Standardized testing through the ages
August 21, 2013 6:57 PM   Subscribe

 
It's official. By 1912 standards, I is stupid.

But let's see them wrestle with this stupid Excel spreadsheet, I tell you what.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:59 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just answer "C" for everything. You'll be fine.
posted by chasing at 7:01 PM on August 21, 2013


Note that there are several typesetting mistakes on the test including a mistake in the spelling list. The word "eneeavor" should be "endeavor."

A little depressing that the site creator thought he had to point this out.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:06 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I had just spent the last year studying the answers to these questions, I think I'd do all right. You, too, mudpuppie.
posted by bpm140 at 7:06 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Things that are unimportant : analysis, evaluation, synthesis of ideas, understanding of cause and effect, science, or literature.

Things that are important: encyclopedic knowledge of the Battle of Quebec.
posted by absalom at 7:12 PM on August 21, 2013 [20 favorites]


I think you're underplaying the difficulty of this test, bpm140. Sketch Sir Walter Raleigh? Sketch fuckin' Peter Stuyvesant? Seriously? What fraction of 8th graders do you think even know who Stuvyesant is much less can draw him? I'd put the answer at under 5 percent.

Sketch briefly Peter Stuyvesant my ass. I would walk out of this test.
posted by Justinian at 7:13 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or: "Sure, you can diagram a sentence, but can you WRITE?"
posted by absalom at 7:14 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually I wouldn't walk out I'd just draw a picture of a penis. That would show them.
posted by Justinian at 7:14 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


While I get that number three is essentially a high stakes question of calculating areas and then determining their total (lots of work, one right answer) the right answer they want is going to be terribly terribly wrong in the real world. Only a fool buys "just enough" of something that you want to apply in one pass to finish the job.

I guess I'm not to surprised that these people's children created a world where only a select few can change their own oil.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:15 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Certainly I can't answer a lot of these off the top of my head. Frankly I am not worried about that.

As absalom says, there's very little analysis or synthesis required in the answering of these questions. If you got the facts in your head for the history or geography, you would do fine. That does not seem to be a good method of education.
posted by solarion at 7:16 PM on August 21, 2013


I don't see the problem, eneeavor is a perfectly cromulent word.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:16 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I had just spent the last year studying the answers to these questions, I think I'd do all right.

What makes you think the answers (or more important, the questions) were available for study in advance of the test? There was no Kaplan in 1912.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:17 PM on August 21, 2013


There's something oddly lyrical about the sentence "Tell what you know of the Gulf Stream." It sort of reminds me of "What were the skies like when you were young?"
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:17 PM on August 21, 2013 [28 favorites]


Biographical sketch, justinian. Not drawing.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:17 PM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have no idea what kalsomining is in question 3. I guess that's what some people feel like when they get baseball questions on the SAT. But in context I assume its something like wallpapering so I could answer the question.
posted by Justinian at 7:18 PM on August 21, 2013


Or painting, I guess it could be like painting.
posted by Justinian at 7:18 PM on August 21, 2013


I really wish there were books that gave a history (or maybe there are) of what students were educated in. Maybe broadly throughout history, or maybe even just a concentrated look at education in America over the past 100 years.

My jaw still drops talking with older people about what they and their parents learned in podunk rural Texas schools. They learned about Euclid and the axiomatic method, they read Cicero in Latin, and they memorized Shakespeare and Pope. Nowadays? You're doing good if you remember geometry, did two years of Spanish, and can name three plays of Shakespeare.

Don't even get them started about the writing ability of students coming out of High School.

People try to emphasize that education is better today because we stress critical thinking and not rote memorization. Well, what good is critical thinking if there's not any content in your brain about which to critically think? This New Yorker piece only begins to scratch the surface of why memorization is important.
posted by SollosQ at 7:19 PM on August 21, 2013 [23 favorites]


Biographical sketch, justinian. Not drawing.

That's much less interesting. Damn you.
posted by Justinian at 7:19 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd still draw a picture of a penis though.
posted by Justinian at 7:19 PM on August 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


He was the first governor of New York and he was cranky and he had a peg leg. There! Peter Stuyvesant. Still, I'll be damned if I can figure out anything using cords or multiply with fractions.

