The dumbing of our children is nothing new. I'm a former professor whose students did not know Joe Biden, could not name their senators, had no idea of how the political process worked, did not know geography, had not read a book other than a text, could not compute, did not know history and had no basic skills. This is nothing new. My mother thought that although I took Latin and French in high school, she sniffed "Well we had to take Greek". (Note: this was in an all black school in the deep south!) I just noted that things are getting worse as technology is substituted for knowledge.To show that the dumbing down is nothing new consider the following written in 1986: "America's children need strong academic skills more than ever before. Yet, despite a decade of educational reforms, their achievement remains disappointing. In a 1986 assessment of 17-year-old juniors, students were asked when World War I occurred. A little more than 40% were unable to place the event "sometime between 1900 and 1950. Last year's National Assessment of Education Progress found that only 6% of American high school graduates are ready for college math. American students rank near the bottom of industrialized countries."
When I would tell my students that they had less basic knowledge than kids in the 1800s they scoffed. I then said that if they could pass an entrance exam to high school in 1885, I would increase their grade by one level. If they failed, I would reduce it my one level. When asked if they could see the exam first, I agreed. After showing them the exam not one ever took it. One student actually asked me why did he have to know anything? Why know math when there are calculators? Why know geography when there is mapquest? Why know anything when there is google? My answer was that all on google is not correct and while they are googling, the successful are doing things because they do not have to waste their time trying to acquire fundamental knowledge. The exam was printed in the Wall Street Journal in 1992 and is as follows:
The following is the Jersey City, NJ High School Entrance Examination for June 1885, reprinted in the Wall Street Journal in 1992. Keep in mind that this was a test given to children at about age 14 or 15 at most, and was based on what was determined to be important knowledge. Test yourself in algebra, arithmetic, geography, grammar and US history.
Sharpen Your Pencil, and Begin Now
EXAMINATION FOR ADMISSION
Jersey City High School, June, 1885
1. Define Algebra, an algebraic expression, a polynomial.
2. Make a literal trinomial.
3. Write a homogeneous quadrinomial of the third degree. 4. Express the cube root of 10ax in two ways.
5. Find the sum and difference of 3x-4ay+7cd-4xy+16, and 10ay-3x-8xy+7cd-13.
6. Express the following in its simplest form by removing the parentheses and combining: 1-(1-a) + (1-a+a2)-(1-a+a2-a3).
7. Find the product of 3+4x+5x2-6x3 and 4-5x-6x2.
8. Expand each of the following expressions and give the theorem for each: [a+4] 2, [a2-10] 2, [a+4] [a-4].
9. Divide 6a4+4a3x-9a2x2-3ax3+2x4 by 2a2+2ax-x2.
10. Find the prime factors of x4-b4 and x3-l.
11. Find the G.C.D. of 6a2+11ax+3x2 and 6a2+7ax-3x2.
12. Divide (x2-2xy+y2)/ab by (x-y)/bc and give the answer in its lowest terms.
1. If a 60 days note of $840 is discounted at a bank at 4 1/2 % what are the proceeds?
2. Find the sum of the square root of 16.7281 and the square root of 72 1/4.
3. The interest of $50 from March 1st to July 1st is $2.50. What is the rate?
4. What is the cost of 19 cwt. 83 lb. of sugar at $98.50 a ton?
5. What is discount? A number?
6. Divide the difference between 37 hundredths and 95 thousandths by 25 hundred thousands and express the result in words.
7. The mason work on a building can be finished by 16 men in 24 days, working 10 hours a day. How long will it take 22 men working 8 hours a day?
8. A merchant sold a quantity of goods for $18,775. He deducts 5% for cash and then finds that he has made 10%. What did he pay for the goods?
9. A requires 10 days and B 15 days to do a certain piece of work. How long will it take A and B working together to do the work?
10. By selling goods it 12 1/2 % profit a man clears $800. What was the cost of the goods, and for what were they sold?
11. A merchant offered some goods for $1170.90 cash, or $1206 payable in 30 days. Which was the better offer for the customer, money being worth 10%?
1. What is the axis of the earth? What is the equator? 2. What is the distance from the equator to either pole in degrees, in miles?
3. Why is it warmer at the equator than near the poles?
4. Name four principal ranges of mountains in Asia, three in Europe, and three in Africa.
5. Name the capitals of the following countries: Portugal, Greece, Egypt, Persia, Japan, China, Canada, Hindostan, Thibet, Cuba.
6. Name the states on the west bank of the Mississippi and the capital of each.
7. Bound New Jersey and name six important cities in the state.
8. Tell the situation of the following: Detroit, Chicago, Portland, Rio Janeiro, Callao, Venice, Bombay, St. Louis Halifax, Vera Cruz.
9. Name 10 countries of South America and the capital of each.
10. Bound Russia and name its capital and largest river.
11. In what countries is coffee raised?
12. What are the principal exports of France? Of the West Indies?
13. New York is nearly 75 degrees west of London. When it is noon at the former, what time is it at the latter?
1. Analyze the following: Perseus ground his teeth with rage, for he saw that he had fallen into a trap.
a. Make a list of all the verbs in the sentence above, and give the principal parts of each of them.
b. Parse for, had fallen, that, saw.
2. Give two uses of the hyphen.
3. Copy the sentence and punctuate it properly. "Will you please to tell me boys, for what the reindeer is useful".?
4. Write a sentence containing a noun used as an attribute, a verb in the perfect tense potential mood, and a proper adjective.
5. Correct [a] It is only me. [b] Who did she invite? [c] Whenever my husband or son take an umbrella down town, they always leave it.
6. Write the declension of [a] bird, [b] man, [c] fly, [d] fox, [e] it
7. Write four lines of poetry, giving particular attention to the use of capitals, and to punctuation.
8. Make three sentences, using the plural of sheep  in the nominative case,  in the possessive,  in the objective.
9. Write a declarative sentence; change to an imperative, to an interrogative, to an exclamatory, and punctuate.
1. What people settled Massachusetts? Where did they land, and was their character?
2. Name four Spanish explorers and state what induced them to come to America.
3. What event do you connect with 1565, 1607, 1620, 1664, 1775?
4. Name the thirteen colonies that declared their independence in 1776.
5. Name three events of 1777. Which was the most important and why?
6. What caused the war of 1812? Who was president during that war? What was the result of it?
7. What form of government was established in 1789?
8. Into what three branches was the government divided? 9. What do the Senate and House of Representatives constitute?
10. What caused the Mexican War? What was the result? 11. What American general commanded at the capture of the City of Mexico?
12. What was the remote and the immediate cause of the great Civil War.
13. Who captured Fort Donelson?
14. Name three commanders of the Army of the Potomac. 15. In what battle was "Stonewall" Jackson killed? How?
Happy Birthday Frederic Bastiat
2 years ago