Ming the Mechanic:
Education, then and now

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Education, then and now2004-06-26 19:28
15 comments
by Flemming Funch

Via BoingBoing, this is part of a eighth grade test from a 1895 Kansas schoolhouse:
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,super.
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.
OK, it is just the Orthography section. Not that the other sections are much easier. What the hell happened? In case you don't get the point, here's a sample piece of an 8th grade test from a U.S. school today:
11. What feeling does the author try to communicate about the topic?

A. serious
B. light-hearted
C. critical
D. silly

12. What question does this article try to answer?

E. Are Light Twinkies healthier than regular Twinkies?
F. Why do people like sugary, fatty foods?
G. Do Light Twinkies taste as good as regular Twinkies?
H. Why did the Hostess company invent Light Twinkies?
I'm not kidding. Most tests are multiple choice in the U.S. So, did major knowledge about education get lost, or were they really not as smart back then as it sounds like?


[< Back] [Ming the Mechanic]

Category:  

15 comments

27 Jun 2004 @ 05:33 by jazzolog : Moan
The great dumbingdown. Dumb stands for W...although it started long before No Child Left Out Of Cheney's Behind. Is it the gene pool...or all the teachers' fault? I'll tell you this: it is rare I see a memo today, from any educator in the Athens (OH USA) school district---from superintendent down to apprentice teacher---that doesn't contain at least one spelling error. And no one cares. Those kids who told me 30 years ago that they saw no reason to study English (because they speak it, for Chrissakes) are running the schools now. The surest route to a high administrative post in education in this country is to start out as a physical education major. Well, the Empire needs strong bodies, not strong minds. Gasp, I'd better get to church this morning...and onto my knees. Thanks Ming.  


27 Jun 2004 @ 07:26 by Dewayne Mikkelson @156.153.254.2 : That test is amazing.
I had a mind altering experience when I saw that test yesterday. If only I had taken even a few of the courses that led to those kinds of tests I cannot imagine where I would be in my level of knowledge today. It is true about the multiple choice tests in the US, I remember taking hundreds of tests just like the ones you have in this post. For the past few years I have felt like I was just starting to catch up on learning that I should have received much earlier in life. My writing skills are so far below what I consider par it is painful.
Maybe someday we can get an education that we deserve but I do not think that the current path the US is on will lead to that wonderful result.  



27 Jun 2004 @ 08:03 by ming : Education
I could answer at the very best half of what's in that test. It is intimidating.

I have the feeling too that I missed out of a lot of things during my education, and that I'm only barely beginning to catch up with some of it today. OK, my standard schooling in Denmark seems way more comprehensive than what I saw my kids go through in the U.S. What they did in high school seems like something that belonged in the 5th grade where I came from. I didn't succeed in figuring out if that was mainly an EU/US difference, or that the level generally had deteriorated everywhere.

I notice that people who're maybe 10-20 years older than me often seem to have a solid foundation in, for example, philosophy, most of which appeared nowhere in my curriculum at all. I'm well aware that I wasn't paying attention in history, and I regret it. But a lot of things I'd really like to have learned weren't on the program at all.  



27 Jun 2004 @ 08:43 by ming : Answers
Here are the answers to the 1895 test.  


27 Jun 2004 @ 09:15 by celestial @131.191.42.229 : 1895 8th Grade Test
I took the test and discovered I am one grade above a village idiot; it's called a kNIT-WIT.
Earlier this month I had saved the whole test. Thanks, Ming, for the answers.
Maybe parents doing home schooling ov their children will incorporate it in their home training!!!
Getting mainstream education to change course would probably be asking too much.  



27 Jun 2004 @ 09:16 by Bullwinkle J. Moose @68.106.160.195 : Urban Legend
In 1895 you couldn't use Google to find out that this is a five year old urban legend: [link]  


27 Jun 2004 @ 11:02 by John Fenderson @68.186.22.92 : Urban Legend?
Snopes didn't say this test wasn't for real. They were arguing that it doesn't indicate a decline in educational standards (unless I missed something). So, their "false" stamp seems a bit misleading.

Subjectively, when I compare the education my daughter is getting in the public school system (she'll be seventh grade next year) with the one I got at the same age, the decline is patently obvious. I was discussing this with my mother, who said she felt the same way when I was in the seventh grade.

Admittedly subjective and anecdotal, but the trend doesn't look good.  



27 Jun 2004 @ 15:15 by ming : Urban Legends
The Urban Legend sites used to be a great way of verifying the falseness of something. Half the time now, it seems to just some guy who gives his personal opinion about why he thinks something is wrong.  


28 Jun 2004 @ 03:25 by Liz Ditz @67.121.77.18 : Only elite took 8th grade test
I was really disappointed in cory's post. The test is not at all analogous to what our 8th graders must master....more like what we expect of SAT takers (only the elite got as far as 8th grade, etc.)