Every so often I run across examples of tests like these from the early 20th century that are supposed to put our young folks to shame, and I don't quite like the attitude that it reflects when older folks (and they are always older folks) pass them along. This one seems to be authenticated, so there is that. Still, we have to remember that this was an America in which it was possible to make a living, even to support a family, without finishing high school. In fact, many people had no choice. Check out the Lewis Hine Project for some of the life histories of young people who should have been in school studying for this sort of test.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:21 PM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Kalsomine
posted by marsha56 at 7:21 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


What makes you think the answers (or more important, the questions) were available for study in advance of the test? There was no Kaplan in 1912.

One would figure that if it's such a big deal as claimed they would teach to the things that were at least likely to be on the test.

I'm actually curious about what the average results were.

People try to emphasize that education is better today because we stress critical thinking and not rote memorization. Well, what good is critical thinking if there's not any content in your brain about which to critically think?

I'd agree it's likely swung too far the other way. I'm not convinced we've had a good synthesis of the two yet, unfortunately, and I hope we get there in the future.
posted by solarion at 7:21 PM on August 21, 2013


Oh I know what whitewashing is! Because of Tom Sawyer!
posted by Justinian at 7:21 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Kalsomining is whitewashing, like Tom Sawyer and his fence.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:22 PM on August 21, 2013


I'd draw a penis with a pegleg and call it Peter Stuyvesant.
posted by dr_dank at 7:22 PM on August 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


That's better than I would have done, Countess Elena. My biographical sketch of Stuyvesant would have gone "something something Governor of New Amsterdam. Then it got renamed New York. The end."
posted by Justinian at 7:24 PM on August 21, 2013


People try to emphasize that education is better today because we stress critical thinking and not rote memorization.

Uh, since when? No Child Left Behind is like a massive monument to rote memorization.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:24 PM on August 21, 2013


(Note: latkes, I don't mean that I don't like your attitude in passing it along! I like this FPP. As I say, I hadn't seen one of these before that I was sure was real.)

(Note, again: Turns out Stuyvesant was not the first governor of New York; he was the last Dutch one. But that's what I found in my ass when I reached in to pull something out, so.)
posted by Countess Elena at 7:24 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"something something Governor of New Amsterdam. Then it got renamed New York. The end."

Why they changed it you can't say?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:26 PM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Istanbul. Not Constantinople.
posted by Justinian at 7:27 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't see the problem, eneeavor is a perfectly cromulent word.

Eneeavor said it wasn't.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:29 PM on August 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


There's something oddly lyrical about the sentence "Tell what you know of the Gulf Stream." It sort of reminds me of "What were the skies like when you were young?"

Dull, gray, monotonous. Uhdunno, like they are now.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:30 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sketch Sir Walter Raleigh? Sketch fuckin' Peter Stuyvesant? Seriously?

Trick question, easy-peasy.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:31 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some of these questions have different answers now than in 1912. That's not fair! Which is the correct answer?
posted by Justinian at 7:34 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


My jaw still drops talking with older people about what they and their parents learned in podunk rural Texas schools.
School did used to be different in the U.S., and a high school degree definitely meant something different. My mother graduated from podunk Indiana Banquo High School in 1944. The school graduated a total of 367 students in 58 years. She studied Latin as a matter of course. I will also presume (because I never asked her) that she and all her classmates were familiar enough with English literature not to have to be told how their school and its locality were named.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:34 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, kids slightly older than a toddler can use a pocket-size device to locate the answers to all these questions and many more and do it without a second thought. Then they will use it to send "lol wuz up" messages to their friends.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:37 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Things that are important: encyclopedic knowledge of the Battle of Quebec.

I found that odd and wondered why US schoolchildren would be taught that aspect of history. It is undoubtedly highly interesting in Canada, but only somewhat in the UK, nevermind the US. I realize this must refer to another Battle of Quebec, and not the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. That said, the pathetic tragedy of Wolfe and the (in)famous painting by West are well worth reading on.
posted by Thing at 7:39 PM on August 21, 2013


On the other hand, kids slightly older than a toddler can use a pocket-size device to locate the answers to all these questions and many more and do it without a second thought.

I know you are joking here, but more seriously, who put all those answers into the pocket-size device? Sometimes, I think we are turning into the mediaeval stone masons quarrying the Roman temples.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:42 PM on August 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


Name and give boundaries of the five zones.

Um...

Time - meridians of longitude more or less
Transit - the limits of where Edward Snowden was allowed to go
Friend - physical intimacy
O - the stratosphere
Erogenous - I don't know, I'm a dude
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:45 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


and do it without a second thought.

