Are You Smarter Than An 8th Grader? Circa – 1895

Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th 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 at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS – 1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of ‘lie,”play,’ and ‘run.’
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 – 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?
4. 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?
5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft.. Long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of  America by Columbus
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour)
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, sup.
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.
Geography (Time, one hour)
1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each..
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.
The exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.  Gives the saying ‘he only had an 8th grade education’ a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?!  No wonder they dropped out after 8th grade.  Hat Tip to Gene!
Sullivan Ballou.jpg
Lithograph of Sullivan Ballou
For an idea of how people spoke and wrote: thirty four years earlier, during the Civil War, Major Sullivan Ballou of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers wrote a, now famous, letter to his beloved wife Sarah.

July the 14th, 1861

Washington DC


My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days – perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure – and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing – perfectly willing – to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows – when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children – is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?
I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death — and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.
I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and “the name of honor that I love more than I fear death” have called upon me, and I have obeyed.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me – perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar — that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night — amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours – always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.

14 comments to Are You Smarter Than An 8th Grader? Circa – 1895

  • Ben

    This is excellent, they had an article like this this in our local failed liberal newspaper about 3 years ago. It really is telling how far our edjamaction system has fallen. I irritate my neighbors when I call our local high school “indoctrination center”. If they only knew. The whole curriculum is online. It would be nice if parents actually took a look at it once in awhile.

    Great post.

  • Archangel

    The dumbing down of society continues

  • Ark and Ben; Yea thos sped redin coarses r reely worken owt.

  • Ben

    HAHA! Good one!

  • Ben

    Shoot, I posted too quick.

    Isn’t there that study out there about how the human brain can see partial words and syntax and still make it out? I think that stuff is interesting.

  • Silver Shield

    Thank you so much for finding this. I ran across a similar image years ago and was dumbfounded at how I could not begin to answer any of them.

    It will be a matter of the utmost importance in the next paradigm to educate our children again in this manner as we will have lost our strategic advantage that has allowed us to be this intellectually lazy.

    One other point is that most kids left school in eight grade and went to work and most likely mentored under a master of the skill that they worked in. This is the most powerful form of education.

    Maybe in the future they will have a article are you smarter than a Sons of Liberty Academy member? 😉

    • At a very young age I sat 60 miles from Detroit and had an existential question; how was I so lucky to be born in the center of the worlds economic engine and prosperity. As I grew I always felt a disconnect between heart/soul and the construct of our plastic society.

      Like our education system, today’s Detroit, Cleveland… did not just happen.

      The decentralization that is coming will bring us closer to each other, the land/earth and all that matters; a connected reality.

      The Germans institutionalized (God Help Us) a system that provides a educational path for skilled trades and apprenticeship, building a bond between skill, soul, and contribution/purpose.

      Thanks for your contribution. More are making the connections that have produced our illusion and are choosing a better path.

  • thankful

    I recently bought a bunch of mostly pre 1920 books for my little one. On history, mathematics, nature/science, literature, on how to think (teaching observational deduction skills to pre-readers – “Learning to think, by Jacob Abott, lessons to assist the reflective and reasoning powers of children, 1855), and many more. I found the history books to be a delight, entertaining even. You would remember the stories much better; the language was used so much better than just an outline of facts. The nature book taught concepts, easily understood; talking of zylem and phloem like straws and other basic concepts the kids could easily remember and grasp; the scientific names came later as they developed the how and understood it readily. (The child’s book of nature. Worthington Hooker MD; 1886). They are a treasure, and I’ll keep looking at antique stores and flea markets for them. I cannot believe how much more I would have learned if I could have had these books as a child. Especially with history, if you don’t want revisionist history, you have to get the earlier books. there was even a great book on the government (1875); it had copies of all the major documents and the constitution etc. with questions and discussion for the class.

    1934 medical books were very fascinating too; the bloodletting, CPR given while the person was on their stomach etc. Despite this, some of it still is pertinent; there was a formulary of many of the drugs the doctors gave out; how to make it etc. Many were herbal concoctions and salves made with readily grow-able or available herbs that would still work today. So you take what is useful and the rest is fun. The book “encyclopedia of practical information and useful formulary for every trade and profession by Robert Bradbury MD (1889)” had all sorts of fun stuff for every trade (its almost a foot thick); formulas for paints etc. Of course the base was lead powder, but others were good. Great stuff. Sometimes progress isn’t progress (in education anyway). We’ve found old items that even over 100 years old American made, beats the snot out of the cheap Imported or much of the currently made US stuff.

    There is a reason antiques are popular, and why sometimes letting it wear out is a better course than getting new and it breaking right away.

    The cool thing is I found some of these re-printed or on-line for free. The book on the great explorers of our nation was awesome, it read like a novel; yet the author claims the only thing he wants credit for is the accuracy of the details in the stories; of Daniel Boone; Davey Crockett and many others. I could have sat all afternoon and read them. So much better food for the soul; danger, bravery, ethical and upright living etc. protection of loved ones; self sacrifice and so many other virtues. No gratuitous gore and blood, the meat is in the character of the men esteemed for their contribution to the greatness of our nation. The book: Famous Frontiersmen Pioneers & Scouts; Chicago, donohue Brothers. circ 1890.

    Most of these are not “politically correct” obviously; they use terms we wouldn’t use today, and they talk a lot about God and the christian heritage of our nation. Things that were nixed out of our schools thanks to people like Madeline O’hare. So depending on your leanings, like I took the medical books; you take the good and leave the rest. But a treasure you will indeed find.

    • thankful:

      Thanks for the comment.

      It sounds like you have a nice collection of links. I am quite sure there would be an interest in these with the readers of DTOM. If you could share them I would be thankful

  • Max Penn

    No, it’s not funny, it’s very sad. Do you walk your little child by the hand everyday and willing give their mind over to the government run school? I bet you do. Only when we stop doing that will this country turn around.

  • I just like the helpful info you supply to your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again right here regularly. I’m slightly certain I will be told many new stuff proper right here! Good luck for the next!

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