[link]

A more interesting question would be how long would it take an average 8th grade class today to swot up to that test?

And how about the biology, physics, chemistry, world history, world literature, and computer programming those 1895 kids weren't asked about?  



28 Jun 2004 @ 09:24 by jazzolog : The Internet Is Education Now!
Talk about change, take a look at this~~~

"When Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a neurobiologist at Duke University, decided to release a groundbreaking study in an upstart online journal, his colleagues were flabbergasted. The research, demonstrating how brain implants enabled monkeys to operate a robotic arm, was a shoo-in for acceptance in premier journals like Nature or Science.

"'Usually you want to publish your best work in well-established journals to have the widest possible penetration,' Dr. Nicolelis said. 'My idea was the opposite. We need to open up the dissemination of scientific results.' The journal Dr. Nicolelis chose — PLoS Biology, a publication of the Public Library of Science — aims to do just that by putting peer-reviewed scientific papers online free, at the Web site [link] .

"The high subscription cost of prestigious peer-reviewed journals has been a running sore point with scholars, whose tenure and prominence depend on publishing in them. But since the Public Library of Science, which was started by a group of prominent scientists, began publishing last year, this new model has been gaining attention and currency within academia.

"More than money and success is at stake. Free and widespread distribution of new research has the potential to redefine the way scientific and intellectual developments are recorded, circulated and preserved for years to come."

In Saturday's NY Times [link] Free registration required.  



28 Jun 2004 @ 09:36 by ming : Elites
I'm sure there was a much sharper division in 1885 than today, when it comes to who was educated and who wasn't. So, even if it is true that educated folks had a higher level in general than today, the majority of the population certainly didn't. And it was pretty out of the question for them to even think about a higher education. Today that's certainly different. And for that matter, if we really use what's available on the net, there's endless educational possibilities open to us, if we grab them.  


28 Jun 2004 @ 12:18 by ov : Credential Inflation
Perhaps when Jed Clampett used to speak of pride how Jethro had an eighth grade education he was thinking back to a time when an eighth grade education meant as much as an undergraduate degree today. Having said that, there is no way that I'm going to argue that Jethro wasn't dumber than a sack of hammers, there just wouldn't be much humor in the lad if he wasn't.

Inflation doesn't happen to just money but to anything that that is assigned value by a third party. Also consider the difference between 'education' and 'indoctrination' and being taught a selected range of skills. There is a difference betwen the university to teach the mind how to think, and the training factory for McJob.

www.hermes-press.com is a site that I discovered a year and a half ago and at that time this site had already laid out the PNAC agenda in the middle east and the Currency crisis and a lot of other major things before almost anybody else had, and time has proved them to be accurate in my opinion. They have a lot to say about the intentional dumbing down such as in The Destruction of American Education (the bottom of that article has links into related education articles, and check the hermes front page for more information about this on their site).

I've read a few articles on Neal Stephenson's "Diamond Age" that talk about the role of the internet in education, as through Nell's primer, as being the central theme of that book. I sometimes think that NCN is like my own personal version of Nell's primer and that I am Nell. Not a concern if one discerns the conceptual slippage of analogy.  



28 Jun 2004 @ 14:29 by Danny @63.164.145.198 : WoW!
Wow, I feel stupid!!!  


28 Jun 2004 @ 17:08 by ming : Stupid
Hey, you're not alone. But, hey, you could probably think up some tests that would make no sense to the people of 1885, and make them feel very stupid. On HTML and Photoshop Filters and how to operate a cell phone, and lots of other things.  


15 Feb 2006 @ 16:15 by dea padme @61.94.218.70 : dig and dig
hello ming... i cant belive that i stay up all night just to dig up your old file :p, it because you have so many interesting articles
but let me give my opinion for this one...

now day most of education system use scanning machine and graffit pencils to do a correction, so multiple choiche is the appropriate form, than essay which the teacher shall to check the answer mannually. this is the side effect of technology which make people spoilled by ease and instant way of life that make people not creative, and numb.  



Your Name:
Your URL: (or email)
Subject:       
Comment:
For verification, please type the word you see on the left:


Other stories in
2007-05-27 01:49: Imaginary L.A. subway map
2007-03-11 02:09: Spiritual Castro
2007-02-15 14:24: Patterns and Alchemy
2006-11-02 17:44: Mysteries of the Paris Metro
2004-12-02 14:56: The Home Computer of the Future
2004-11-15 21:58: Savonarola and Florence
2004-09-07 21:44: What was it that Hitler didn't know?
2004-06-20 09:00: St Bertrand-de-Comminges
2004-06-09 06:00: Da Vinci blogs
2004-02-17 22:16: The Decline and Fall of Empires



[< Back] [Ming the Mechanic] [PermaLink]? 


Link to this article as: http://ming.tv/flemming2.php/__show_article/_a000010-001302.htm
Main Page: ming.tv