Can You Answer These 25 Questions About the Origin of Modern Educational Trends & Practices?

How Well Do You Know Modern Education?How much do you know about the modern education system? Why do we have letter grades, report cards, compulsory school, and schools broken up by age/grade? How long have we had 1:1 programs, academic standards, online learning, and high stakes testing? Where did these originate? What about buzz phrases learning styles and differentiated instruction? How did they find their way into our schools? There are so many contemporary trends and practices that have deep roots in history. Without a foundation, it is difficult to make sense of what is happening today. Not knowing the history also gives us a lack of context. Getting that context can help us navigate the debates, trends, and constant change. With this in mind, I invite you to test your knowledge by trying to answer the questions below. Some questions focus on K-12, others on higher education, and almost all apply to both. I also included a resource or two to help you explore potential answers to the questions as well. These are all free online sources, making them not always the ideal source on the topic, but they are still helpful. I should also point out that not all the sources represent neutral or unbiased perspectives, but I trust you to sort that out for yourself.

By the way, this is certainly not an exhaustive list. It is not even a list of all the most important issues. For example, I only have one question that addresses topic of race and education, which is obviously no small area of importance today. However, I have picked topics that relate to various “hot topics” in the news and blogosphere, and this should give anyone a great start to understanding this modern Wild West Era of education. Enjoy!

  1. What is the origin and history of the modern letter grade system and why was it instituted?A Short History of Grading, The History of Grading Practices (1971)
  2. How long have we had multiple choice tests? When and why were they created?The Dark History of Multiple Choice Tests
  3. How long have we had learning objectives and why were they created?The History of Learning Objectives and a Glimpse of Post-Objective Education
  4. When was grade-based schooling instituted and what was the rationale for it?Age Grading from the Encyclopedia of Educational Reform and Dissent
  5. What is the origin of “academic standards”? When were they instituted and why?Standards, Assessments & Accountability or Standards-based Reform in the United States
  6. When were bells instituted in schools, why were they added, and what need were they created to fill?I haven’t found a good free online source for this one yet, but will find that it is tied to age grading and similar movements.
  7. What is the history of the Carnegie Unit / credit hour? Why was it initially created?History of the Student Credit Hour , A Brief History of the American Academic Credit System, and The Slow Death of the Carnegie Unit
  8. Why is school required today? Where did that come from? Why do we (in the United States) have compulsory education? Why is the history and original rationale of it?A History of Compulsory Education Law in the United States
  9. Why do most schools have summer breaks? What is the history and purpose of summer break?Agrarian Roots? Think Again: Debunking the Myth of Summer Vacation’s Origins
  10. When did we start using report cards? Did they always look like the ones we remember or see today?A Brief History of Report Cards
  11. What was the Civilization Fund Act of 1819? What was the purpose and impact of it?The Campaign for Civilization or Removal
  12. How has the role and requirements for teachers changed over time?Only a Teacher: Teaching Timeline
  13. Why do we have teacher unions? Where did they come from?Teachers Unions’ Rise: A Look at the Impact Over the YearsThe Effects of Teachers Unions on American Education (con)
  14. What was the original purpose of Bloom’s Taxonomy and how is current usage similar or different from that original purpose?The Need for a Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy
  15. What is the origin of modern talk about teaching according to student learning styles? What researchwas used to support them? What does current researchindicate about learning styles?Learning Styles: An Overview of Theories, Models and Measures; Learning Styles Fact or Fiction: A Literature Review
  16. What is the purpose of education? How have people answered that questions similarly or differently throughout the history of the United States? Public Goods, Private Goods: The American Struggle Over Educational Goals
  17. How long have schools used textbooks? Why and how did they become a standard part of many schools?History of Textbooks
  18. How long have 1:1 laptop programs been around and what does the research say about them so far?Understanding Parent Perceptions of a 1:1 Program (beginning includes a short history), What Does the Research Say About 1:1 Computing? (2012)
  19. How long have we had distance education and online learning? How has it changed / developed over that time?The Origins of Distance Education, History of Virtual Learning Environments
  20. How long has the idea of differentiated instruction been around? How has it changed/developed/influenced?A Snapshot of Differentiated Instruction, Adjusting the Program to the Child (a 1950s article), The History and Reauthorization of IDEA
  21. What is the origin of the single most influential educational philosophy of modern education, progressivism?Progressivism: Schools and Schools of Education, Getting it Wrong from the Beginning, One to One Computing Initiatives: Ten Considerations for Funding or Implementing Programs
  22. Where did we get this idea of high-stakes testing?A Short History of High Stakes TestingCorporate Control on Public Schools
  23. How did we get all these regional accrediting bodies in higher education? How did the concept of accrediting bodies cometo be and how have they developed?Accreditation in the United States: Origins and Developments
  24. How as business and corporate influence impacted American Education?A Short History of Corporate Influence, Corporate Domination of School Policy and Business Influence on Schools at the Local Level
  25. How long have we had different academic disciplines (content areas)? How did we get them and how have they changed over the years?Organization of Knowledge: The Emergence of Academic Specialities in America, What are Academic Disciplines (long but excellent if you are an education geek like me!)