From the Greek meaning 'heavy with wine'
A blog devoted to science and reason
Written after a glass or two of Pinot Noir.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Are You Smarter Than an 8th Grader?

You have probably already seen this test; it's been all over ABC News, FaceBook and has been emailed back and forth. It comes courtesy of the Bullitt County History Museum.

On the museum site with the test's answers, the curators warned that
obviously it tested some things that were more relevant at that time than now, and it should not be used to compare student knowledge then and now.

However, it's quite clear not everyone has read this advice. Here are some comments from the Huffington Post:
  • For all the arm chair critics, what this shows is how far our expectations have fell.
  • What this test shows is how low our expectations are for what children ought to know today.
  • You feel threatened by this test because it shows how lacking our education system is.
  • They valued education much more than people do today.
  • This test reflects a decided dumbing down of the US population to my mind.
By the way, can anyone find the grammatical error in the first comment?

[Scroll down.]

To these critics, I say
Here's one thing that California 8th graders are expected to do in math.
Students use linear equations and systems of linear equations to represent, analyze, and solve a variety of problems. Students recognize equations for proportions (y/x = m or y = mx) as special linear equations (y = mx + b), understanding that the constant of proportionality (m) is the slope, and the graphs are lines through the origin. They understand that the slope (m) of a line is a constant rate of change, so that if the input or x-coordinate changes by an amount A, the output or y-coordinate changes by the amount m ⋅ A. Students also use a linear equation to describe the association between two quantities in bivariate data (such as arm span vs. height for students in a classroom). At this grade, fitting the model, and assessing its fit to the data are done informally. Interpreting the model in the context of the data requires students to express a relationship between the two quantities in question and to interpret components of the relationship (such as slope and y-intercept) in terms of the situation.
From the reading standards for information:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts. 
From the writing standards:
Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
From the speaking and listening standards:
Delineate a speaker’s argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.
From the language standards:
Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.a. Use verbs in the active and passive voice and in the conditional and subjunctive mood to achieve particular effects (e.g., emphasizing the actor or the action; expressing uncertainty or describing a state contrary to fact).
I could go on with the literacy standards for history, social studies, science, and technical subjects, but I won't. I'll get to my point.

People often confuse knowledge with intelligence. Knowing what the name of the climate zones is still important, especially today with the rate the climate is changing, but knowing those zones is useless out of context; that is, unless you're appearing on Jeopardy or playing a bar trivia game.

Smart people know a lot of stuff, but smart people know what do do with that information.

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