Teachers work so hard to prepare students with knowledge for the real world. Of course, there are many different kinds of teachers and their chosen subjects bring unique challenges.
History teachers, for example, are tasked with helping young people become engaged and thoughtful citizens. That means knowing about past events--as seen from ALL perspectives--and applying that to life in the present day.
What a rewarding project, right?
For many history teachers, for every fulfilling teaching achievement there is a horrifying glimpse at student ignorance. Many times, that offers only more opportunity to set the record straight.
But for some students, as on Reddit thread illustrates, that ignorance has dug its heels in pretty deeply.
The Very Best Source
"So I teach 4th grade, and it's a history lesson focused on sources, like what makes a good source and what makes a bad source(its a lot more nuanced but still), I give my students the task of finding out how old the school is."
"My idea, when I planned the lesson, was that they would go out along the school and find a couple a bricks with the year on it or a plaque. Some of the students did that, and got mixed results, another found a website with the exact age and picture of when it was founded, took them awhile to do."
"The last group just went up to the principal and got every answer straight from him."
"It was awesome, I loved that they had the balls to do that. I made sure to give credit where it was due. The principal thought it was a laugh as well."
"'They're only Jews.' To put it politely, I seized the opportunity to make that a teachable moment."
"It was on my demo lesson for an interview. I got the job 😛"
"But, But My Family Said..."
"My high school history teacher met Revolutionary War hero Samuel Prescott's descendant. When Mr. Kirk said Prescott was half black, the kid shouted, 'You're a damn liar!' Mr. Kirk told him that no, it's historical fact."
"The kid spoke to his family and it had apparently become a family secret by the time he was attending my high school. Considering this was in the South, the family had good reason to be secretive."
"His family told him Mr. Kirk was right but that he should still be careful who he tells about it. I wonder what he's doing now."
In One Ear
"I teach criminology but always do a few mini lesions on various historical topics (history of prisons and jails, law enforcement, mass incarceration, etc).
"One lesson was on economic inequality between races, which requires a quick history lesson about segregation (among other topics). I provided numerous sources, and keep in mind that segregation is a measurable phenomenon."
"Yet on the exam, when I asked them if segregation still occurs, approximately 30% of the class said something like, 'No, because there's a family of (insert race here) descent that lives on my street.' Keep in mind we do talk about the difference between anecdotes and data, and as I've said I shared with them the data on segregation."
"I was very concerned that they truly believed their own individual experience was at all relevant to answering that question."
A Unified Conclusion
"Teaching about the start of the Civil War. Asked the question, 'Why didn't Lincoln just let the South go?' "
"At first, the consensus was, 'He should have.'"
"I'm not a history teacher but my teacher told us a story once. He had assigned a paper on Martin Luther King Jr. One of his students found the website that the KKK made to try to make MLK look bad. It had stuff like he had many affairs and a drug problem. The dude wrote his entire paper using that one source."
"The site has been since been taken down."
Makes You Wonder
"I was surprised to learn 'people these days' didn't know the movie Titanic was based on an actual event." -- ColdEngineBadBrakes
"I think about this all the time. Will the things we experience today be remembered in 100 years? Sometimes I think about what would happen if someone from the late 19th or early 20th century ended up in the present somehow. Would they think we're all completely ignorant?" -- Dark197
Tough for Some to Swallow
"Started a unit on the Middle East for freshmen World Studies with a lesson on the most basic basics of Islam in Cornfields, IL. Some of the students and their parents would not hear it that Islam is an Abrahamic religion and thus worship the same god as Christians." -- Pox22
"I sometimes joke that everybody acknowledges that Christians and Muslims worship the same god, except for some Christians and Muslims." -- Genshed
"Hitler killed himself because he had really bad social anxiety/depression and the idea of having to stand in a court and talk to people made him so anxious he killed himself."
"A student said this during a presentation and I had zero idea how to respond, honestly I still don't."
Not What We Were Going For There
"9th grade World History class. I did a whole unit on the European wars of religion. The common theme was that religious intolerance led to wars, massacres, persecutions, etc. And all this ended during the Enlightenment when people figured out that freedom of religion worked just fine."
"On the unit test, one moron wrote that the US would be better off if everyone was forced to be the same religion, because then there wouldn't be any religious violence. No, dummy, that's not the takeaway here!"
"In my English class..."
In my English class in high school, we were talking about what sci-fi is and some kid genuinely asked if Mein Kampf was considered sci-fi.
"I was a student teacher..."
