I remember being a bit embarrassed by his lack of education when I was in grade school. By my late high school and college years, I was often amazed at what he knew and wondered where he learned so much. (No, I wasn't that abnormal. I thought I knew much more than he did and thought both my parents were total idiots until I was about 25. But idiots and knowing a lot...two different things.)
In 1996, this exam from 1895--35 years before my father's 8th grade graduation--began circulating on the internet. (It drew attention, based on an article printed in the Salina Journal, Salina Kansas using the original exam archived at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Saline County. Columnists and newspapers all over the country picked it up from there so you may have seen it.) This is what it took back then to graduate with an 8th grade education. I'm including only two of the easier questions from each section of the test. The original sections were 8 to 10 questions each. If you want to see the whole thing, check out the links.
8th Grade Final Exam:
Grammar (Time, one hour)
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
Arithmetic (Time, 65 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour)
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
7. Name all the republics of
8. Why is the
The exam was five hours long, was given orally and was also graded for penmenship.
One of the luxuries of hanging out with readers and writers is that they seem to be so much smarter than the general population. (Sorry, but I don't worry that I'm going to insult anyone since I doubt that anyone not interested in books, is going to read this.) So I wonder...as intelligent as we all are, which of us could pass this test?