# Topic: OT:"Are you as smart as an eighth grader?" (skip this one if you are expecting humor)

1. ## OT:"Are you as smart as an eighth grader?" (skip this one if you are expecting humor)

This is from an article in our local newspaper, written by a retired pastor of an area church. I found this interesting and particularly telling as far as the state of comtemporary education in America.

"What 'Only an eighth-grade education' meant"
"For most of my life, and certainly now, I have marveled at how much my parents really knew, even though their formal
public school education ended with the eighth grade.
I received information from college basketball coach and teacher Denny Lehnus about what students were expected to
know for their final exams in 1895. Space limitations will not allow me to use all the questions, but you will get the idea.
I hear on the newscasts, read in the newspapers and magazines that education in the United States is failing.
We all have our opinions as to why that may or may not be true. We do know that we have serious problems with public
education. Mr. Lehnus has spent his life in higher education. Here is what he passed on to me.
"Remember when parents, grandparents and great-grandparents only had an eighth grade education? Could any of us
have passed the eighth grade in 1895? This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA. It was taken
from the original document on file there at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library. Some highlights:
Grammar. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications. Define verse, stanza, and paragraph. What are the
principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of "lie," "play" and "run." Define case, illustrate each case. What is punctuation?
Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
Arithmetic. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic. A wagon box is 2 feet deep, 10 feet long and 3 feet wide.
How many bushels of wheat will it hold? If a load of wheat weights 3,942 pounds, what is it worth at 50 cents a bushel,
decucting 1,050 pounds for tare? 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? Find the cost of 6750 pounds of coal at \$6 per ton.
Find the interest of \$512.60 for eight months and 18 days at 7 percent.
U.S. History. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War. Show the territorial growth of the United States. Tell what you can
of the history of Kansas. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
Orthography. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication? What are elementary
sounds? How are they classified? What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals.
Give four substitutes for caret "u." Give two rules for spelling words with final "e." Name two exceptions under each rule. Give two uses of
of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
Geography. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend? How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean? Describe the mountains of North America. Name and describe the following:
Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecia, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco. Name and locate the
principal trade centers of the United States.

"The total exam took five hours to complete," Lehnus wrote. "It gives the saying, 'He only had an eighth grade education' a
whole new meaning, doesn't it?" He added, "I question whether there are many who have doctoral degrees who could ace this one."

Paul was correct when he advised young Timothy: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be
ashamed..." (2 Timothy 2:15). There is so much to know, and we know so little. Bill Ellis, former pastor.

2. ## Re: OT:"Are you as smart as an eighth grader?" (skip this one if you are expecting hu

We had a show over here in the UK where a bunch of 16 year-olds, who'd just aced all their exams at school, were given a 1950s schooling over the Summer vacation. The idea was that, at the end of it, they would sit the exams their parents sat aged 16.

Part-way through the experience they gave these kids a test, telling them it was equivalent to the exams they would be sitting. Some of them managed to score about 25%, and were really proud of themselves. Then it was revealed that they'd actually just sat the exams their parents sat at the age of 11, in order to get into secondary school.

3. ## Re: OT:"Are you as smart as an eighth grader?" (skip this one if you are expecting hu

I'm not exactly sure of the point the pastor was trying to make. Is the 8th grade final test supposed to seem too difficult for most? If so, I'd argue the 8th graders the test was created for would have been taught "to the test" ... they would have been taught the "lingo" the instructors were looking for. If the test seems hard later in life, it is only because such "lingo" and perhaps such knowledge is not used commonly.

I think if you take most 8th grade exams from today you'd get the same thing... tests that most people would fail because they either don't know the "lingo" though they might have a general idea of the answer, or they don't know the answer at all because the knowledge isn't practical.

I don't believe that intelligence and amount of knowledge are the same thing, though I think things like exams and grades would like to make us think so. So even if a majority of people would fail the above exam, I think that means more that the exam is partly useless, not that people are dumber these days.

Or maybe I'm just missing the point because I'm dumber these days... After some 16 years of it, I am extremely anti-formal-education.

4. ## Re: OT:"Are you as smart as an eighth grader?" (skip this one if you are expecting hu

Sean, To me the point may be that America has abandoned any idea of a "classic" education. If my understanding of history is correct, Harvard and Yale Universities lead the way in America, when fairly early in their histories, decided that the "elective" education was the wave of the future and thus began the watering down of the form of education that had been brought to America from the great universities in Europe like Edinburg. No implications of lack of intelligence are intended. I had shared this newspaper clipping earlier with a childhood friend who is now a dean of a Southern University. I had mentioned that perhaps the replacement of the classic education with the popular "elective" education was part of the problem. His reply: "It isn't part of the problem , It is the problem."
Regards, John

5. ## Re: OT:"Are you as smart as an eighth grader?" (skip this one if you are expecting hu

But I can make out some questions... (the replies that is).