And therein lies part of the problem.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:47 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Given that the Roman's solution to every problem was to stab it or throw a bunch of slave labor at it, I'm not sure the medieval stone masons aren't the ones to emulate.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:49 PM on August 21, 2013


George_Spiggott: You forgot the danger zone!
posted by ODiV at 7:51 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Kid Charlemagne, failure to grok metaphor and simile is another sign of the end times. (I know you were joking; the mediaeval stone masons worked for the Catholic Church.)
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:54 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, what good is critical thinking if there's not any content in your brain about which to critically think?

I dunno, about as much good as memorizing a bunch of terms and phrases when you don't know what they mean?
posted by escabeche at 7:56 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Look, people. Schoolchildren can EITHER have broad factual knowledge OR critical understanding BUT NOT BOTH. IT'S IN THE CONSTITUTION.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:57 PM on August 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


I dunno, about as much good as memorizing a bunch of terms and phrases when you don't know what they mean?

What makes you conclude that the students of 1912 were not also taught what the facts they memorized meant? Or were you referring to contemporary schooling?

(And, on preview, what overeducated alligator said.)
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:58 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


What makes you conclude that the students of 1912 were not also taught what the facts they memorized meant? Or were you referring to contemporary schooling?

I wasn't referring to either one.
posted by escabeche at 8:21 PM on August 21, 2013


I decline I, RASTAFARAAAAYIIII
posted by not_on_display at 8:23 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Back in the, day you either learned it, or it was ASS WHOOPIN' TIME!
posted by BlueHorse at 8:25 PM on August 21, 2013


What makes you conclude that the students of 1912 were not also taught what the facts they memorized meant?

I conclude that because it isn't reflected in the test. Perhaps there was good classroom discussion about how to interpret all these facts. But it's hard to draw that conclusion that they learned what the facts meant from what they were actually tested on.

I know you are joking here, but more seriously, who put all those answers into the pocket-size device?

Huge numbers of individuals contributing to the whole. And none of whom could have provided even a significant minority of content.

The test doesn't strike me as particularly rigorous. I'm sure an average student today would perform adequately if taught the material. It does strike me as particularly irrelevant to adults a century later, though. Lets face it. Most people have absolutely no need to recall all of that information in their day to day lives.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:43 PM on August 21, 2013


I don't believe the errors were on the original paper. They were introduced by the compression used on the scan. I was quite astonished to see an example of this in the "real world".
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:20 PM on August 21, 2013


My son starts middle school next month in a school district which is media shorthand for high-performing kids of high-achieving parents, and I would absolutely love it if the instruction were targeted at producing eighth graders who could competently write the 2013 version of this examination.

This examination demands the student elaborate upon and apply a diverse range of theory and principle from a firm basis of factual knowledge. The "analysis first" credo of too much modern education is absolutely absurd.
posted by MattD at 9:28 PM on August 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


I am so printing this out as a huge poster on my inkjet and posting it on the bulletin board at work, where I am currently scoring standardized high school algebra, geometry, and calculus exams. The Test Development people will freak.

This test has some obvious problems. Who discovered the Pacific Ocean? Maybe they mean Balboa. Or Lewis and Clark. Or maybe the Chinese or the Micronesians or some society that actually lived in the Pacific Ocean since antiquity. And of course, nobody knows the duties of the county officials and Governor of Kentucky, least of all the county officials and Governor of Kentucky.

The test doesn't strike me as particularly rigorous. I'm sure an average student today would perform adequately if taught the material. It does strike me as particularly irrelevant to adults a century later, though. Lets face it. Most people have absolutely no need to recall all of that information in their day to day lives.

I suppose that depends on how rigorous your education was. I didn't think it was difficult at all.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:39 PM on August 21, 2013


Matt D - couldn't agree more.

There is increasing evidence that rote learning is not as pointless as it is often assumed to be. Learning poetry or times tables or spelling off by heart actually strengthens neural pathways in certain (vital) parts of the brain.

In other words, knowing how to find something out via google/spellcheck =! actually knowing that thing.

Read Norman Doidge's The Brain That Changed Itself for a way better explanation than what I'm managing here.
posted by Salamander at 9:45 PM on August 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Arg, neither rote nor synthetic learning is a binary all-or-nothing.

The problem everyone is arguing about is what level of knowledge in each of the domains of knowledge that is expected of someone with an "8th grade education" and how many/which domains are important.

Complicate by trying to define "level."

"Rote education" is garbage. The prevalent trend currently in N.America is terrible and trending worse but this is an awesome example of grade/degree inflation.

Back then an 8th grade education meant you would never need to do labour to make a living if you chose to move to the increasingly common towns/cities. That's basically an undergraduate/baccalaureate degree (20 years, a generation, ago).

