Sunday, November 9, 2008

Vassar preparatory examinations in 1877

There were mandatory examinations in Rhetoric, English Grammar, Geography, US History, Latin, Arithmetic, and then either German, Greek, or French. Here are some of the questions from the rhetoric exam:

4) Write all the specific rules that guide you in the construction of sentences.

6) By what classes of people is our language most frequently corrupted?

10) State the law by which you are governed in the use of shall and will, in the first, second, and third persons.

19) Give the rules for correct single rhyme.

The blatant classism in question 6 is pretty astounding. All in all I am impressed with the difficulty of the exams--I have a tendency to assume that all generations who grew up before Wikipedia could not possibly be smart but perhaps I should rethink that assumption.