Marilyn Writes

Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 year banking career, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, and other major industry publications. The American Bankers Association (ABA) published Barnewall’s Profitable Private Banking: the Complete Blueprint, in 1987. She taught private banking at Colorado University for the ABA and trained private bankers in Singapore.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Test Gives New Meaning to an 8th Grade Education

Tuesday      July 29, 2003      Grand Junction Free Press      Page 10
(c) Copyright 2003, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights Reserved
Grammy's Axioms, Special to the Grand Junction Free Press

By Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall

Axiom: It’s more important to ask the right question than to find a brilliant answer to the wrong one.

     Henry Ford once said that after Americans harnessed atomic energy, we became a nation fixated on quick answers. Too often, he said, we found brilliant answers to the wrong questions.
     When you surf the Net and use e-mail, you get used to receiving messages containing misinformation. Because it is so easy to send e-mail, most people forward the erroneous data without bothering to check it -- a simple process.
     To make sure the e-mails you so easily forward contain truthful information, go to or or
     After you get to the Urban Legends or Scambusters Web site, add it to Favorites. Then it is very easy to check message accuracy before sending it on to someone else. Just click on Favorites, the Web address, and see if what you are about to send is true. Most of the "factual" data sent to urban legend investigators is found to be untrue. Some, however, is not.
     For example, the Naval Air Station in New Orleans got a telephone call from someone saying he was an AT&T Service Technician. He was running a test on the telephone lines he said. He asked the person who answered the telephone to "press the 9, then the zero, and finally the pound sign (#)-- and then just hang up."
     The Naval guy who answered the phone was suspicious. He reported the call to one of the Urban Legend hot lines on the Internet.
     They found that if you have to dial 9 to get an outside line, and if you hit the 9, zero and # keys (in that order), you give the person calling access to your telephone. They can call anyone using their phone but on your telephone line. They can call anywhere they want, free. Most of these calls originated from local jails and prisons, by the way.
     Another really good one and is the 809 area code scam.
     Crooks in the the 809 area code -- the Caribbean -- call and leave a message on your answering machine. They call at an hour you are most likely away -- they want your answering machine, not you.
     The messages they leave are always critical in nature. "This is ABC Hospital. A young man identifying himself as your nephew has been in an accident. Please call me back right away."
      The 809 area can be used as a "pay-per-call" number -- like 900 numbers in the U.S. If someone leaves you a message and asks for a call back to the 809 area code, be very careful.
     When people return the calls, they are put on hold for awhile. Then someone talks nonsense to them. By the time callers realize a scam is taking place, they are on the telephone for several minutes. The cost? From $25 to $100 a minute!
     My favorite e-mail is a test found at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society in Salina, Kansas and published in 1996 by the Salina Journal. It caused a to-do in some very famous publications. The test has resurfaced via the Internet. That is how it showed up in my e-mail.
     Mary Laas, granddaughter of J.W. Armstrong, 1895 superintendent of Salina County schools, says the test is for 8th graders. They had to pass it to graduate. She gave a copy of the test to the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society.
     According to urban legend Internet expert, the test is real. They, however, believes the test was given to teachers rather than 8th graders. There is no evidence to support this theory... other than how difficult the questions are.
     Jeff Jacoby who reports for the Boston Globe heard about the test and became interested. He researched other tests from the good old days. Jacoby says the hardest test he found was the 1885 Jersey City High School exam.
     "It seems that they (the tests) get harder the further back you go," Jacoby said. "Pupils, parents and pundits who think today's standardized tests are intolerable might find it instructive to spend a few minutes with the kinds of tests high schools use to administer," his article states.
Grammar (Time: one hour)
     1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
     2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
     3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
     4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of lie, lay and run.
     5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
     6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
     7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
     1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
     2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
     3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts/bushel, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
     4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
     5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
     6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
     7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per metre?
     8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
      9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
     10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
     1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
     2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
     3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
     4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
     5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
     6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
     7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
     8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour)
     1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication?
     2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
     3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
     4.. Give four substitutes for caret 'u'.
     5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
     6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
     7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
     8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
     9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
     10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
     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.
     The exam took six hours to complete. It gives the saying "she/he only had an 8th grade education" a whole new meaning.
     No wonder my Mom -- who only got through the 8th grade because of the depression -- was so smart. I always admired her for all she had to learn on her own, without benefit of school or teacher.
     One thing is certain. We sure knew how to ask the right questions in the good old pre-atomic age days!
     Come to think of it, Henry Ford was of an age where he would have taken a test very much like this one. No wonder he was so smart!