Britain's education system must have been around longer and must have influenced the N. American one. Anyone have an explanation/link to the etiology of how the "form" (?) system developed?
posted by porpoise at 10:26 PM on August 21, 2013


The "analysis first" credo of too much modern education is absolutely absurd.
....
In other words, knowing how to find something out via google/spellcheck =! actually knowing that thing.

Not only that, but what are you really going to bother to analyze when every second thought requires either a trip to Google or a calculator?

Calculator use from a young age shot my mathematics education all to hell, because I thought and was encouraged to think that memorization was a waste of time. There was no way for me to develop any fluency because I was always shifting back and forth between my current problem and doing simple stuff on the calculator.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 10:30 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have no idea who invented the magnetic (final question).

What's a magnetic?
posted by yohko at 10:42 PM on August 21, 2013


In other words, knowing how to find something out via google/spellcheck =! actually knowing that thing.

But why do you need to know something if you know how to find it via google/spellcheck?

It's not clear to me that google/spellcheck precludes neuroplasticity a la Norman Doidge. In fact, I would think neuroplasticity allows people not only to learn via modern technology far more ideas, facts, and exercise far more analysis than any student at any level in 1912, but specialize far more effectively. Precisely because google/spellcheck can tell me far more about the battle of Quebec than I would ever have learned in school. Even in 1912.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:48 PM on August 21, 2013


I have no idea who invented the magnetic (final question).

The comma is spurious, likely introduced as part of the compression. The questioner wants to know who invented the magnetic telegraph, as opposed to the older optical telegraphs that used moving arms or lights to spell out words.

What's a magnetic?

- .-- . -. - -.--
-... ..- -.-. -.- ...
... .- -- .
.- ...
.. -.
- --- .-- -.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:54 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wasn't able to answer all of the questions, but I already went through the Bullitt County educational system and my mother was a teacher in same, so I'm all good!

(I wonder if I am the only Mefite who is a graduate of Bullitt County schools... hmmm.... For those of you wondering, it's a rural county adjacent to Louisville)
posted by Slothrop at 3:56 AM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Can we use our calculators?
posted by MtDewd at 4:18 AM on August 22, 2013


Thing: It actually is the same Battle of Quebec. The 7-Years War/French & Indian War is a huge deal in American history because it really got the ball rolling on colonial resistance to... well, everything... that would one day lead to the American Revolution.
posted by absalom at 4:41 AM on August 22, 2013


But why do you need to know something if you know how to find it via google/spellcheck?

Because everyday life is not a formal test. The world doesn't ask straightforward questions and give you a gold star for having been able to look up the answer. Changes and problems arise around you that aren't labeled as such, and *don't have* correct answers. You either see their significance or you don't. A reservoir of facts and an understanding of their relationships, in your head, is what makes it possible to recognize patterns, similarities and subtle references you would otherwise miss completely.
posted by jon1270 at 5:09 AM on August 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


- .-- . -. - -.--
-... ..- -.-. -.- ...
... .- -- .
.- ...
.. -.
- --- .-- -.


If this doesn't mean $20 SAIT, I'll be sorely disappointed.
posted by ersatz at 5:11 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


But why do you need to know something if you know how to find it via google/spellcheck?
Insight.

Because you need to know things to be able to internally manipulate them, have spontaneous realizations about them, recombine them into new and original forms, or perceive important missing pieces between them. You need to have a firm grasp on things to get a broad, holistic view of them.

One of the more valuable expressions of intelligence is when a person encounters a novel situation, and makes a connection or comparison between it and some piece of knowledge they are carrying around with them. If your memory storehouse is kept pretty empty, all you will be likely to do is go to the external reference when you already know that you need such-and-such piece of information. But, that's a very small subset of what people do with knowledge.

Skilled practitioners of arts and sciences have large memories of information relevant to their field. Your doctor doesn't go over to an iPad to Google it every time she has to remember what the leg-bone's connected to. That large storehouse of known factual information she carries isn't just to produce on command, it's to be able to USE in complex spontaneous situations. Your doctor might also remember something from a patient's case 5 years ago that applies to your case. Sure, sure, the notes are all written up in the chart somewhere in a file cabinet in a basement, but remembering things makes it far more likely that Doc will make the connection, than if she had to go look it up. If she doesn't remember it, how will she even know that there's something important to look up?
posted by overeducated_alligator at 5:16 AM on August 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


