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Has education kept pace with the times, or is it missing the point?

Just out of curiosity, I was drawn to a test given to teacher candidates in 1870. Candidates for Brainerd’s school board have been spelling out their platforms for election to the board. That election is just one week away. I wonder how many candidates running for the 181 board could pass a graduation test given to the class of 1870?

A sampling of that test could reveal that we have either surged ahead of our predecessors or we are sorely lacking. Here are just a few questions given to 19th century teacher graduates (most had received an eighth grade education):

English grammar is the category — “Give a brief example of a compound and a complex sentence. Give the rule for the use of a subjunctive mood.” Here’s another — Define and give the etymology of verb, pronoun, conjunction and adverb. Give example of a defective, an auxiliary, and impersonal and a redundant verb. How many kinds of pronouns are there?”

“Give the feminines of abbot, earl, duke, lad, marquis, hero, tiger, nephew, testator, bachelor, wizard, and ox.” Some terms are more applicable to the 19th century, but it is interesting to answer correctly.

Orthography is the next topic — “Give etymology or orthography. What are mutes, labials, and liquids, and why so called? Form derivatives of prefer, begin, stop, run defy, abridge, tie, and die with the suffix ing or ed. Write a word containing a diphthong, one containing a digraph, and one containing a trigraph.”

Moving right along to arithmetic — “Define integer, fraction, interest, discount, power, and root. If A’s age were increased by its 3/7 its 4/5 and 19, the sum would equal 2-1/2 times his age; required his age. Multiply 7/8 by .000018 and divide the product by 27 millionths.”

Let’s move on to geography — “Where does the earth have the greatest diameter? What is meant by equinoxes? Into what three functions is the government of the United States divided? — Define each function. Define equator, zone, latitude, and longitude.”

This test was given to prospective teachers, prepared by the Examiners of Teachers for the Public Schools of Zanesville, Ohio in the late 1870s.

Perhaps such testing should be reinstated for teachers and school board candidates. After all, they are either educating our children or they are making decisions impacting the education of our children.

Keith Hansen

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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