Education for the Young’uns

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September 3, 2013 by bellabettina79

Perhaps in the past few months you have seen the buzz about an 8th grade test from 1912. Several media outlets have caused a viral stir about how difficult this 8th grade test is for current 8th graders – as well as the average adult – which has caused many to ask “Are we dumber now than they were back in 1912?”


Glenn Beck jumped on the bandwagon a few weeks ago to discuss the 1912 questions, and even suggested if our youth of today were knowledgeable in the subject matter on said test, they would all be Republican, and we wouldn’t be facing the problems this nation struggles with today.

Quite an interesting theory. Apparently, education is linked to conservatism insomuch that only the uneducated would ever vote for a non-conservative politician. Our youth are getting dumber, and it must be contributing to the rise in liberalism all over the world!! Ah, if only we could turn back the clocks to the glorious yesteryear, when students learned all about ‘Murica, why those dirty liberals would all be ousted from office! All wars would cease, poverty would diminish, and taxes would be low for all Americans!!!!


Mmmhmm. I’m a bit tired of the mentality that the world used to be perfect, saintly, and conservative until modern education “destroyed” culture and out-sourced our youth into damnation.

Let us dig deeper into Beck’s suggestion: In the early 1900’s, children were smarter than our youth are today. One would also assume if the children were more educated, their parents would be more educated as well. Therefore, the educated folk would have supported the (modern-day) Republican cause of low taxes, tough national defense, and a Christian-based morality.

Here are the facts: In 1912, Democrats won both houses of congress and the White House. Woodrow Wilson ran against incumbent William Taft and third party candidate (highly cited as the champion of conservatism) Theodore Roosevelt. Simplistically, the nation had two choices for keeping Republicans in the White House but a majority chose the Democrat. So much for the educated voting Republican.

Bull Moose

Wilson was highly resistant to the United States entering the Great War. Republicans like “Bull Moose” Theodore Roosevelt relentlessly criticized Wilson for remaining neutral in arms for several years, yet Wilson was adamantly opposed to building up the U.S. military. Wilson was re-elected in 1916 on a platform of “He kept us out of the war.” So much for the educated wanting a tough national defense.

The Sixteenth Amendment (introducing a federal income tax) was proposed in a Republican-led Congress in 1909 by a Republican President William Taft. Support for the tax was split in the Republican Party, but all three candidates for president in 1912 supported a federal income tax. The Sixteenth Amendment became law in February 1913, with 42 of 48 states ratifying the amendment. So much for the educated voting for lower taxes.

Does anyone really believe the world was free from moral scandal in 1912? Women did not yet have the right to vote. Racism was still an issue of grave concern. Pre-Prohibition hatred for alcohol had led women like Carrie Nation to be arrested more than 30 times for destroying saloons with a hatchet. Husbands cheated on their wives, wives cheated on their husbands. Murder, rape, and drugs were all issues Americans faced back then, too.


Here is the difference: Publicity of scandals, the likes of which we know today, were not commonplace in the early 1900’s. Scandal happened, but it was only publicized in the gossip circles of tea parties and saloons rather than the front page of every newspaper. So much for the educated being morally superior.

The reality is, the majority of children in 1912 didn’t graduate high school. They worked in farms, factories, and family businesses to put food on the table. Between the daily chores, children didn’t have television or the Internet to distract them from the knowledge they wanted – and needed – in order to have a chance at a high school diploma. Parents were less distracted by demand for a second income, and the matriarch would be present in her children’s lives, ensuring those children read their assignments and studied the vocabulary.

Children aren’t dumber today, they are more distracted. They also have a different skill set with which they use their noggins. The 2013 child who cannot pass the 1912 test could likely disassemble and reassemble an entire computer without a manual. That same child is polio-free, thanks to post-1912 progress in science and medicine. These children have a chance to become pioneers of astronomy now that we have landed on surfaces outside our own atmosphere. Bar codes, calculators, lasers, microchips, iPods, digital cameras, velcro, and Viagra are all life-changing inventions by people Glenn Beck would suggest are less educated than an 8th-grader in 1912.

What I find most atrocious in Beck’s comment is the notion that trial and error, progress, different interests, and time itself would have no bearing on the reason people choose not to vote Republican. I can only speak for myself, but the reasons I vote are personal and succinct. I am deeply bothered by anyone who suggests my vote in the 2008 or 2012 elections for a democrat are due to a lack of education alone, placing no value on my vote beyond a desire for mindless “tow the line” conglomeration to keep one party in power.

The beauty of this country is diversity. Elementary school textbooks have long referred to America as a “melting pot”, a place welcome to different ideas, values, and traditions. We don’t sound like much of a melting pot if all educated people should be expected to be conservative.

Perhaps enlightenment is what provokes people to faction from the blurred lines between Judeo-Christian values and politics. Maybe some people feel science and politics do not mix, and choose to vote for scientific progress over moral code. Whatever the reason, no one should equate a difference of opinion solely to a lack of education.

I take pride in my individual liberties secured by the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. I’ll be damned if anyone, especially Glenn Beck, tries to tell me I am less educated than my great-grandfather simply because I don’t support the modern conservative cause.

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