Were Children Smarter a Century Ago? Test for Eighth Graders in Kentucky Dated 1912 Ignites Debate Over Kids' Intelligence Today

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A general examination to test eighth grade students in Kentucky’s Bullitt County school system in 1912 has stumped some adults and ignited a debate over the intelligence of children today.

The arithmetic, geography, civil government, physiology, grammar and history questions range from ‘What is a personal pronoun?’ to ‘Who first discovered Lawrence River?’ and ‘Define Cerebrum’.

Posted on Lew Rockwell, the type-written test has promoted some adults to try and answer the questions, and caused some parents to critique the U.S. school system.

Could you pass this test? A general examination to test eighth grade students in Kentucky's Bullitt County school system in 1912 has stumped some modern adults and ignited a debate over the intelligence of children today

Could you pass this test? A general examination to test eighth grade students in Kentucky’s Bullitt County school system in 1912 has stumped some adults and ignited a debate over the intelligence of children today

‘I performed poorly,’ wrote Jezebel’s Laura Beck. ‘But to be fair/excuse my stupidity, some of the answers, especially history, are very different now that we know more of the truth.

Some questions are specific to Bullitt County, such as ‘name five county officers in your region,’ while other aspects of the test are antique.

What is a ‘pennyweigh’, for example? The measurement is approximately 1.56grams, and the term derives from the weight of an English penny during the time of King Henry III.

There has been no shortage of claims in recent years that education within America has declined.

In 1995, the U.S. ranked second after New Zealand in terms of college graduation among 19 countries with comparable data. In 2010, it ranked 13th among 25 countries with comparable data.

Testing memory: The arithmetic, geography, civil government, physiology, grammar and history questions range from 'What is a personal pronoun?' to 'Who first discovered Lawrence River?' and 'Define Cerebrum'

Could you pass this test? A general examination to test eighth grade students in Kentucky’s Bullitt County school system in 1912 has stumped some adults and ignited a debate over the intelligence of children today

But many parents argue that the children in 1912 who took such tests were no smarter than the children of today.

One commenter noted: ‘Most of these questions are memorization-based. They prompt memorized answers with specific words that would have been used in classes back then. 

‘There are very little critical thinking questions or any other questions that require more than rote memorization to complete.

Another woman, under the name of Leah Jaclyn, agreed, writing: ‘Often people who think our kids are dumb fail to realise that rote memorisation is a skill that is not often required anymore.’

Mark of intelligence? Posted on Lew Rockwell, the type-written test has promoted some adults to try and answer the questions, and caused some parents to critique the U.S. school system

Mark of intelligence? Posted on Lew Rockwell, the type-written test has promoted some adults to try and answer the questions, and caused some parents to critique the U.S. school system

But several commenters put emphasis on the value of learning certain things by rote.

One woman explained: ‘Is it a bad thing to memorize basic geography? Doing so allows me to read a newspaper article and understand where it is taking place. Memorizing historical facts allows me to interpret that article and put modern day occurrences into context.

She continued: ‘I work with a lot of “smart” kids who might read about the situation in Israel/Palestine, but can’t find those places on a map, and have no idea about their basic history. Thus, no context, rendering “smart” somewhat irrelevant.

Some people deemed the entire test irrelevant in comparing past and present intelligence of children.

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