We still have plenty of factual data ready to be used in the way overeducated_alligator and others describe, it's just different than what this test asks for at least two reasons: first, few of us are eighth-graders and the selection of facts we were taught in eighth grade were quite different (not that I remember the specifics of what I learned in 8th grade, particularly when it comes to history). And as others have identified, there's a lingo which makes this test even less accessible to us (who invented the magnetic? sketch so-and-so?). And of course there are a few laughable questions in which the student must regurgitate some particular and simplistic viewpoint on a complicated subject: “What is copyright? Patent right?” (something that maybe has only become so complicated by the pocket-sized infringement machines so many of us now own)

On the other hand, I never have had the knowledge of geography required here and wish I did. And people, including me, would be better off if they could answer questions like “Name five county officers, and the principal duties of each,” since it's my experience that we have the barest grasp of local government.
posted by jepler at 5:31 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


“Never memorize something that you can look up.”
― Albert Einstein
posted by landis at 5:58 AM on August 22, 2013


What makes you conclude that the students of 1912 were not also taught what the facts they memorized meant?
I conclude that because it isn't reflected in the test.


I don't think these are facts you could remember unless you knew what they meant. The tone of the exam is really quite practical - fractions and percentages - with a bit of general knowledge thrown in. The kids would be what, 13, 14? What was school-leaving age in those days, 14 for most people? I don't think the kids represented by this exam would be coming out of school ignorant, or without useful skills.

Some interesting open-ended questions there, lots of flexibility allowed in both answering and in awarding marks.

What's the war of 1812, Napoleon/Russia? *checks* Oh.

Still puzzling over the 5 rules of maintaining good health.
posted by glasseyes at 6:35 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is increasing evidence that rote learning is not as pointless as it is often assumed to be.

Nobody disses the rote learning required to play a musical instrument.
posted by glasseyes at 6:38 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sure there's a good quote by Plato that I am here paraphrasing, but... you can't learn what you don't know. Sounds a little funny, but it's kind of true. You don't know what you don't know. If you don't know X, how are you going to know that you need to learn about X?

Of course, K-12/secondary education isn't going to be able to shove all the information down your throat that there is in the world. Eventually, you're going to have to go out and find out the X's that you don't know about one way or another. But that's no reason why K-12/secondary education shouldn't aim to fill you up with as much knowledge as a base line as possible, while not sacrificing the important skills of being able to make inferences, investigate cause and effects, and so on.
posted by SollosQ at 6:42 AM on August 22, 2013


Joe in Australia: I don't believe the errors were on the original paper. They were introduced by the compression used on the scan. I was quite astonished to see an example of this in the "real world".

Firstly, it's likely that this was scanned in as a TIFF, which won't use JBIG2 and thus won't replace characters. Also while the bug affects all modes on those specific xerox models, it is generally only on low quality settings, which seems an unlikely setting to use given the high quality of the scan.

The way the JBIG2 bug seems to work, it doesn't replace single characters, and is generally caused by 7-8 point Arial text in black and white documents. The background of the paper is pretty noisy, probably enough to make it not "similar" under the algorithm. Couple this with the instances you pointed out not existing elsewhere in the document (no instances of a c followed by a comma elsewhere in the document, different noise right under/immediately adjacent to the second "e" in eenavour) makes it even more unlikely.

Much more likely that they are just typos in the original document.
posted by grandsham at 8:11 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


But which French and Indian war do they mean? There were like a hillion jillion of them from the 1600s on til the American Revolution.

Also the only Battle of Brandywine I can think of is in the Hobbit.
posted by elizardbits at 8:44 AM on August 22, 2013


The North American theater of the Seven Years War is colloquially known as "the French and Indian War," at least in America. All of the other conflicts that pitted Natives against settlers have their specific names own names: The Anglo-Powhatan Wars, the Pequot War, King Phillip's War, etc.
posted by absalom at 10:42 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


But why do you need to know something if you know how to find it via google/spellcheck?

Because everyday life is not a formal test.


This sounds like a good argument in favor of google.

Skilled practitioners of arts and sciences have large memories of information relevant to their field. Your doctor doesn't go over to an iPad to Google it every time she has to remember what the leg-bone's connected to.

Ummm... you might be startled to find how often doctors hit the net for information. The interesting thing here is that it makes them better doctors. Anecdotally, the ones who are flailing seem to be the ones that refuse to access technology. Insight doesn't come strictly from memorization. Knowing what the leg bone is connected to is something a doc might remember because it's very relevant to their profession. For someone who took anatomy at one time and went on to be a bookkeeper, that knowledge might have come and gone. Google to the rescue.

