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GA Russell

8th grade History test

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I think it varies quite a bit. It would be very rare for 8th graders to have to pass a history exit exam to graduate, but they might well have to pass a history course, and this looks like it might be a pop quiz from such a course. Most of the time these things are not expected to show off demonstrated mastery of a subject, but just that the kids were paying at least some attention.

Usually my history classes from middle school to high school would have had a part that was multiple choice, some matching (or even more frequently sequencing of key events) and then some short essays. The final exam (by high school) would have leaned towards more essay questions. You have to remember that teachers have so many students and only so many hours in the day to grade, so some multiple choice testing is pretty much inevitable.

In 10th grade, I had a history teacher who was far more into discussing causes than memorization of names and dates. I think he would have been totally on board with the idea that you look those things up (a la Wikipedia), but it is understanding sequences and how history develops that is important. He also handed out the final exam on the first day of class and made us take it, and he joked that anyone who could pass didn't have to stick around. I got a B on it, but still had to stick it out...

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29. Got the July 4, 1828 question wrong.

Same score and same question missed here.

So does history education for 8th graders basically end at World War II? There was one question about the Challenger disaster, but nothing about the Civil Rights era, the Viet Nam war, the Mercury & Apollo space programs and moon landing, Watergate, the Iranian hostage crisis, Ronald Reagan, Iran-Contra, the Clinton impeachment or even such vital events as the invention of the internet or the iPhone.

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It's somewhat interesting that I have been thinking a lot about high school education and testing for this creative writing project I am working on. Obviously 8th grade isn't quite there, but it is close, and I have been having some strong flashbacks to my youth. I remember clearly when we had to give oral reports in either 7th or 8th grade, and these were video taped. (Probably for some initiative where the school was trying to get a grant -- things were simpler in those days when teachers weren't really questioned about what they were up to.) Mine was on Wolfe and Montcalm and the Battle on the Plains of Abraham. This is a case where I knew it was an important turning point, but I didn't know enough about the larger geopolitics to realize that France probably would have lost their North American colonies at some point or another, simply because they couldn't convince enough French people (peasants?) to come over and settle. Still, looking back, I thought it was a pretty decent topic for middle school.

It is going to be very interesting seeing what my children learn and how much U.S. history I have to teach them on top of the Canadian history they will be learning.

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I think it varies quite a bit. It would be very rare for 8th graders to have to pass a history exit exam to graduate, but they might well have to pass a history course, and this looks like it might be a pop quiz from such a course. Most of the time these things are not expected to show off demonstrated mastery of a subject, but just that the kids were paying at least some attention.

Usually my history classes from middle school to high school would have had a part that was multiple choice, some matching (or even more frequently sequencing of key events) and then some short essays. The final exam (by high school) would have leaned towards more essay questions. You have to remember that teachers have so many students and only so many hours in the day to grade, so some multiple choice testing is pretty much inevitable.

In 10th grade, I had a history teacher who was far more into discussing causes than memorization of names and dates. I think he would have been totally on board with the idea that you look those things up (a la Wikipedia), but it is understanding sequences and how history develops that is important. He also handed out the final exam on the first day of class and made us take it, and he joked that anyone who could pass didn't have to stick around. I got a B on it, but still had to stick it out...

Thanks for that. I thought it would be more than what history teachers over here call 'pub quiz' history.

In England students take no formal tests in history until 16 (and only then if they chose to carry it that far - many drop it at 14). Assessment is carried out by schools themselves within a framework set by government up to that point. I assess my 13-14 year olds about 6 times in the year based on end of unit assessments. They are measured on a series of Levels from 1 to 8 which are skills rather than content related (based on Bloom's taxonomy) - although you clearly need good factual knowledge to progress beyond Level 4. Things like causation, change over time, source analysis, historical interpretation underlie what the students learn.

Though it's all in the air at the moment. The last secretary of state detested skills-based teaching and just wanted students to learn national myths off by heart. So the skills levels got swept away but with nothing to replace them - I think he expects the market to provide!

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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I can only go by my son's education several years ago but their exams consisted of multiple choice, fill in the blanks and a couple of short essay questions. I think the course book was comprehensive but not exceedingly so.

