Skip to comments.No, You're Probably Not Smarter Than an Average 1912 8th Grader
Posted on 10/20/2013 4:10:48 PM PDT by SamAdams76
n the early years of the 20th century, the students in Bullitt County, Kentucky, were asked to clear a test that many full-fledged adults would likely be hard-pressed to pass today. The Bullitt County Geneaological Society has a copy of this exam, reproduced belowa mix of math and science and reading and writing and questions on oddly specific factoidspreserved in their museum in the county courthouse.
But just think for a moment: Did you know where Montenegro was when you were 12? Do you know now? (Hint: its just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. You know where the Adriatic Sea is, right?)
Or what about this question, which the examiners of Bullitt County deemed necessary knowledge: Through what waters would a vessel pass in going from England through the Suez Canal to Manila? The Bullitt geneaological society has an answer sheet if you want to try the test, but really, this question is just a doozie:
A ship going from England to Manilla by way of the Suez Canal would pass through (perhaps) the English Channel, the North Atlantic Ocean, Bay of Biscay (possibly), Strait of Gibraltar, Mediterranean Sea, Suez Canal, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden/Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Gulf of Thailand (may have been called Gulf of Siam at that time), South China Sea.
Eighth graders needed to know about patent rights, the relative size of the liver and mountain range geography. They had to be able to put together an argument for studying physiology. Though some of it is useful, much of the test amounts of little more than an assessment of random factoids.
So, if youre anything like us, no, youre probably not much smarter than an 1912 Bullitt County eighth grader. But thats okay.
Tests like this are still done today, of course, often in the form of scientific literacy tests. The tests are meant to give an idea of how well people understand the world around them. But, in reality, what the these tests share in common with the Bullitt County test is that they quiz facts in place of knowledge or understanding. Designing a standardized test to quiz true understanding is of course very difficult, which is one of the reasons why these sorts of tests persist.
Writing for The Conversation, Will Grant and Merryn McKinnon argue that using these types of tests to say that people are getting dumber or people are getting smarter is kind of dumb itself. Surveys of this type are, to put it bluntly, blatant concern trolling, they say.
We pretend that factoids are a useful proxy for scientific literacy, and in turn that scientific literacy is a useful proxy for good citizenship. But theres simply no evidence this is true.
Like asking a 12-year old Kentuckian about international shipping routes, [t]he questions these [science literacy] tests ask have absolutely no bearing on the kinds of scientific literacy needed today. The kind of understanding needed about alternative energy sources, food security or water management; things that actually relate to global challenges.
So, really, dont feel too bad if you cant finish your grandparents school examthe fault lies more in outdated ideas of education than in your own knowledge base.
But, with all that aside, taking the Bullitt County quiz is still kind of fun:
(follow to link)
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The electronic distractions of today are the propaganda tools of tomorrow.
smart and educated are not the same thing.
Oh yes, American’s are so much smarter today because they don’t know these facts. Who needs to know where the Suez canal is located?/s
>>Who needs to know where the Suez canal is located<<
Trayvon voter: “What’s a country?”
Define the following forms of government: Democracy, Limited Monarchy, Absolute Monarchy, Republic. Give examples of each.
Do I see a typo in the spelling list?
“[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books. ...The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.”
I see it too. And it’s eerily prescient that the words “potential” and “creature” are next to each other.
I see a typo in the physiology list. (I don’t think it’s an archaic spelling.)
First, we are not talking about college but grade school.
Second, the world doesn’t revolve around physics and math.
Third, in spite of the quote, I’ll bet Einstein had a fairly good command of such facts.
Fourth, memorization and thinking are complimentary mental exercises, not mutually exclusive.
Fifth, even if I can derive several equations for the calculation of pi, I am no better a citizen when that is completed.
Yes. Should be endeavor.
Answer: Europe is a cuntry I wuold very much like to vizit.
The same sentiment is expressed by Richard Feynman in the story, A Map of the Cat?, in “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” , in reference to the memorization of anatomy.
That pic is awesome.
But, where is the part about Susie having two mommies??
Oh, the irony!
... "The truth that great men struggled for, we now breathe cheaply in the common air."
There are several methods for calculating pie. You are only identifying the definition of pi, not the methods for its calculation.
My knowledge of the methods to calculate pi does not make knowledgeable about various forms of government and nor can they be derived and argued purely by reason. A little history might be helpful.
Pie aren’t square, it’s round!
Smart is to educated as information is to knowledge. There are lots of smart people around, and few educated.
Teachers back then didn't spend 80% of the school day trying to indoctrinate their students in liberal nonsense.
Funny how much more you can teach when you concentrate on what kids should actually be learning to have a better life as opposed to trying to screw-up their thinking so they will vote democrap.
