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» Saturday, February 07, 2009Whaddaya Know?
Every once in a while you will read a blog or an article that poses questions that children were supposed to answer in school 100 years ago. They are posted to show how terrible the state of education is today; that children in the late 1800s/early 1900s received a much better education. Then along comes someone who pooh-poohs the questions. Schoolchildren couldn't possibly answer these detailed, technical questions! They say these are actually questions asked of teachers to determine them fit to instruct.
Well, while wandering about Google Books again, I found copies of a publication called "The Rhode Island Schoolmaster," a periodical for...guess who!...schoolteachers. The one I found was for 1865 and contains articles about teaching of various subjects, minutes of school board meetings, stories from teachers, book and magazine reviews, and advertisements for textbooks, schooldesks, and other things of interest to teachers.
I noted with some interest that a regular feature in the magazine was a list of sample questions to pose in various classes. Please note that this magazine was for public school teachers. In 1865, public schooling consisted of grammar schools, which ended in what we would call eighth grade. Children who completed all eight grades were considered well-educated for life. Well-to-do and rich boys frequently continued on to boarding or preparatory schools; girls might attend a finishing school where they would learn to be ladiesoccasionally they did attend schools where they might learn higher mathematics or Latin and Greek, but that was usually considered "unladylike" and unnecessary for a woman, whose job it was to get married, have children, and run a household. Later in the 1800s (the earliest reference I can find is to 1873), high schools came along, but, like prep and finishing schools, you originally had to pay to attend them, so most children did not go.
So the point is that any questions "set" for the students of the instructors who read this magazine would be for children no older than fourteen or perhaps fifteen. (The notation for these questions says "The following questions were given to the scholars in the First Grammar School, Bristol, R. I., in a recent examination." This would lead me to believe they were for the eighth grade class. Perhaps it was part of their "finals.")
Can you answer all the questions these eighth graders were expected to answer? I'll admit I can't! (I'm sure some of the answers for question 8 have changed, too!)
QUESTIONS IN GEOGRAPHY1865 issues of "The Rhode Island Schoolmaster"
1873 issues of "The Rhode Island Schoolmaster". If you type "69" in the blank next to "page" and hit enter, you will find a high school entrance exam from 1873. This later issue also has exams given to people wanting to attend the state "Normal School" (the 19th and early 20th century equivalent of getting a degree in education).