depth what critical thinking means, or how we're integrating it into our class.

    In addition, as we've explored, a lot of these questions are critical thinking questions by many standards.

    What would your 3rd graders know more about language arts than what you assume 8th graders in 1912 would know?
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think we as a nation have a love affair with "the good old days." And that we choose to see those good old days through rose colored glasses.

    As someone else mentioned, a lot of kids at that particular point in time didn't get to 8th grade. So not all the kids would have been tested.

    In addition, I think that the material my 8th grade daughter is being asked to learn is certainly as rigorous in terms the amount of knowledge presented. Would she be able to answer all those particular questions? No. But could she talk about the food pyramid, about Space Exploration, about religion, about modern literature, about a myriad of other topics? Certainly. Could she access the information she needs in record breaking time? Yep, faster than I can.

    And, too, she's been exposed to things that never would have been part of the school day in 1912. Some of her classmates have disabilities, so she's been given the gift of empathy. She's taken school trips to NYC to see Broadway plays, she's gone overnight upstate on a "team building" activity, she's been to a whaling museum and a light house and a lot of other places that simply would not have been part of the educational experiences a century ago. Phys Ed is an important part of her day. She's trying out for the gymnastics team and she's part of the school Chorus-- last year she was All District, and she's hoping to qualify again this year.

    A lot of the things she's learned aren't among the "3 R's" and would never have appeared on that test a century ago. Yet they contribute to her view of the world in a way that wasn't considered important in 1912.

    I think that, when we remove the rose colored glasses, we find that schools really are doing a whole lot to educate the whole person, and a much wider variety of whole persons.
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Dec 15, 2013

    I rather suspect that the questions that today's eighth graders are expected to answer in THEIR end-of-year finals would stump their parents, not to mention their peers from 1912.
     

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