I don't think it takes tons of studying really, or anything. What usually happens is that when you are still in school you get a constant reminder of those things and various rules. Right now I would fail to give any rule on... harmony for example, even if I have a degree in that. If I sat down for a few days, everything would come back. If I started teaching again, everything would come up. Right now everything is unneeded and unecessary, thus burried.

And for the record, I do think that if you put some 60 years old to pass todays exams, (without schooling though, it would be unfair otherwise ! ) they would probably fail as well. As adults we know a heck of a lot, but not consistent, or coherently, or anything close to that.

6. ## Re: OT:"Are you as smart as an eighth grader?" (skip this one if you are expecting hu

As a retired public school teacher I can certainly attest to the dumbing down of contemporary curriculum in a large number of schools. To me the culprit is the influx of standardized testing and programs like "No Child Left Behind." Early on, after Kentucky decided to use a standardized test to gauge academic progress, I was instructed by my superiors to redo my lessons to reflect only what would probably be on the test. It made no difference if what I had been teaching was educationally important, if it's not going to be on the test you're wasting valuable teaching time! As a result, students became less and less interested in learning, test scores gradually improved, and we began graduating students who really hadn't learned very much. And, as a sidebar to this, if the test scores didn't go up fast enough, your school district could be declared deficient and eligible for additional funds geared towards making your students perform better on the tests.
Is it little wonder that are kids aren't getting smarter today? That more and more real teachers are becoming discouraged with the educational system? There's a lot more to this but I'll get off the soapbox for now.

7. ## Re: OT:"Are you as smart as an eighth grader?" (skip this one if you are expecting hu

I definitely agree, Nikolas!

I also agree that standardized testing, the way it's often used at least, does much more harm than good.

Originally Posted by bigears
Sean, To me the point may be that America has abandoned any idea of a "classic" education. If my understanding of history is correct, Harvard and Yale Universities lead the way in America, when fairly early in their histories, decided that the "elective" education was the wave of the future and thus began the watering down of the form of education that had been brought to America from the great universities in Europe like Edinburg.
Ah... I think I'm starting to see. But what do you mean by "elective" education vs. "classic" education?

8. ## Re: OT:"Are you as smart as an eighth grader?" (skip this one if you are expecting hu

Sean, I'm probably going to end up sticking my foot in my mouth, as I'm no expert on the subject. Generally, I think a classic education would be considered to be one rigourously grounded in the arts, mathematics, languages and sciences, and "elective" refers to the systems in all our schools, especially from middle schools on up, of students choosing their courses of study. In general, there has been a great watering down of the fields of study as universities compete for students and dollars.
The components of a "classical education" were hammered out during the Age of Enlightenment, or Age of Reason, when the great universities were being founded in Great Britain, France, Scotland, etc. This was an era of an explosion of intellectual growth and development in every area of human study.
Many educators believe we will lose our edge in the Western World to emerging countries who are rigorously pursuing education, while we are churning out majors in beach volleyball, sports management, and kayaking.

9. ## Re: OT:"Are you as smart as an eighth grader?" (skip this one if you are expecting hu

Originally Posted by bigears
Generally, I think a classic education would be considered to be one rigourously grounded in the arts, mathematics, languages and sciences, and "elective" refers to the systems in all our schools, especially from middle schools on up, of students choosing their courses of study.
But therein lies the problem in public school education in the US today, John. It's not an elective education and it is not a classical education. It's an education geared towards passing a watered down standardized test so the muckety mucks in the upper strata of school administration can keep the new set of jobs which resulted from the creation, management, and scoring of these tests. Teachers have been reduced to becoming test tutors rather than being allowed to stimulate the imaginations of the students. State tests were bad enough. Then came "No Child Left Behind." The end result of that fiasco is that all children are equally behind.

10. ## Re: OT:"Are you as smart as an eighth grader?" (skip this one if you are expecting hu

Originally Posted by Jaybee
But therein lies the problem in public school education in the US today, John. It's not an elective education and it is not a classical education. It's an education geared towards passing a watered down standardized test so the muckety mucks in the upper strata of school administration can keep the new set of jobs which resulted from the creation, management, and scoring of these tests. Teachers have been reduced to becoming test tutors rather than being allowed to stimulate the imaginations of the students. State tests were bad enough. Then came "No Child Left Behind." The end result of that fiasco is that all children are equally behind.
The UK is about the same. Standards get lower every year. The percentage of kids able to read and write is about the same as in the dark ages. The governments solution is to keep adding more tests, because they think that somehow raises standards; after years and years of driving standards down by piling on the tests, they still don't get it. They still believe we teachers must be somehow administering their perfectly thought out system incorrectly, so they add a few more tests to help them get a grip on where the problem is.

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