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Newly Discovered Eighth Grade Exam From 1912 Shows How Dumbed Down America Has Become


By Michael Snyder

1914 Schoolhouse

Have you ever seen the movie “Idiocracy”?  It is a movie about an “average American” that wakes up 500 years in the future only to discover that he is the most intelligent person by far in the “dumbed down” society that is surrounding him.  Unfortunately, that film is a very accurate metaphor for what has happened to American society today.  We have become so “dumbed down” that we don’t even realize what has happened to us.  But once in a while something comes along that reminds us of how far we have fallen.  In Kentucky, an eighth grade exam from 1912 was recently donated to the Bullitt County History Museum.  When I read this exam over, I was shocked at how difficult it was.  Could most eighth grade students pass such an exam today?  Of course not.  In fact, I don’t even think that I could pass it.  Sadly, this is even more evidence of “the deliberate dumbing down of America” that former Department of Education official Charlotte Iserbyt is constantly warning us about.  The American people are not nearly as mentally sharp as they once were, and with each passing generation it gets even worse.

Just check out some of the questions from the eighth grade exam that was discovered.  Do you think that you could correctly answer these?…

-Through which waters would a vessel pass in going from England through the Suez Canal to Manila?

-How does the liver compare in size with other glands in the human body?

-How long of a rope is required to reach from the top of a building 40 feet high to the ground 30 feet from the base of a building?

-Compare arteries and veins as to function. Where is the blood carried to be purified?

-During which wars were the following battles fought: Brandywine, Great Meadows, Lundy’s Lane, Antietam, Buena Vista?

A copy of the exam is posted below.  Today, it would be a real challenge for many college students to correctly answer most of these questions correctly…

Eighth Grade Exam

If you would like to know what the correct answers to these questions are, you can find them right here.

One of the areas that Americans are horribly deficient in today is geography.  If you give them a blank world map, most Americans can only identify a very limited number of countries.  In fact, according to a survey that was conducted by the National Geographic Society several years ago, only 37 percent of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 could find the nation of Iraq on a map of the world even though the United States was actively fighting a war there at the time.

Our young people are also horribly deficient when it comes to math and science.  At this point, 15-year-olds in the United States do not even rank in the top half of all industrialized nations when it comes to math and science literacy.

How do we expect to thrive as a nation with these kinds of results?

In a previous article entitled “Dumb As A Rock: You Will Be Absolutely Amazed At The Things That U.S. High School Students Do Not Know“, I discussed some more survey results that show how dumb our high school students have become…

*Only 43 percent of all U.S. high school students knew that the Civil War was fought some time between 1850 and 1900.

*More than a quarter of all U.S. high school students thought that Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean after the year 1750.

*Approximately a third of all U.S. high school students did not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

*Only 60 percent of all U.S. students knew that World War I was fought some time between 1900 and 1950.

Even more shocking were the results of a survey of Oklahoma high school students conducted back in 2009.  The following is a list of the questions that were asked and the percentage of students that answered correctly….

What is the supreme law of the land? 28 percent

What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution? 26 percent

What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress? 27 percent

How many justices are there on the Supreme Court? 10 percent

Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? 14 percent

What ocean is on the east coast of the United States? 61 percent

What are the two major political parties in the United States? 43 percent

We elect a U.S. senator for how many years? 11 percent

Who was the first President of the United States? 23 percent

Who is in charge of the executive branch? 29 percent

So why is this happening?

Well, for one thing, our system of public education is a complete and total joke.  We have millions of kids “graduating from high school” that can barely read, that have almost no ability to speak in public, that cannot write a decent essay and that cannot balance a checkbook.

It also doesn’t help that Americans (especially young Americans) are absolutely addicted to entertainment.  Americans spend an average of 153 hours watching television each month, and when we aren’t watching television we are watching movies, playing video games, surfing the Internet, etc.

When is the last time that you saw a young person actually reading a book that was not required for school?  Yes, it does happen once in a while, but it is so rare that it is kind of startling when you spot it happening.

But it is not just our young people that have been “dumbed down”.  Even our presidents have been “dumbed down”.  If you doubt this, just check out this amazing graphic which shows how the reading level of State of the Union addresses has steadily declined since the beginning of our nation.

Personally, I have an awareness that I should be able to think much more clearly than I am able to right now.  I can feel the effect that our society has had on my own mental abilities, and it frustrates me.

A lot has been written about the decline of our health here in America, but very little gets written about our mental decline.  That is a shame, because our ability to think clearly and rationally is so very critical to our future.

So what do you think about all of this?

Do you agree that America has been “dumbed down”?

Please feel free to share your opinion by posting a comment below…

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  • http://goodevilgenius.org/ Dan Jones

    I’m not sure how this proves anything. Let me break it down by section, using my own experience:

    Arithmetic: Everything in this section I learned by the fourth grade. Why were they so far behind?
    Grammar: Learned that stuff in fifth-sixth grade.
    Geography: By eighth grade, I could answer all of those.
    Physiology: Life Science class, eighth grade
    Civil Government: Most of that I learned in fifth-sixth grade. The only ones I don’t know from that section were state/county-specific.
    History: I will concede that most of those I didn’t learn until high school, and some of those, I’ve never learned.