Smarter than a fifth grader?

Are you smarter than a fifth grader? Of course I am, I thought, when the show by that name first arrived on television.

You know the one. Host Jeff Foxworthy quizzes celebrities and folks like you and me about topics  fifth graders are supposed to have learned in school. How hard can that be?
I’ve only seen the show a few times, but often I don’t know the answer to the question put to the contestants. Rather than admit that I’m not smarter than a fifth grader, I convinced myself the questions really are harder than those kids actually see in fifth grade.
At least that is what I thought until my wife started teaching fourth grade language arts and social studies this year. Jenny makes up most of her spelling word lists, vocabulary assignments and social studies tests at home. My job often is to check them for typos before she makes copies for the class.
Golly, fourth grade is harder than I remember. Try out these language questions:
1. Underline the complete predicate in this sentence: The blizzard struck suddenly, knocking out the power in our neighborhood.
2. Underline the simple subject in this sentence: Every child in town wanted the toy.
Did you get them? No. 1 is “struck suddenly, knocking out the power in our neighborhood.” The second answer is “child.”
Next try your skill at spelling and vocabulary. Do you know how to spell these words. They all were taken from one week’s list:
perilous, obscured, lament, brusque, exploit, beneficiary, surname, archeology, collaborate, cartographer, sentimental, guardian, alliance, pseudonym
No cheating. Can you write a good definition for each? Me neither.
Fourth graders study Mississippi history and geography. Here are some questions:
1. Name the four states that touch Mississippi.
2. Which of the following is a non-renewable resource?
   a. trees
   b. fish
   c. cotton
   d. oil
3. What is the name of the tallest landform in the state?
   a. the Black Prairie
   b. Woodall Mountain
   c. Ross Barnett Reservoir
   d. the Pine Hills
4. Where did Mississippi get its name?
  a. Its towns are located near bodies of water.
   b. It is a major river in the United States.
  c. It comes from a native Ameican word meaning “big water” or “father of waters.”
   d. Tombigbee named it for his father.
5. On a map, the figure that shows directions is called:
   a. the compass rose
   b. the map legend
   c. the directional signal
   d. the title
You probably knew all the answers: 1. Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama; 2. d; 3. b; 4. c; 5. a.
How did you do? I don’t think I made an “A.”
Maybe Jenny ought to teach third grade.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at