My overall impression is that the knowledge of historical facts is not as good as used to be and relies less on memorization than it used to years ago. For example, at one points most kids had to memorize the Gettysburg Address. I don't believe many, if any, do that anymore.

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Not good at remembering measurements so I missed the duration of Lindbergh's flight and the length of the flight at Kitty Hawk. 28/30.

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If this test is what passes for the state of knowledge with 8th graders, then the teaching of history in the US is trouble. There were a couple that were of a little more than average difficulty -- such as the date with greatest loss of life in US history; you had to know that the 1862 date was the Battle of Antietam -- but otherwise not challenging.

Antietam is probably one of the most significant battles in US history: the Union needed a win badly. At that point in the War there was real concern that the English and the French might recognize the South as a separate country. As a result of the battle, they did not. In addition, Lincoln wanted to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation but on the advice of his Secretary of State, William Seward, he waited until he had a victory. Anything else would have reeked of panicking. Antietam, although not a great victory, was the victory that allowed the preliminary Proclamation to be announced shortly thereafter.

Yes, I'm a history buff.

Just because it's a specific subject you specialize in doesn't mean the test was "ridiculously easy", or that it somehow underscores some sad state of history education. Reel it in and show a little humility instead of continuing on with your "if people can't ace this then they are stupid" victory lap. I'm not a specialist but do read a lot of history for pleasure. However, these are basic questions for which you don't need any special knowledge. By process of elimination you could have figured out the answers.

As a matter of fact, 8th graders, at least in my district, have to know a lot more, a lot more than I did in 8th grade.

Give it a rest. Kids in eighth grade are currently studying history, so most, if not all, of the answers are fresh in their minds.

For most folks in their mid forties, not so much as most haven't studied hsitory since they were in school. I learned algebra in middle school, and aced it back then. Doesn't mean I should be able to do so now as there has been no practical application of it in my life for nearly three decades.

You know, out of practice and all...

That's how life works. And in no way reflects either the collective intelligence of a society, or the current state of education in our country. Period.

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Most people gain their knowledge of history as adults.

They are then outraged that kids are unaware of those things.

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With all the morons out there claiming the US is a "Christian" nation and that religious freedom involves the right to push one's religious agenda on others, US History testing should involve a whole lot of basic concepts of the Bill Of Rights, the Enlightenment, and the separation of church and state.

I only got 25/30 on this test--but if I had been tested in 1993 I would have aced it for certain. I got a five out of a possible five on the Advanced Placement US History exam.

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I got 24/30 -- and not at all to my surprise, my wife got 29/30.

Yay Mrs. Rooster!!

(She reads way more books about history than I ever have.)

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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I got 25/30 and I'm Canadian! Surprised myself actually. I expected about 20 since I knew 20 for sure. Logical guesses on 5; no clue on the 5 I got wrong.

Edited by John Tapscott

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Most people gain their knowledge of history as adults.

They are then outraged that kids are unaware of those things.

Yeah, but that's just the history they've lived.

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Most people gain their knowledge of history as adults.

They are then outraged that kids are unaware of those things.

Yeah, but that's just the history they've lived.

Like most things, enjoyment/understanding of history comes from context. Kids are hitting history with a very limited context (and that becomes more the case as you move down the social scale). Some get hooked - by a person or period or event or by a particularly inspiring teacher (as is the case with other subjects). I did. Most don't.

Adults watch TV, read, have broad interests, travel and gain that context where what once seemed like 'facts to learn' starts to have a purpose and meaning. One of the most common comments I get from parents are along the lines of 'I didn't much like history at school but I've learnt to love it since'. I don't think that's necessarily a result of poor teaching (though it can be); more that as kids they did not have the context to be receptive.

By the time I reached 21 (at the end of a History degree) I knew a lot about some quite narrow areas of history. Having to teach over a broad area of time and place sped up my knowledge but much of what I've come to really love has been a result of novels read, things seen on TV, places visit and, above all, music I've heard (that kick started an interest in the civil rights movement).

