1912 test in Bullitt goes worldwide

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By Stephen Thomas

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - It's Bullitt County's most popular school test in the last century, and the answers weren't even provided.

The Bullitt County History Museum posted an article on its website this summer displaying a copy of a test prepared for eighth grade students dated November 1912.

Within a few months, the test received attention, snowballing into one of the biggest worldwide searches online, just over 100 years after it was issued.

According to museum director David Strange, most of the excitement followed a request from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, to display the test on their website.

Since the Smithsonian's "No, You're Probably Not Smarter than a 1912-Era 8th Grader You Smarter Than an Eighth Grader" story went online July 30, more than 600 websites have posted stories about the test.

And not just minor sites: The test was discussed on the NBC News with Brian Williams and featured on a weekend edition of "Good Morning, America" via ABC News.

As of Monday afternoon, Strange said the museum's website provider, Iglou, reported over 200,000 hits to its location. They were taking down the counter because it was slowing up traffic on other Iglou sites.

In fact, the search for "1912 eighth grade exam" was at number one on Yahoo's "Trending Now" list. Google listed almost 700 separate news stories featuring the test on Monday.

The test, according to Strange, was a teacher's copy of a standard county test at the time. He noted spelling words were included on the sheet.

A small, weathered sheet of paper, listing questions with topics including Spelling, Reading, Arithmetic, Grammar, Geography, Physiology, Civil Government and History.

At the bottom is a list of the Bullitt County Board of Education members including William Foster, Ed C. Tyler, J.E. Magruder, F.T. Harned, and Ora L. Roby, the namesake of today's Roby Elementary.

Also listed was "Chas. G. Bridwell, Truant Officer."

"The big catch to all this," Strange said, "was applying that teaching was the real thing back then," referring to opinions that today's students are taught to perform well on aptitude tests rather than for common knowledge.

The test does contribute to the debate that students a century ago were theoretically smarter than students today. Strange said the debates are there, but provided by the museum merely for fun and not serious discussion.

"Some of the responses proved that we've dumbed down," Strange said, referring to responses received on the museum's website.

He added that today's students have access to further technologies, feeling the learning today was "just different."

The grown-up museum director admitted that he had trouble answering many of the questions right away, as no answers were included with the questions.

"We're basically just having fun and learning things, and challenging each other," he said.

In the past week the museum has received further permission requests from numerous newspapers and radio stations throughout the country, from San Francisco to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The test is available to view at the Bullitt County History Museum's website. Strange encouraged anyone with answers to the test, or corrections to current answers, to provide them at the site as well.