From Roger Ebert’s Journal :
Are you smart enough to teach grade school?: This is a certification examination for prospective teachers, prepared by the Examiners of Teachers for the Public Schools in Zanesville, Ohio, in the late 1870s:
Uh…. after looking at those questions, I know I’m not smart enough. But what’s of more interest to me is that I’m willing to bet money that most of our teachers today would fail the test too. Certainly some of the questions are archaic, but many aren’t. Here’s an example:
6. Give rule for forming plural of nouns ending in “y,” with examples. Give plurals of staff, radius, miasma, Miss White, rendezvous, talisman, loaf, grief, seraph, Mussulman, forceps, spoonful, who, beef, s, x, 6, and madam. Also give the singulars of kine, ashes, banditi, swine, animalcula.
Yikes! That’s basic stuff… knowing the plural form of various nouns that don’t follow the rules. How many teachers could get the correct answers for the whole question? Can you?
How about this one:
9. Write the past tense and past participle of these verbs:
Lay, Seek, Sit, Get, Dare,Thrive, Lie, Set, Light, Loose, Fly, Flee, Chide, Overflow, Catch, Lose, Swim, Climb, Drink, Stay, Leap, Quit, Swell, Burst, Eat.
Do you remember what a past participle is? If I asked my high school and college kids what it is, would they?
Is this part of the dumbing down of America, or is it the evolution of the language?
I had to look up past participle. I had forgotten it.
I’m not sure if it’s a “dumbing down” though there is probably some of that. It’s more that language has become more informal and society has placed less emphasis on proper grammar. The math questions were more up my alley as well as the geography. If you remove the heavy slant toward grammer questions, it doesn’t look like we’re so stupid anymore.