I do think adults forget how little they really did know as kids. They tend to become fixated on what they consider important as a result of a lifetime of historical interest and then feel it is imperative that kids know those things. Sometimes they get to be education ministers and create completely daft curriculum models that show no understanding of where kids are coming from!

I've always been against the 'things young people must know' approach to history. A nation that has its young people learning different areas of history (related in some areas to the experiences of their own communities) will, to my mind, lead to a diversity of experience in the nation as a whole that can only be beneficial. Not the way politicians see it, however, who see history teaching as a means of inculcating a national story in order to assist social cohesion.

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Most people gain their knowledge of history as adults.

They are then outraged that kids are unaware of those things.

Yeah, but that's just the history they've lived.

Like most things, enjoyment/understanding of history comes from context. Kids are hitting history with a very limited context (and that becomes more the case as you move down the social scale). Some get hooked - by a person or period or event or by a particularly inspiring teacher (as is the case with other subjects). I did. Most don't.

Adults watch TV, read, have broad interests, travel and gain that context where what once seemed like 'facts to learn' starts to have a purpose and meaning. One of the most common comments I get from parents are along the lines of 'I didn't much like history at school but I've learnt to love it since'. I don't think that's necessarily a result of poor teaching (though it can be); more that as kids they did not have the context to be receptive.

By the time I reached 21 (at the end of a History degree) I knew a lot about some quite narrow areas of history. Having to teach over a broad area of time and place sped up my knowledge but much of what I've come to really love has been a result of novels read, things seen on TV, places visit and, above all, music I've heard (that kick started an interest in the civil rights movement).

I do think adults forget how little they really did know as kids. They tend to become fixated on what they consider important as a result of a lifetime of historical interest and then feel it is imperative that kids know those things. Sometimes they get to be education ministers and create completely daft curriculum models that show no understanding of where kids are coming from!

I've always been against the 'things young people must know' approach to history. A nation that has its young people learning different areas of history (related in some areas to the experiences of their own communities) will, to my mind, lead to a diversity of experience in the nation as a whole that can only be beneficial. Not the way politicians see it, however, who see history teaching as a means of inculcating a national story in order to assist social cohesion.

Good post, obviously something you've thought about a bunch!

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I don't know what turned me on to history. All I can remember was that, when I was about eleven, shopping in Leeds with my mother, we passed a Boots and I saw Herbert Fisher's 'A history of Europe' in the window and asked her if she'd buy it for me. She was a bit amazed, but she did. And I was amazed to find there was a hell of a lot more (and more interesting) history than we were taught at school. So history was one of the very few subjects I passed (and was thought to be good enough to be allowed to take) at 16.

Much later, I found out that Herbert Fisher had been the President of the Board of Education under the Lloyd George government and was the main moving spirit behind the Education Act 1918, which to this day is called 'The Fisher Act', and which made education compulsory for under 14 year olds.

But I can't say that American history ever interested me, so I'm mystified by my score of 21. Well, I did do a few good guesses.

MG

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Strangely I can recall distinguishing history as the thing I really like at school at about the age of 7!!!

When I was 13 I persuaded my dad to buy me a magazine series based round Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples (a chapter from Churchill's book followed by six or seven articles by contemporary historians). I don't think I read much of it at the time but the colour pictures were astounding and helped give me a mental picture of the past. I've still got the 7 bound volumes - must have taken 3 years to collect them all.

I grew up on Royal Air Force bases so we were surrounded by Battle of Britain mythology - a Spitfire or Hurricane at the gate, Battle of Britain day etc. I devoured the autobiographies of World War II pilots as a 12/13 year old. Think I was still reading the Famous Five in terms of 'literature' at the same time.

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I devoured the autobiographies of World War II pilots as a 12/13 year old. Think I was still reading the Famous Five in terms of 'literature' at the same time.

Yes, I read a ton of those books - and POW escape books. I didn't think of that as history - just heroic adventure, which they were, too.

MG

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I don't know when I first became interested in history. It's not something I can say I am passionate about, but it did capture my imagination as a kid -- something math and science never did. Perhaps it was because history had stories -- stories of events, of individuals, of collective peoples. I got into stamp collecting as a kid and that was a means of learning about history too. Probably there was a role played by Mr. Peabody and Sherman; one had to understand a little bit about history to get the puns and humor of those cartoons, after all.

