Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Public School System: Then and Now

Education. It's arguably the best gift a child can receive. I'm not talking about the touchy-feely indoctrination kids today get. I'm talking about teaching them the basic skills they'll need to thrive in this world. Over the years, the public school system has become a failed social experiment. Children today are being presented with a liberal education with the emphasis on social issues over basic knowledge of how to read, write, and do math.

Some teachers have had their hands tied and been denied the freedom to teach. Curricula that have given us, in some areas, a student graduation rate of 25% or less seem to have become standard.

Today's teachers are a mixed bag. There are those who are truly passionate about giving kids an education that will allow them to succeed in today's world, and then those who are so wrapped up in just getting them through to the next grade with minimal skills. Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the majority.

In New York City, there are teachers being paid full salary and benefits to do anything they want. Play games, write a book, paint.....the list goes on. These teachers are awaiting disciplinary hearings for offenses ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct, and they sometimes wait years. All the while, the citizens of New York City are paying them the same as those teachers who spend all day in the classroom.

Years ago, things were different. Trouble students were expelled, not just tolerated until they could be passed off to another teacher to become their problem. Teachers had a say in how a child was disciplined, and parents often relied on teachers to learn of potential problems that may be on the horizon. Not today. The educational world has become inverted.

The following is a taste of what used to be. It's a graduation test from Saline County, Kansas, dated 1895. The students had to pass this test to move on to the eighth grade. At the end, you will note a list of duties and requirements teachers had to abide by. My how times have changed.

April 13, 1895
J.W. Armstrong, County Superintendent.

Examinations at Salina, New Cambria, Gypsum City, Assaria, Falun, Bavaria, and District No. 74 (in Glendale Twp.)

Reading and Penmanship. - The Examination will be oral, and the Penmanship of Applicants will be graded from the manuscripts.

(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 do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case. Illustrate each case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7-10 Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

(Time, 1 ¼ hour)

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 weights 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. Per bu., deducting 1050 lbs 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 per cent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per m?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 per cent.
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.

(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, Whtney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865.

(Time, one hour)

1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthogaphy, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, 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, super.
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.

(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 N.A.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall, and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give 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 inclination of the earth.

1. Where are the saliva, gastric juice, and bile secreted? What is the use of each in digestion?
2. How does nutrition reach the circulation?
3. What is the function of the liver? Of the kidneys?
4. How would you stop the flow of blood from an artery in the case of laceration?
5. Give some general directions that you think would be beneficial to preserve the human body in a state of health.



1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys.
2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session.
3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.
4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.
8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.
9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves

Now, I will be the first to say that I'd still be in seventh grade. Even though I've been out of school for a quarter of a century, there is still a stark contrast between the education I received and what was taught when my great-grandparents were children. Today's kids would be lucky if they could read the test.

And could you imagine the teachers' union tolerating rules that actually held teachers accountable? Oh, the horror of it all! The NEA would never allow it.

While I'm not saying we need to get back to this era of education, I DO believe that parents today should be given the choice of whether or not they send their most precious gifts from God to a school where social indoctrination abounds and education has become secondary.

How did YOU perform on this test?

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The Keeper Of Odd Knowledge (KOOK) said...

Uhhh...what? I was playing Wii last...

I had to look up what Orthography meant.

"My name is Kook and I am not smarter than a fifth grader"

blackandgoldfan said...

Hi, KOOK! That's EIGHTH grader! lol

Could you imagine that test being given today? Parents would be whining about how hard that test is for their pampered cherubs, and the kids wouldn't know whether to crap or go blind.

WomanHonorThyself said...

I had to look up what Orthography meant. post girl..!

blackandgoldfan said...

Thanks, Angel! I still have no clue. Haven't had time to look it up, so you and KOOK are one up on me!

Dr. Dave said...

I'll also be honest...I'd probably stink up the joint. Without Google, I'm mind mush.

But I'm going to bookmark this and settle in and see just what I don't know when I have a bit more time.

I will say that my wife and I are fortunate enough to be able to keep our kids at home, where my wife teaches them. Sure we could have a much bigger house and a much bigger car and take much longer and more expensive family vacations if we dumped our kids in the public schools and both worked in the corporate world.

But I think my kids will probably wind up being a lot smarter (well, they already are!) than most kids who go to public school, precisely because they've been learning about the kinds of things in your test all along, albeit in much simpler and tangible and tactile ways.

And they'll wind up being so smart they'll probably have me committed anyway, but at least it won't be out of some liberal'll be to put me out of my insanity.

blackandgoldfan said...

Dr. Dave: Kudos to your wife! With two autistic kids, I don't have the resources or the patience to make sure they're learning what they need. She's more woman than I!Many studies have proven that home schooled kids are far above their publicly educated peers. Of course, yours just get smarts from mom and dad!

I'll see you in the loony bin. I'll save you a seat.

Dr. Dave said...

Wow. I didn't know you had two kids with autism. That's a lot to handle. Our boy clearly is ADHD/sensory integration challenged...not...ahem...that...ahem...he got his father, but... Our girl is clearly learning her brother gets "special" attention and knows precisely how to be the drama queen of the century.

So those are other reasons we homeschool...but...damn...I tip MY hat to you.

We're really going to have to compare notes some day, perhaps over a few Irons in the hot sun at training camp!

Euripides said...

Actually...This wasn't all that difficult. Then again, I went above and beyond the call of duty when I was in school.

Orthography is just spelling.

Good points, however, about the sad state of schools. By the time the kids reach my classes in college, they are thoroughly incapable of reading or writing.

blackandgoldfan said...

@ Dr. Dave: I don't drink (get in too much trouble sober), but I would love to meet you and the family if possible. That would be faboo!!!

While I thank you for your kind words, God has been the one who has blessed me and given me the strength to deal day in and day out.

@Euripedes: I'm so glad you did well. Of course, when you read the posts at Self-Evident, one can only gather that you truly are a smart cookie.

How do you deal with the lack of skills your students have? I'd be pulling my hair out in frustration.

Euripides said...

I have two tactics to deal with students. 1) I internalize my frustrations then suddenly release all the pent up emotion in a single burst that has the students in tears. 2) I bang my head against a brick wall until the pain goes away and/or I pass out.