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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  2 comments for “8th Grade: Then and Now

  1. Avatar
    Andrew Stone
    7 Apr 2007 at 3:09 am

    The fascinating thing about the 1895 high school test is the way its used in the USA to show falling school standards.

    An, easier, simpler (and considerablly more shocking) way of showing falling school standards is a direct comparison of what modern countries in the developed world demand for high school graduation.

    The US education system was orignally modelled on that of Scotland with graduation at age 17 and a 4 year undergraduate degree course. This is still the same

    To qualify for the equivalent of a ‘High School Diploma’ Scots teenagers need to past the ‘Higher Examination’ in 5 subjects. If they want a place as a good college they will need 7 or 8 subjects.

    This is a an example of the CURRENT maths component of the testing scheme.


    You’ll find more tests by selecting from the subject column on the left hand side. The ‘Intermediate’ exams are junior high level, the ‘Higher Exam’ is taken at age 17 prior to college, the ‘Advanced Higher’ is equivalent to ‘AP’ – but much more demanding.


    Scary huh?

    Andrew Stone

  2. HW
    7 Apr 2007 at 9:49 am

    Andrew –

    Thanks for taking the time to post that. Great info …

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