No Wonder Lincoln Moved from Kentucky

Have you seen this high school entrance test in the year 1912?

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  • T

    It’s hard to read this and not be angry with how far backwards we’ve moved.

  • scotmcknight

    The question I have as I read this is not so much what has happened to us but whether or not this was a way of keeping the poor out of high school? When did schooling through sixteen become mandatory? When did public schooling through high school become the expected achievement of Americans?

    In other words, does anyone know the history of public education well enough to know the historical context for this?

  • RJS

    Interesting. Presumably the questions here reflect what was taught through 8th grade in the schools.

    I find the spelling words particularly interesting … there was little concern with limiting the vocabulary for readability. Although I am not sure what eneeavor means.

  • Larry S.

    Ok, in 1912 they wouldn’t let me into high school.

    But to be honest when I saw the first screen of this post, I thought it was a test about the different ways to spells bullshit! Yikes

  • scotmcknight

    RJS, I think that’s a misspelling of “endeavor.” No?

  • Ann

    Passing it would require a lot of memorization, but it seems light on higher-order thinking. There’s a place for memorization, but I’d rather my children be able to analyze and critique.

  • RJS


    I think it is a misspelling – it just stuck out as I read the list.

  • DRT

    I bet Scot#2 is right. This seems more like a method to discriminate on the basis of wealth or such and less like a method to discriminate based on aptitude and readiness.

  • Interesting thoughts all.

  • Dan Jones

    Even if it was a method to discriminate on the basis of wealth, show me your average 13 year old kid from wealth today who could score a 70% or higher on this and I’ll show you a bridge for sale in NY. I’ll show you two bridges if you think you can find two wealthy adults who could pass this test without the aid of their blackberry or iphone. Any of you know what the eligibility requirements for the governor of IL are (besides corruption)?


  • I think that in this era almost no one went past 9th grade. My grandfather was born in 1913, and he went thru third grade and had to quit at the age of 9 when his father died. My grandmother went thru 8th grade. I have sat with many elderly people, and for the most part, particularly in rural areas, there were not even local high schools.

    I think they just focused on the basics, so were able to teach much more. Education wasn’t a given, it wasn’t assumed, so those who went had to work much harder.

    Fast forward even two decades, and highschool became more of a norm. (My Dad born in 1924 went, and then went on to college.) Life changed.

  • First line should’ve said “no one went past 8th grade.”

  • Jonathanblake

    My hometown is on a question in the geography section! +1 for Mobile

  • Susan N.

    For a historical background on the development of American (mass) education, see John Taylor Gatto’s book ‘The Underground History of American Education.’

    I used to own the book, but cannot locate it this morning to see if I can answer your question(s) in #2. I must have loaned or sold it!

    Do a Google search on JTG or the book title, and you will find info online as well.


  • Phillip

    If this were a college entrance exam today, I wonder how many current undergrads would be weeded out.

  • Richard Heyduck

    Just a point of trivia. I looked up the members of the Bullitt Co. Board of Education in the 1910 census. Three of the four were farmers, Magruder a carpenter.

    If 8th grade was the normal culmination of schooling for most people (at least those well-off enough to go to school), and they “taught to the test,” why would this be a big deal? Surely it’s a different test, a different list of expectations than our students have today, but it’s not impossible.