This is from the last issue of the Mobridge Tribune in a section about one-room schoolhouses of the past. A smattering of questions from an eighth-grade final exam given to students in Kansas in 1895: 1. Give rules for the principal marks of punctuation. 2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 ft long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold? 3. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. of coal at $6 per ton. 4. Name important events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865. 5. What are the following and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals. 6. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers. 7. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.
Eighth-graders, 1895. Granted, students today have much more to learn than those back in 1895, but I wonder what these test questions say about expectations back then compared to expectations today. Interesting, yes?
Some other interesting facts about these little prairie schools in the Midwest.
In Memoirs of South Dakota Retired Teachers, Floyd Cocking recalled his first year at Pringle School in Custer County, South Dakota: "It seems we were to teach about six or eight subjects to each grade level. . . . That would make twenty-five or thirty classes a day during a period from eight till three. Could you believe our shortest class was only five minutes? That was spelling. And our longest was twenty minutes. That was because I believe in a good math background. Some other doubling up had to be done so I put the fifth and sixth grades together in the same class for history the first semester and covered the fifth grade work. The second semester we did the sixth grade work."
How in the world did these teachers manage to get everything done? How did they manage to make out as many lessons plans as they'd need every day for eight different grade levels all in the same room? I can't begin to imagine how difficult it must have been.