Every year or so, something pops up in my email about some school test that was given 100 years ago. The person sending the email always says something like ” I wonder how many of OUR 8th graders could pass this test?” The test then goes on to ask some common knowledge and then some obscure questions, that not even most adults could answer today because the knowledge set is no longer focused on that particular set of learning outcomes (What is the best tool for removing nails from a horseshoe?)
The implication of course is that most 8th graders (or 5th graders or 2nd graders or 12th graders) would not be able to pass that test, hence education in 1895, or 1912 was a whole lot better.
Today’s exercise in stupidity looked like this:
So I thought it might be interesting to REVERSE that and ask the question:
Would a student in 1912 (or 1812 or 1856, or whatever year year you pick) be able to solve the question from the test in 2012?
Let’s see: Here are a few SAMPLE questions from the 8th Grade Released Texas STAAR Test:
How about this one:
Think those 1912 kids would have been able to answer these? Maybe, but my bet is that they couldn’t pass the 2012 test. So what does that mean? That the 1912 kids are stupid?
The point is, each generation has a completely different knowledge set to learn, and that all previous knowledge cannot possible be wrapped into the learning in any school. To compare some arcane test from 100+ years ago to today’s test is like asking if a car mechanic today could fix a 1906 Bay State 40
Would the mechanic that knew how to repair the 1906 Bay State 40 be able to repair a 2012 Mercedes? Probably not.
This says nothing about the mechanic or the car. It just says we live in different times. And so do our students.