8th Grade: Then and Now


Dat’s de ‘fect of education; dat’s de t’ing what’s gwine to rule;
Git dem books, you lazy rascal! Git back to yo’ place in school!

— James Weldon Johnson, “Tunk”
C on a math test

If you’ve ever wondered — I know I have — if certain of your colleagues completed the 8th grade, or rather spent their time jacking off like apes when they should have been doing math homework, you may be interested in Could You Pass 8th-Grade Math?, a sample of the Illinois State Board of Education’s math test for 8th graders.

If you were an 8th grader in 1895, in Salina, KS, you would have been expected to pass tests like this.

Times were tough in 1895 . . .

The amount of memorization required is really striking, as is the horse sense expected of kids that age: writing promissory notes, calculating taxes and interest . . .

I suppose an 8th grade education was sort of a luxury at that place and time . . . a kid might be taken out of school at any time to help Ma and Pa run the farm or the feed store . . .

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