Certainly depicts a moderate dumbing down with regards to the English language.
However to put this in the proper context you have to look at how narrow education was in the late 1800's. The questions themselves were actually quite easy, just not particularly applicable to life in the 2000's.
We are having to reduce the amount of traditional education, with an increasing amount of technologically based courses.
To make sense of this, think about taking a grade 8 student, or even a high school graduate from that era and trying to put them into the current job market or even university. They would be pushing a broom...