We live in a world of fast pace, fancy gizmos and technology everywhere, and it makes us all feel smarter. The irony is that on occasion I've forgotten my home phone number, my wife's cell number and birthdays of many relatives. I don't need to know those numbers as they are embedded in any number of devices and software lists. So, why do I feel smarter? We look back at the poor slobs of yesteryear and assume they were not so smart because they didn't have smart phones. Yet the fact of the matter is we are getting dumber and dumber, and for those of us out of school I'm not sure how to turn it around except to stop listening to books on tape and buy the hardcover version.
Here is an eighth grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas. I sampled a few questions; let me know how you make out.
1. Give nine rules for use of capital letters
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modification
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic
2. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at $0.50/bushel, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
3. Find interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7%.
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion
3. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn and Howe?
Orthography (time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology and syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. Use the following correctly in sentences; cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
1. What is climate?
2. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
3. Describe the mountains of North America
4. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
Okay, if you get a score above 75 let me know. I'm making the entire exam a project for me and my son. In the meantime since most eighth graders couldn't pass this exam does that suggest school is too easy these days? I hear about class size, lack of white boards, lack of computers and quality of school lunch as reasons for fading academic excellence. All those things help but our own expectations have drifted to the point where we aren't being honest. This is important because of our deteriorating educational standards and the fact a second term for President Obama will bring pressure for corporate America and taxpayers to pay for college educations.
Hitting the Books
In a 2010 study titled "Leisure College, USA: The Decline in Student Study time," Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks found that the average full-time student at four-year colleges in the United States studied about fourteen hours per weeks down from the 1961 average. Sure college students are working more but even with that taken into account, the fact is college students today enjoy so much more leisure time. It would seem to me more study would see higher grads and maybe even the ability to graduate sooner and thereby cut loan obligation.
The overall premise, however, is whether we are tough enough.
The reality is we are going to have to be sooner or later.
There was a piece in the NY Times about events that are no longer included in the Olympic Games. Some of the events seem antiquated but others make you wonder if we have the toughness to handle the rigors. The 12-hour bicycle race in 1896 saw the winner ride 195 miles. Only three people even finished the race.
I hated the way the market closed although it seems it was off on concerns about Greece and not fundamental reasons. Of course that's the dilemma facing the market and one that saw the market fall completely apart last summer. Between the daily Greece deathwatch and worries about a double dip recession in America and that debt ceiling debate, fundamentals became irrelevant.
Of course, as investors these things are never irrelevant, but we have to recognize when prices are driven by emotions rather than by logic. Late in yesterday's session, there was news the former prime minister of Greece said preparations for a Greece exit of the Euro and Euro Zone were being considered.
This game of chicken is going to be played to the bitter end—and it will be bitter.
I continue to believe Greece does not have the guts to go at it alone. But they know how much power they have to manipulate the entire world for the moment and will take advantage. It's time to call the bluff and move on; it's time for the world to focus on solutions and to take care of our own house. In fact it's time to take a cue from the root of the word "economy" which happens to come from the Greek word "oikonomos."
"Nemein"= To Manage
Are we tough enough? I'm working on a piece about the root of our problems and our ability or inability to endure pain. The thing is becoming an opus. On that note, the essential question around the world is how tough people are and how much they are willing to sacrifice and invest in blood, sweat, and tears. I think we have to take it out of neutral and somehow find a way to push ourselves. In the meantime, the government has to find a way to make decisions that would hurt at first but be liberating down the road.