I do recall it was in 8th grade that I had a dispute with my history teacher. She made the claim that no American president had ever been impeached (at that time). I knew otherwise and told her that yes, Andrew Johnson had been impeached. She insisted he had not, assuming, I suspect, that since he was not removed from office that he was not impeached, but that is not what impeachment requires. He was impeached and tried in the Senate (as was Pres. Clinton later on), but the resulting vote did not remove him from office. My history teacher was a Catholic nun, so there was only so much I could attempt to contradict/correct her, still I recall that disagreement in front of the whole class to this day.

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Perhaps it was because history had stories -- stories of events, of individuals, of collective peoples.

That's always been it for me. The narrative drive. I've never much cared for history books that adopt a thematic approach. I recall many I had to use at university with chapters like 'Elites' with a survey of similarities and differences across European countries. Scholarly, undoubtedly, and important at the research end of history. But I need the narrative grip - my favourite writers manage to handle analysis within a broadly narrative approach.

I'm the same with music. I find modernist deconstructions of narrative and conventional time frames interesting. But nothing grips me like a Mahler symphony sweeping forward on a path that can be followed.

The debating thing with the teacher I always found fun too. I spent my last year at school trying to convince my teacher (I had a string of superb history teachers) that Prince Eugene of Savoy was more significant than the Duke of Marlborough. Why did I care? I was 18, for god's sake.

One of the light bulb moments for me was entering 6th Form (16-18). History suddenly changed from being what happened to interpretations of what happened - historiography and all that. I loved seeing things I'd learnt earlier challenged and disputed. Probably why I get a bit prickly about mythologies that build up around 'great' jazz or classical musicians. I was taught to be sceptical about the 'Great Man' theory of history at an early age.

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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25/30 I'm cutting myself a little slack: half that stuff hadn't happened by the time I got out of 8th grade...on the fourth attempt. :w

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If this test is what passes for the state of knowledge with 8th graders, then the teaching of history in the US is trouble. There were a couple that were of a little more than average difficulty -- such as the date with greatest loss of life in US history; you had to know that the 1862 date was the Battle of Antietam -- but otherwise not challenging.

Antietam is probably one of the most significant battles in US history: the Union needed a win badly. At that point in the War there was real concern that the English and the French might recognize the South as a separate country. As a result of the battle, they did not. In addition, Lincoln wanted to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation but on the advice of his Secretary of State, William Seward, he waited until he had a victory. Anything else would have reeked of panicking. Antietam, although not a great victory, was the victory that allowed the preliminary Proclamation to be announced shortly thereafter.

Yes, I'm a history buff.

Just because it's a specific subject you specialize in doesn't mean the test was "ridiculously easy", or that it somehow underscores some sad state of history education. Reel it in and show a little humility instead of continuing on with your "if people can't ace this then they are stupid" victory lap.I'm not a specialist but do read a lot of history for pleasure. However, these are basic questions for which you don't need any special knowledge. By process of elimination you could have figured out the answers.

As a matter of fact, 8th graders, at least in my district, have to know a lot more, a lot more than I did in 8th grade. Give it a rest. Kids in eighth grade are currently studying history, so most, if not all, of the answers are fresh in their minds.

For most folks in their mid forties, not so much as most haven't studied hsitory since they were in school. I learned algebra in middle school, and aced it back then. Doesn't mean I should be able to do so now as there has been no practical application of it in my life for nearly three decades.

You know, out of practice and all...

That's how life works. And in no way reflects either the collective intelligence of a society, or the current state of education in our country. Period.

This doesn't really go to anything I said. Moreover, if you're trying to make the argument that we forget things over time, in some areas that's true but in other areas, not. I would certainly hope I know more than I did in 8th period -- in most areas. Period.

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Most people gain their knowledge of history as adults.

I think that in most subjects teachers plant the seed and then it is up to as individuals to enlarge upon that over time.

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Really? So you're better at algebra now than you were in 8th grade, Brad?

Please...

Pardon me while I don my hip waders, because the shit is getting incredibly deep.

Edited by Scott Dolan

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