Monday, April 20, 2009

Are You Smarter in Geography Than an Eighth Grader from 1895

LiveLeak features test questions for eighth graders from Salina, Kansas. It is shocking how far America's geographical education has collapsed. I bet many of the college students I taught could not answer all these questions. Catholicgauze is currently thinking through an idea to help curb the downfall of geographic literacy. More on that later.

In the meantime try to see if you are geographical smarter than an eighth grader from 1895:

1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba , Hecla , Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Oh, I love taking these types of quizzes! However, I wasn't really that impressed when I was done. Not because the questions weren't difficult, but because they were obscure in some cases, and nonsensical in others.
As for eighth graders of today, My son is in 7th, so I'll comment on the questions:

1. Good question for kids to know and understand in this era of "climate crisis" or whatever.
2. What do they mean by "extremes of climate?" Do they mean temp. variation during the year or fluctuation over a 30 year period? My son couldn't answer either one though.
3. Of what use are rivers? What kind of a question is that? To us or the environment?
4. Describe the mountains of N. American? Big. These questions need context or better definition.
5. Name the following, huh? Aspinwall? That's either a guy, or a small town in Iowa. Either way I wasn't impressed with the list. I would hope my kid knows where Denver, Yukon and Manitoba is. Otherwise it's a pretty obscure list.
6. Principle trading centers of the US. Something the kids should know, but has less meaning in the modern economy than it did in 1895.
7. Naming all the republics in Europe has to be a much more difficult task now than 100 years ago with all the micro-fragmenting of Slavic states. I can't even pronounce some of the capitals.
8. I dispute this assumption. Have you swum in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the US? Whereas I can put my feet in the waters off Cape Cod and my toes don't go numb. Air temperatures differences depend on the time of year. This is a stupid question.
9. This is a 4th grade question, but hey if the 8th graders can't answer it...
10. I assume they're referring to rotation and revolution. But it's annoying that I have to make so many assumptions regarding the questions.
Perhaps the way the students were taught leads into the questions so they don't have to make the kinds of assumptions I have to make when reading them.

In the public middle schools, my son has gotten regular assignments (not just this year) where he had to identify map elements and geographic features, name countries, cities, rivers, etc... and identify spatial relationships between some features. I really do think that many schools are trying to fight the geographic illiteracy we've come to associate with US educated kids.
I have hope for the future.