I would like to see a list of the things an 8th grader today knows that one in 1913 would have no idea about.
Most 8th graders have at least a limited knowledge of DNA for example but not even the most highly educated person in the world would have known anything about it at that time.
The amount of knowledge in the in the world has increased exponentially since the early 20th century but the human ability memorize and recall information has not increased. That means there will be items that are replaced in the cannon of essential knowledge.
What I said above in no way implies that public schools today are doing a good job. Just that comparing curriculum outcomes from different times is sort of a useless exercise.
We are a country of time diminished morons of prior greatness..
let’s see....4-4/3+4/5-4/7+4/9...converges very slowly.
3+4/(2x3x4)-4/(4x5x6)+4/(6x7x8)... converges more quickly.
I would guess that most 8th graders knowledge of DNA is virtually useless in any practical application, but I would agree they should have some idea of what it is, what it does and why it is important.
One point the article made was that children were previously much better versed in government, the various forms and the merits and liabilities of each form. Then you could read comments at DU or Kos and see just how far we have sunk.
I do understand your point about comparing then to now, but certain philosophical knowledge remains indispensable to making good decisions. I think that is part of what has been lost.
Intelligence and knowledge is so “outdated” according to this article
Good illustration and an exercise in thinking. My guess is Einstein at least memorized pi to 4 decimal places and if he needed more precision, he had tables or could derive an answer by reason.
These tests “proving” that 8th graders were smarter than today’s kids don’t take into account maybe only 10% to 15% of all prospective students actually finished the 8th grade. Remember at that time most kids were still on the farm helping out. In short, most children of 8th grade age at that time could not pass that test. And we don’t know how many of the small percentage of kids who actually took the test passed it. Whenever somebody posts stories like this about supposedly all the children from that era were great students, my bs detector starts making a loud noise.
they weren’t drinking fluoride all day
and had a zillion times more dental cavaties that children of today.....please!!!
With all respect, how uniform was said education applied? There is something to be said about standardization. Was the teacher qualified or the local drunk? So many variables...
“I would like to see a list of the things an 8th grader today knows that one in 1913 would have no idea about.”
Good point, esp. in science. My kid took bio in HS that I had taken in College, and I went to a very excellent HS. My parents knew pretty much nothing about science, as my father once said to me: they studied Latin & Greek, not physics and chemistry.
Don’t be surprised. What sound like bizarre questions today were *current events* back then, so the students would have had a lot of exposure to them, in class and outside of class in the newspapers.
For example, The Kingdom of Montenegro was proclaimed by Prince Nicholas I on 28 August 1910, just two years before this test. The new King of Montenegro had declared several “progressive” reforms, so was very popular among progressives in the US, and was thus in the news.
Likewise, did it impress anyone why in the world they would care about a trip from England to Manila?
Because a very similar route mattered a lot during the Spanish-American War of 1898 followed shortly thereafter by the Philippine Insurrection. This route would have been in the news a lot, and teachers would talk about it at length.
Question #5 on the History section doesn’t make clear whether the Battle of Quebec that it asks about is the one that occurred in 1759, during the French and Indian or Third Silesian War, or in 1775, during the War of the American Revolution. The last battle of the War of 1812 would probably be Mobile, while the last battle of the French and Indian War is probably Restigouche.
And as any Texan with a sense of his state’s history will tell you, the last battle of the Civil War was Palmito Ranch—a Confederate victory.
For example, The Kingdom of Montenegro was proclaimed by Prince Nicholas I on 28 August 1910, just two years before this test. The new King of Montenegro had declared several progressive reforms, so was very popular among progressives in the US, and was thus in the news.
When Yugoslavia broke up in the early 1990's and Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro started appearing in news stories, it sounded like 1914 all over again.
‘McKinnon argue that using these types of tests to say that people are getting dumber or people are getting smarter is kind of dumb itself’
Oh, you mean as with all the older idiots (especially those in schools) today who think kids are so smart because they play with computers/iPads? As if no-one else could do that?
Actually, it’s a MUCH better barometer than “using a computer”.
I also question the smarts of people who question this old test, when they suggest that a geography question is a “science” test.
Who knows? Maybe if the EU falls apart like the HRE, Austria and Hungary will reunify, as it were. Well, maybe if Russia threatened again.
I think the real historical irony is Poland, which should have been as successful as Germany, the twin industrial powers in middle Europe. But it was not to be.
Perhaps it was because of all the Scottish blood in Poland, which has to rate as one of the weirder long term relationships around.
navigators or cruise missile programmers.
you make a great point
we may have be stupider from drinking fluoride, but at least we don’t have as many cavities~!!
Suffice it to say that the story is rubbish and let it go at that.
And the picture of the test was done in Photoshop?
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