Can you pass this 101-year-old test for 8th graders?

Washington Post – by Valerie Strauss

Back by popular demand (well, I like it) here’s a 1912 eighth-grade exam that was used in schools in Bullitt County, Ky. This test, which I first published more than a year ago, is now in the Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society.

If you like this one, you can try this one too, an exam from 1931 by the West Virginia education department for students seeking graduation from eighth grade. That test was sent to me a few years ago by John N. Beall of Wilmington, N.C., who received it from his father, the teacher who administered the exam in a one-room school in Gilmer County.  

Here’s the 1912 Bullitt County test for eighth graders:


11 thoughts on “Can you pass this 101-year-old test for 8th graders?

  1. I usually do good on most of the subjects, but arithmetic.

    Being an English major and a person who studies history, geography and politics, I was always one of those liberal arts majors who cringed every time a bunch of numbers were thrown in front of me with a problem to solve. It was like someone insulting me and throwing my intelligence straight into the toilet. I hated people who could solve math problems in minutes and I just sat their dumbfounded. It was like I had this blank spot or wall in my head that I just couldn’t get around.

    That and women are my fatal weaknesses. lol

    1. That’s because nobody ever took the time to carefully explain things to you, as regards math. A lot of ‘teachers’ aren’t teachers.

      Many people suffer a mental block when faced with a problem which challenges them, especially in the ‘unknown’ territory of mathematics. All those numbers, and symbols immediately begin to look like a foreign language; the problem feeds on itself leading to confusion.

      And of course, nobody really wants to ‘look stupid’ either.

      The way out of that quandary is to carefully move in a step-wise fashion, and very carefully seek to comprehend all the pieces, and parts, whilst understanding how they all interact, one step at a time.

      Actually, once you get the basics down, most of the rest tends to ‘fall into place,’ after a fashion. Too, word problems can be confusing, especially if they are poorly worded. The byword there: Carefully read the question, jot down the key points, and then seek to understand just what is being sought.

      Don’t be intimidated by math; rather make math become your best friend!

  2. Some of these questions are useful in real life. But most of them prove, once again, that no matter how much trivia you force a kid to memorize they will not be prepared for adulthood unless the really important stuff is taught.

    In 1912 what all Americans needed to understand was central banking and debt-based fiat currency issued by a private corporation. They didn’t, and the result of their ignorance is biting us in the ass to this day.

    I would love to know what they considered the correct answer to “Name the cause of the War of 1812” but I would bet that it wasn’t “Because the House of Rothschild wanted to stick it to us for not renewing the First Bank of the United States charter.” And being able to name three presidents who have been assassinated only means you have a good memory, not that you understand that every one of them was murdered by bankers for getting off-script.

    1. OK, I admit. I know 2 presidents who died in office, but if this was in 1912, I’m guessing that JFK was not one of the presidents that they are looking for in the answer. As far as 3 being assassinated, I don’t know the answer to those, either. Can anyone enlighten me?

      1. Lincoln was assassinated for using debt-free greenbacks to finance the Civil War instead of accepting ruinous interest rates from New York bankers. Garfield was assassinated in 1881for advocating a bi-metal monetary system (gold and silver). Not even having opposed Lincoln’s greenbacks would save him from the bankers’ wrath. And William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, making the mistake of thinking that because he was safely elected to a second term, he could afford to do some truth-telling about the banking system.

        JFK’s murder is somewhat murky because so many wanted him dead it is hard to sort out the players. But here’s a clue: The Secret Service is a part of the Treasury Department, which is clearly dominated by bankers. Isn’t that odd? Here’s why (I just figured this out recently): The bankers want the final say in whether a president lives or dies, and if they want the president dead, they don’t want the Palace Guard getting in their way. They want to BE the Palace Guard. The Secret Service stand-down in the JFK assassination is well-proven.

        1. Thanks for the update, Tom. Didn’t know that. Amazing how I was never taught that in high school, let alone 8th grade. I guess McKinley and Garfield weren’t as worthy for the elitists to promote in school as Lincoln was.

  3. I took the test from 1931 and it would appear that i’m stuck in elementary school back in 1931.

    1. For anyone wishing to explore this subject further, one of the best places is John Taylor Gatto’s book _The Underground History of American Education_. Gatto is a retired high school teacher who won both the New York City Teacher of the Year award and then the New York State Teacher of the Year award before becoming the nation’s leading critic of the way we teach kids. Fortunately, Gatto has made the entire book available online for free here:

  4. IMO, there is no way this is real. Nobody could fathom a $180 watch in the 20’s. Sex was NEVER a word on a test (gender …maybe). Honolulu? Describe the Heart? Good try.

    I 100% agree that today’s tests are not the answer….teach to the test, rather than teach to learn.

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