Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We Are Making Negative Progress On Education

Every once in a while, I see something passed around the Internet that purports to be a high school graduation requirement from 1885--and the demands are so high that it is a bit hard to believe.  To be fair, however, most Americans did not go on to high school in 1885--so we may be looking at a pretty elite population that graduated high school back then.  On the other hand, my great-great-great-grandfather's Civil War diary makes use of a vocabulary that I think would surpass many college graduates today.  (Okay, he was a school teacher when he wasn't a farmer.) 

I was therefore surprised and a little sad to see this 1931 West Virginia Elementary Diploma Test that graduating eighth graders apparently needed to pass.  This is an image of the original, at the Washington Post website, so if this is a fraud, it's an astonishing clever fraud.

Let me emphasize: this is to graduate eighth grade.  I see a depressing number of college students that might have trouble passing this, and even many college graduates who might struggle with many of the questions.  At the risk of being accused of stereotyping, let me emphasize: West Virginia.  I suspect that expectations might have been higher in some other states.

No wonder this country is in such trouble.


  1. If you want to be even more depressed, not that the US DoE's 2011 budget estimate is more than double the 2009 budget.


    One big gigantic sinecure.

  2. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that in 1885 no one talked about a "population that graduated high school." Perhaps you meant "a population that graduated *from* high school."

    (Sorry, but this has been a pet peeve of mine since I first saw this construction about 20 years ago. If I were a real fuddy-duddy, I'd object to saying "a population that graduated from high school" and insist on "a population that was graduated from high school.")

  3. I'd like to say that this is why I want to homeschool my children, but it's not. I've come to realize that, if we value our freedom, we shouldn't allow the State to tell our children what to think...but that is what we do when we send them to public schools.

    I've seen statistics that indicate that, when we had no compulsory education, we were a highly educated nation. It's taken about 150 from when compulsory education began, to get to this point! And now, we need to reverse it, one family at a time, by refusing welfare education.

  4. Looks like a pretty glaring fake to me.

  5. I would be curious to know if this is actually a fake. If it is, someone worked long and hard to make it look real. What evidence do you have that it is a fake?

  6. One thing I noted:

    On the last page, they list achievements, and the persons responsible, scrambled; the student is to pair them up.

    By elimination:

    Automobiles are credited to someone named Haynes whom I never heard of.

    Disarmament is credited to [President] Warren Harding, which is true but little known. (The Harding adminstration negotiated the Washington Naval Treaty, which ended the "battleship race" and restricted other naval construction.)

  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elwood_Haynes - very likely the Haynes in question (first hit on a google search for "haynes automobile" got his company's wikipedia entry, and from there he was a link away; and Harding and the Washington Naval Treaty were recent history in 1931.

    One thing I always note when this comes up. The students are better drilled in arithmetic & geometry, and language, and rote history. We've added a lot more science (some of which is bunk, admittedly, but not all is), higher math, reduced the importance of rote learning vs first principles. Memorizing the times table to 12x12 is brute-force imprinting. Learning how to derive the table in the first place is harder (particularly when you DON'T start by the memorization).