Questions for Teachers’ Examination 1889

2. A druggist buys quinine at $5 a pound avoirdupois and retails it at 10 cents a dram apothecaries’ weight. What per cent profit does he make?

Stumped? Then you probably wouldn’t qualify as a teacher in 1889. This is the second question (the first was hard to make out in the photocopy) of Questions for Teachers’ Examination published in the Oroville Register in June 1889. There is no indication of how or when or where the exam was to be given; the article is simply a list of questions with no answers. I assume that the questions were published as a study guide for prospective teachers.

If you think that question from the Arithmetic section is too difficult, maybe one of the Mental Arithmetic questions will be easier. After all, you are supposed to be able to do this one in your head.

1. 10 1/2 is what percent of 12? (I was never good at percentages. Let’s try another one.) 4.  Sold a horse for $90 and lost 25 per cent, what should he have been sold for to gain 25 per cent? (Hmmm . . .  more percentages. Let’s try something else.)

Grammar. 1. Construct sentences using “for” as a conjunction, “but” as a preposition, “that” as a relative pronoun, “what” as an adjective, and “only” as an adverb. (Hey, I think I can do this one!)  2. Give sentences containing clauses used; 1st, as the antecedent of a pronoun; 2nd, as the object of a preposition; 3rd, as an attribute; 4th, in opposition; 5th, as the subject of a sentence.  (Yikes! let’s try the next section.)

Geography. 1. Define physical, political, and mathematical geography. Name the lines on the earth that are the limit of the sun’s vertical rays. (Not sure about mathematical geography, but I’m pretty sure that the lines are the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.)  6. What articles do we export to South America? What imports do we get from there?

U.S. History. 1. Relate the causes which led to the settlement of Virginia, Georgia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. 4. Locate and state of what historical interest is each of the following: West Point, Coloma, Fanueil Hall, Mt. Vernon, St. Augustine?  (I think I could do a pretty fair job at this. In fact, so far U.S. History is my best subject in this exam.)

Physiology. 1. Describe the greater and lesser circulation of the blood. (Okay, as long as you don’t want all the correct terminology.)

Theory and Practice (of Education). 1. Write a program for use in a country school of twenty pupils of mixed grades. (You are preparing to be a teacher of everything to everyone.)  5. What steps would you take to awaken a desire for knowledge outside of the textbooks? (Good question!)

Composition and Penmanship. Six topics for a one-page essay are given, including “A Fishing Trip,” “The Story of a Five-Dollar Piece,”, and “Our Country.”

Book-keeping. 1. Give the use of the following terms: sundries, inventory, account, assets, stock. (I wouldn’t do well in this section, but I might be able to muddle through.)

Orthography. That means spelling. A list of 50 tricky words is given that the candidate should be able to spell, such as accessory, vermilion, trafficking, thralldom, complaisance, and Tuolumne.

Vocal Music. (Yes, the teacher is expected to teach the children to sing.) 1. What is singing. What is a tone? How is the length of tones indicated in music?

Word Analysis. 2. Define each of the following and name and define a derivative formed from each: logos, demos, cratos, philos, bios. (It’s all Greek to me, but I think I could do this one.) 5. Give the derivation of the following: tantalize, good-bye, husband, calculate, boycott, daisy, guillotine, dahlia, capricious, agriculture. (I like word origins; I could get most of these.)

Entomology. 1. Describe the metamorphosis of the silkworm moth. 2. Describe some common representatives of Orthoptera, Coleoptera. (Hmmm . . . it’s getting harder. Got to get out the bug book.)

Industrial Drawing.  1. Using nothing but straight lines, draw a tea pot, a table, a chair. (That’s going to be one angular teapot.)

Natural Philosophy. (That’s Physics to you.) 1. Define “atmospheric pressure”; the different kinds of levers. State upon what principle an artesian well acts. 8. How was the velocity of light determined? What is its velocity? (Oops. I’d have to read up on that.)

Algebra. 1. State the difference between a co-efficient and an exponent. Between a factor and a term. (This is followed by a bunch of algebra problems and I am in trouble again.)

Rhetoric. 1. What is rhetoric? State its relation to grammar.

Constitution and School Law.  1. How may a bill in Congress become a law without the President’s signature? In whom is the judicial authority of the United States vested? For what term of office? (And other questions about civics and government.) 2. Define suffrage. Who are entitled to vote in California? (Not female school teachers who could pass an exam like this and handle 30 students of all ages in a one-room schoolhouse, but were not considered competent to vote in 1889.)

Natural History.  1. Define perianth, ovary, cotyledon, endogen, tuber. 4. To what sub-kingdom and class does each of the following belong: whale, frog, spider, horse, alligator. (Brush up your biology!)

So there you have it: a few sample questions for graduates of the Chico Normal School who plan to teach in Oroville, Gridley, Bald Rock, Concow, Nimshew, or any of the other little schools scattered around Butte County. How do you measure up to a schoolteacher of 1889?

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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