Are You Smarter than an 8th Grader from 1912?
Pictured above is a test that was administered to 8th graders in Kentucky in 1912. The rare test was recently donated to the Bullitt County Historical Museum showing very curious and, of course, dated idiosyncrasies regarding changes between the 20th and 21st centuries. However, the oddest factor regarding this vintage test is it’s level of difficulty. Aside from the spelling and math, it is estimated that most high school graduates would not do well if this exam were given today. However, there is a reason for this.
Children are tested on what is taught to them. These questions were written for the curriculum that was taught in 1912. In modern times, the curriculum being taught is guided by each independent state’s board of education. Textbooks are written to specifically teach to the tests for their respective states. This is why our education system isn’t working well in the United States. Learning is interest-based. If what you are learning is not interesting, boredom will cause your mind to wander. Education has become increasing boring unless you have a great teacher who makes the curriculum interesting and relevant to you.
For students in rural communities in the early 20th century, this test was a crucial step. Those who did well enough on the exam — which tested pupils in their abilities of spelling, reading, arithmetic, grammar, geography, physiology, civil government and history — went on to get scholarships to high school and possibly college. And in 1912 up until the early 1970s, college in your home state was free. Yes, free.
The museum director said he’s gotten hundreds of calls — from interested parties, teachers, and history buffs alike. “With a lot of the questions, people might say, ‘Why would they need to be taught these specific questions?’”
But the museum’s director stated that even if he can’t answer all the questions correctly, he at least knows the history behind it. “Generally, most of the teachers, like me, just enjoy the challenge. We’ll get into a debate over what the answer is. Even beyond the specific answer, it just gets you talking about things.”
Unfortunately the records of what score was needed to pass the exam were not included with the test when it was re-discovered. However, if you would like to test your knowledge on this archaic test and find if you are as smart as an 8th grader from 1912, the answers are available here.