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Are You Smarter Than An Eighth Grader?

You probably thought I made a mistake, didn’t you? You thought this post should be called Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader after the name of the TV program. It's no mistake. Read on.

I’ve been seeing back-to-school products in stores for several weeks now. To coincide with that, I just found in my files a copy of a pamphlet published ninety-five years ago, to help eighth graders study for a high school entrance exam.

I was dumbstruck at its level of difficulty. It rivaled the SAT exam I sweated through so many years ago.

Try matching wits with eighth graders of ninety-five years ago.

Arithmetic: A wall seventy-seven feet long, six-and-a-half feet high and fourteen inches thick is built of bricks costing $9.00 per M. What was the entire cost of the bricks if twenty-two bricks were sufficient to make a cubic foot of wall?

Geography: What waters would a ship pass through in going from Duluth to Buffalo? With what would the boat be apt to be loaded? What, probably, would it be loaded with on a return trip?

Grammar: Define five of the following terms: antecedent, tense, object, conjugation, auxiliary verb, expletive, reflexive pronoun.

Physiology: (a) Beginning with food in the mouth, trace the course of digestion, naming the juices with which the food is mixed and the results. (b) What is the reason that spitting on the street is dangerous to the health of a community?

Spelling and Orthography: Select the proper prefix and place before each word in the following list (up, under, out, fore, over): spread, balance, hold, sight, ground, shine, current, brush, roar, burst.

Writing: Give five movements to develop accuracy in penmanship. Tell what you seek to do in using each movement.

History: (a) What colonies were founded in America because of religious reasons? By whom was each founded? (b) Give the cause, time, and result of each of the wars in which the United States has been involved.

Civil Government: Name three township, three county, and three state officers and state what office each person holds. Why do so many men dislike holding township offices?

Music: Draw a staff. Place on it the scale in half notes in the keys of G, D, and F. Write the scale that has a sharp on the fifth line and another sharp on the third space.

Reading: Who was Hamlet? Lochinvar? Naomi? Socrates? Gathergold? What are the three most important topics now being discussed in the newspapers? State two reasons for reading a newspaper. Give five uses of the dictionary. Do you use the dictionary while studying?


This little booklet also suggested morning exercises in which pupils stood beside their desks and pledged allegiance to the flag, then sang the national hymn, America. (Congress changed it to The Star-Spangled Banner in 1931.)

So, how did you do on the test?

Ninety-five years ago our schools raised a generation of cultured and refined men and women, using no technology.

I think they had a secret which died, don’t you?

What are your thoughts on education? Feel free to comment respectfully below.

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