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Carl Langley

EdgefieldDaily.com Guest Columnist

Nation's Slide in Education Is Picking up Speed

web posted February 5, 2007

GUEST COLUMN – For the second time in the last several months an interesting e-mail has arrived at my desk, and this time it was passed along to me by a friend who has long shared my fearful outlook on the decline of American education.

The e-mail contained a list of questions that were posed to 8th grade students in a Kansas school in 1895 and a passing grade on the test was required before pupils could be promoted to high school.

I took the test and failed. For the second time. I blame my failing on the pressures put on me by my advanced years. But I realized how much I have lost since graduating from high school in 1950.

The test sent by my friend aroused some serious reflection. My thoughts wandered back over the years to the tough demands of my country school 50 years ago, and to those times when a high school diploma was the cherished prize of almost every child.
But my how times have changed! High school dropouts may someday match the numbers of those getting diplomas. And as we begin the journey through a new century education in our primary and secondary schools worsens by the year. If you don't believe me read the writings or listen to the chatter of today's students.
When I complain, education's defenders scold me, after first saying everything is just fine. Then there are those who demand that I name who is at fault. Well, we all are. Our biggest failing as parents and citizens was to allow government to enter our schools.
The federal government's entry into our schools 40 years ago is mainly responsible for the degradation because that's when social and political correctness set down their roots. Social agendas and political correctness were placed ahead of the basics in education. I am talking here about the long-neglected three Rs.
The e-mail sent by my friend raised some historical perspective and I thought about things as they once were. Over the past hundred years American schools were of such high quality that students were so well prepared they made America the first real super power on earth.
In my lifetime America built the greatest transportation system on earth, put a man on the moon, eradicated many of the earth's worst diseases, built mighty cities, invented a multiplicity of things that made life easier, developed exciting new gadgets in electronics, produced enough food to feed the world and created one marvel after another through a dazzling array of technologies.
I am unable in this space to identify and define everything good about this wonderful nation. But what has all of this brought us? Apparently very little, because American education is now slipping backward faster than a speeding bullet. Classrooms once populated by students able to adapt to the toughest requirements in math, science, English, geography, history and foreign languages now hold the dumbest people on the face of the earth. In some of our biggest cities a classroom now is the most dangerous place on the planet.
Our high school and college administrators are handing diplomas to students who can't name the governor of their state, can't identify our states and their capitol cities, can't find foreign countries on a map of the world, can't balance checkbooks, can't solve the simplest of mathematical problems and so forth and so on.
But they can name entertainers, especially in the music field, point out the bars in town that overlook age identification documents, tell their friends where to pick up false identification papers, speak in street slang, dress like savages and consider partying a more worthwhile pursuit than sitting at home and preparing for a final examination.
That's the world as I see it today, and if you think differently, then prove it! Oh well, I've spent enough time complaining, so I will leave you a couple of pictures of schools a century ago and give you the test that once confronted and confounded students a century ago in the Kansas school.
See if you can get more than half of the questions right. I couldn't, by the way.

This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, KS, USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

Grammar (Time, one hour)
1.. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no  Modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of  lie, lay and run
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at
50cts/bushel, deducting 1050lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per meter?
8 Find bank discount on $300 for! 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance
around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U. S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U. S History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of  America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln,  Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800,  1849, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic, orthography,  etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary s ounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, sub vocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u'.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two
exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word:  bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane,
fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)
1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver,
Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall &Orinoco..
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.


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