The 8th grade final exam which was the subject of my last post, was a fake according to Snopes.com
...which got me thinking, always a dangerous occupation. So I did a little snooping through history. The following images are from "9th Century Schoolbooks Collection," The McGuffy Fifth Reader, and other textbooks geared toward 13, 14, and 15 year old students. Most remarkable, in my opinion, is the vocabulary and sentence structure that children were expected to comprehend and use.
Here's my oh so scholarly theory: Modern education is dumbed down; There is far more information available and introduced to modern students, but it is sanitized and presented in dull formats that don't inspire curiosity or critical thought. Having been a substitute teacher for all twelve grades, I've browsed through a LOT of textbooks. Almost every (non STEM) lesson reads like merely an introduction to the subject, requiring supplemental materials to provide any real knowledge. In my experience, aside from Advanced Placement high school classes, most of the supplemental material is nearly as shallow as the textbooks. Most student assignments require very little critical thinking, memorization, organization, or logical interpretation of facts; instead they require students' personal interpretations of introductory-level facts.
Here are images of textbook pages from the past:
From "McGuffy’s New Fifth Eclectic Reader:"
From "McGuffy's New Sixth Eclectic Reader:"
Here's one from “The Normal Mental Arithmetic: A Thorough and Complete
Course by Analysis and Induction.”
(I’m not sure what grade level this is, “primary” through ???)
How's this for a title?
“Sanders' High School Reader: Embracing a Comprehensive Course of Instruction in the Principles of Rhetorical Reading : With a Choice Collection of Exercises in Reading, Both in Prose and Poetry, for the Use of the Higher Classes in Schools of Every Grade”
"The Young American, or, Book of Government and Law : Showing Their History, Nature and Necessity : for the Use of Schools"
Grade level not specified.
I'd have to guess that 120 years ago, the average public schooled 14 year old, had read more literature and history (presuming some access to books) with better comprehension, than the average 14 year old today. They also did their arithmetic without calculators. (Eeeek!) However, they didn't have to pass the fake exam I published yesterday.