Again, I think it's ridiculous to hold the 1912 test as particularly rigorous. I find it not particularly daunting as is, and certainly wouldn't had I just spent 8th grade studying the material. I find it likely that I'd perform just as well/poorly with my own 8th grade exams today, because that information has come and gone. Most of it was never needed all that much to begin with, and fell by the wayside as a result. If I were in need of recalling one of those dusty facts, I'd be foolish to rely on memory when google is so close by.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:23 PM on August 22, 2013


As absalom says, there's very little analysis or synthesis required in the answering of these questions. If you got the facts in your head for the history or geography, you would do fine. That does not seem to be a good method of education.

For the average eighth grader, I'd say it's a very good method of education. You can't analyze or synthesize what you don't know, and absent memorization, you don't know what you know.

The brain of the average eighth grader and his younger siblings is very good at memorizing things, so why not play to its strengths? Pile on the times tables, the irregular French verbs, the historically significant dates, the sonnets of Shakespeare, the names and functions of body parts, the river systems of Africa. Who knows which ones will fire their imaginations? Regardless, learn those things early on and you will have riches for the rest of your life.

(Probably worth pointing out, by the way, that when this was compiled, not everyone got as far as eighth grade. A High School Diploma had meaning back then, back before education stopped being a profession and became a business.)

Ummm... you might be startled to find how often doctors hit the net for information.

In a field as rapidly developing and changing as medicine, I would certainly hope that doctors do hit the net for information, just as their elders read hard copies of the Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine. That said, I would also expect them to have a pretty solid core of basic biology under their belts. For those Marcus Welby/Dr. House moments, and when the computer is down. ("You know, that thing, down there, it gets inflamed sometimes. I forget why.")

And do you really want to be utterly dependent on electricity and trust other people's software? Nothing more depressing than a cashier who cannot make correct change when the cash register is down.

But I think you kind of miss the point here. Life is not simply about the binary workaday world of up to day facts and factoids. If I make an allusion to my salad days, when I was green in judgement, you can indeed look it up if you happen to be next to a computer, or are rude enough to pull out a cellphone - but it's sort of like not getting a joke and having to have it explained to you. The joke is no longer funny.

My older relatives can recite reams of poetry, most of it learned back in the day, and it gives them a great deal of pleasure. It is a companion over the years, referred to time after time, a comfort to them at odd and unexpected moments. I've read of POWs who kept themselves sane in solitary by dragging out the verse they were forced to learn in their school days. My younger relatives, schooled in the touchy feely curriculum of today, would be hard pressed to identify some of the poets in question, much less the poetry itself. I don't see that they are the better people for it.

Nor do I see much evidence that they are better able to "analyze".
posted by IndigoJones at 1:11 PM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Slothrop, I'm sad you posted.

I was going to come in here and make fun of Bullitt County for being a white flight county filled with rednecks and having a horrible education track record. But NOW I have to take your feelings into account.

Dammit man.
(Louisville boy here)
posted by DigDoug at 1:12 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


“Never memorize something that you can look up.”
― Albert Einstein


It occurs to me that there's a difference between knowing enough about a thing to know that it would be useful to the current situation and being able to look up the details, and not knowing it exists at all.

You can learn about something and not have it memorized. I have little use for Avogadro's number, and certainly don't have it memorized, but I might recognize a situation where looking it up might be useful.

One thing I'd learned by 8th grade that doesn't show up in this test is Algebra, it seems a bit strange that it isn't covered in this test.
posted by yohko at 1:24 PM on August 22, 2013


Joe in Australia, what a deal for a valuable antique! I'll take it.

Looking at the answer key it says "Magneto - Faraday". I suspect what would have been familiar to students of the day would have been this type.
posted by yohko at 1:32 PM on August 22, 2013


One thing I'd learned by 8th grade that doesn't show up in this test is Algebra, it seems a bit strange that it isn't covered in this test.

Most of the Arithmetic section is algebra. It's just not written in mathematic notation for algebra.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:27 PM on August 22, 2013


Effing magnetics, how do they work?
posted by kyrademon at 7:26 AM on August 23, 2013


Thing: It actually is the same Battle of Quebec. The 7-Years War/French & Indian War is a huge deal in American history because it really got the ball rolling on colonial resistance to... well, everything... that would one day lead to the American Revolution.

That's very interesting. I'm not so up on US history (or the US view of history), so it's good to learn something new.
posted by Thing at 9:04 AM on August 23, 2013


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