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

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

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2011
    Messages:
    5,770
    Likes Received:
    1,004

    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.
     
  2.  
  3. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2013
    Messages:
    4,307
    Likes Received:
    887

    Dec 15, 2013

    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

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2013
    Messages:
    4,307
    Likes Received:
    887

    Dec 15, 2013

    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 Phenom

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2013
    Messages:
    4,227
    Likes Received:
    1,805

    Dec 15, 2013

    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

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2007
    Messages:
    1,396
    Likes Received:
    4

    Dec 15, 2013

    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

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2008
    Messages:
    80
    Likes Received:
    1

    Dec 15, 2013

    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

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2011
    Messages:
    5,770
    Likes Received:
    1,004

    Dec 15, 2013

    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

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    24,959
    Likes Received:
    2,116

    Dec 15, 2013

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

    amakaye Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Messages:
    2,397
    Likes Received:
    4

    Dec 15, 2013

    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

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Messages:
    2,397
    Likes Received:
    4

    Dec 15, 2013

    Me too!
     
  12. RadiantBerg

    RadiantBerg Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2013
    Messages:
    618
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 15, 2013

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

    gr3teacher Phenom

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2013
    Messages:
    4,307
    Likes Received:
    887

    Dec 15, 2013

    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

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2011
    Messages:
    5,770
    Likes Received:
    1,004

    Dec 15, 2013

    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

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Messages:
    27,534
    Likes Received:
    6

    Dec 15, 2013

    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

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,171

    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.
     
  17. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2013
    Messages:
    4,307
    Likes Received:
    887

    Dec 15, 2013

    I'll give you that some of the math questions are kind of, sort of critical thinking. Anything else though, I'll have to disagree. It's spitting back information.

    You want to know how I'm integrating critical thinking? Literature circles. Socratic Seminars. Debate. Authentic scientific experimentation and inquiry. Open-ended questions, and the M3 program in math.

    As for what my third graders can do that these eighth graders couldn't? Well, based on this test, I suspect the reading part will be very much the "What color was the main character's shirt" variety, and their writing will be mechanically perfect, but utterly unreadable and uninteresting crap. My third graders can discuss reading. Make inferences. They can write things that make me laugh, and make me think. Granted, I can only make assumptions about the students of 1912 Bullett County based on the test, but it's hard to imagine those students were allowed to write anything interesting, or ever had to decide whether the ending to "Stone Fox" was meant to be a happy or a sad ending.
     
  18. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2013
    Messages:
    1,016
    Likes Received:
    38

    Dec 15, 2013

    How many 8th graders in 1912 could work a computer? Create a powerpoint? Find a way to contact a fellow 8th grader in a foreign nation?

    Just because the stuff students are taught is different doesn't mean our kids are "dumber." I suspect if you'd asked students from 1912 to pass a test from say 1512, I suspect they'd fail too. And I do believe that the world has changed more in the last 100 years than in the 400 before that, which is why I said "1512."
     
  19. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Messages:
    1,934
    Likes Received:
    257

    Dec 16, 2013

    I don't see how anyone can deny it is at a higher level than we expect of our 8th graders today in terms of the subjects of the test. You can argue (rightly) that we expect different things from our kids but this test is obviously hard just in terms of word usage even if you want to call it trivia. I find it especially interesting after just reading the thread on Ohio reading tests and seeing a number of responses saying if kids are failing the test is the problem.

    However, I don't believe our kids are dumber - they just know different stuff. I think the biggest problem is the massive disconnect between what kids know to day and their teachers know. Too many of our teachers still expect kids to memorize facts like this test but our kids live in an entirely different world - one where memorizing facts is a waste of brain cycles. They are not interested in it because they aren't wired for it. Compare, for example, the Disney movies of the 50s and 60s to Pixar of today. The themes, character development and set pieces in Finding Nemo are infinitely more complex than those of Snow White. Kids, overall, are going to be bored out of their minds by Snow White because it asks nothing of them.

    We've assumed that means they are dumb so we've dumbed down our tests and curriculum, by and large of course, not every teacher so tests like these old ones would be way beyond our kids.

    Unless of course they used the phone in their pocket.
     
  20. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2005
    Messages:
    4,395
    Likes Received:
    7

    Dec 16, 2013

    The whole test is pretty much a primer in Bloom's first 2 levels-Knowledge and Comprehension.

    Name. Locate. Describe. Compare. How many. Select.

    My former 8th graders would have LOVED taking this test! It's difficult, no doubt, but really if you had been studying and paying attention in class, it's about memorizing facts and regurgitating. No application, analysis, THINKING involved. They would have gladly memorized facts, dates, names, countries, etc.

    That wouldn't have been good enough for my 8th graders, nor should it be for any now. Back in 1912, it was about proving you had knowledge, and being DONE. Many students did not go on beyond 8th grade, especially in rural areas (if they even made it that far). And at risk of taking it too far back to the pioneer days, remember that not too many years before this, once a student turned 15 or 16, she was qualified to become a teacher.

    For fun, I found some of Kentucky's 8th grade standards of today:

    So are today's students in Kentucky smarter? Dumber? Like so many aspects of education, I don't think a test can tell us that answer.
     
  21. knitter63

    knitter63 Groupie

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2007
    Messages:
    1,396
    Likes Received:
    4

    Dec 16, 2013

    I am one of those who responded that the test is the problem. The test, especially the 5th grade, expects the students to restate information that they are not developmentally ready to retain. We can build stamina as much as we can, but if a child is not ready to retain the information, he/she will not. (Piaget) If the test was developed solely on academics that the 10-11 year old child can successfully understand, there would not be so many students failing the test.
    So much of what we are trying to achieve with the Third Grade guarantee would be successful if the student also had the parental support at home. In many of the urban districts, this is not the case. (also the districts with the lowest achieving third graders).
    I know this is a hijack of the thread, and I am sorry. :eek:
     
  22. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2012
    Messages:
    1,841
    Likes Received:
    51

    Dec 16, 2013

    I think the physiology part was pretty spot on. I taught almost all of that this year to my 6th graders and would expect my kids to get all those questions right. I also liked that there was more emphasis in geography (international and national), something that Americans are notoriously bad at.
     
  23. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2008
    Messages:
    4,212
    Likes Received:
    8

    Dec 16, 2013

    Agreed!

    My 2nd-graders could answer some of those questions.
     
  24. ktdclark

    ktdclark Comrade

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2012
    Messages:
    255
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 16, 2013

    The grammar portion, at least for me, looks a lot like the grammar tests I am administering to me second graders:)
     
  25. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,171

    Dec 16, 2013

    This is a Kentucky test, yes? According to Kentucky: Portrait in Paradox, 1900-1950, by James C. Klotter, in 1904 Kentucky was the first Southern state to enact a compulsory-education law, and four years later the law was amended to make education compulsory between ages 7 and 14. That pretty neatly covers eighth grade, I think, which casts some shadow on the tenability of the argument that this test was given only to the elite.

    I'm in sympathy with those who point out that the questions do not for the most part require much critical thinking. The math questions are highly practical - people needed to know how much wood was in a cord, if that's what they were using for heating, and any farmer needed to know how to calculate simple interest on an equipment loan - but the arithmetic involved is fairly straightforward. The geography question about the sea route via the Suez Canal requires one to know that it's located in Egypt; with that information in hand, I devoutly hope that most of us could reason out that the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian and Pacific oceans would be involved.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. vickilyn
Total: 221 (members: 4, guests: 194, robots: 23)
test