I was a student teacher this year, teaching US to 13 year olds. I had two kids, one white and one Black, say they wish they could own slaves. They were not joking.
"It wasn't me..."
It wasn't me, but I personally found it adorable when a young man at my very Southern undergrad college angrily and dramatically stamped out of class one day when our history professor pointed out that the naked male figures on some Greek vases were not wrestling.
"Once he brought up the facts..."
This was more of an experience I had in History Class, But anyways in my case there were these "thoty kind of girls" in my class, and one of them said that it was super sexist of what my teacher said about why men fought in wars and woman didn't.
Once he brought up the facts and logic to the reasoning to why that stuff happened, they went quite fast. Lmao they dont know much history, so this was a very uncharted section of knowledge that they didn't have any knowledge of.
"I think it was..."
Me: Okay does anyone know who killed Abraham Lincoln?
Student: I think it was John Stamos Booth.
"Started a unit..."
Started a unit on the Middle East for freshmen World Studies with a lesson on the most basic basics of Islam in Cornfields, IL. Some of the students and their parents would not hear it that Islam is an Abrahamic religion and thus worship the same god as Christians.
"One of my third graders..."
One of my third graders asked me where Jesus was born when we were talking about immigration. I said that was a question for home. Another kid yelled "in a barn, dummy". I had to change the subject fairly quickly after I told the kid not to call people a dummy.
"I could have gotten..."
4th grade. We are reading Number the Stars. Day after I give my primer about the Holocaust, many kids first introduction to not only the Holocaust but the Nazis at all, a kid tells me "My mom says the Holocaust didnt happen, and is a myth." This was a student from a country where Nazis are strangely idealized to this day.
I decided to kill that with fire. I asked the kid (who was honestly the sweetest little girl in the world) to have lunch with me the next day. I brought my copy of Night from home. First I told her her mom is wrong, which is shocking for a kid to hear but I minced no words. I told her I had an advanced book for her to read called Night. I said its a really hard book but I think shes a great reader so she is up to the challenge. I e-mailed her mom, told her what her kid told me, and attached an .avi of Night and Fog and respectfully told her that shes been misinformed, and asked her to watch it.
Kid came back the next day and I asked her privately if she started reading the book. She said her mom showed her the movie, which wasnt really my intention but it is just as well. We talked about it a bit, and I said that I was sorry she had to see that but it was extremely important she understood that it was real and that it was one of one of the worst things that has ever happened.
I could have gotten into trouble for that one but I didnt really care.
"Just before starting the unit..."
Just before starting the unit on the American Revolution, I told my class of juniors the administration was upset with how many tardies there were already in the school year. Since money is a powerful motivator, the board approved some financial penalties.
- If you are late, you must pay $2.00 for a tardy slip.
- If you want to know your current grade average in any class, that will cost $2.00.
- If you want to print anything, you have to purchase school paper at $0.75 per sheet. (Color prints are $1.50 each page.)
- Any other paperwork they want (such as report cards, permission slips, etc.) has to have a stamp from the main office that costs $2. Any papers without the stamp will be considered a forgery and whoever holds it will receive a detention (that costs $10).
Then I went into a lesson about the Declaration of Independence. While doing this, I read the room. Some seemed not to care, but many were pissed. One guy who showed up late almost every day was seriously upset. (And yes, a few knew what I was doing and sat there quietly smiling.)
That's when I apologized for my ruse, explained there were no such charges, and described how this mirrored taxation during the lead-up to the Revolution.
The response was amazing! We talked about what everyone felt over the fake charges, and that dovetailed nicely into colonial sentiment towards Great Britain and why the colonists were upset. All students got it, and that's both rare and interesting.
"Teaching about the Church..."
Teaching about the Church in Europe during the medieval period. Kid asks "Isn't the Pope that stuff in the orange juice?"
"Reading a Peter Rabbit story..."
Reading a Peter Rabbit story to kindergartens and they all got worried when Mr. Gregor's hoe came into the story. One little girl told me I shouldn't say that word.
"There was a light chuckle..."
I once worked as teacher's assistant and we had a history lesson coming up and the subject would be 9/11 (this was held in 9.11.) The teacher was running late, so i decided to start the class without saying anything and played on a big screen the original news footage of 9/11 and the aftermath. After the clips were over, 1 kid (12yo boy) in the front row had light tears in his eyes, so i asked him what's wrong? The kid answered: "When i'm old enough and strong enough, i want to stop those people who would do such a thing."
There was a light chuckle in the class room after he said that but i followed up with a devil's advocate question to see what he'd answer: "But why would you want to fight on behalf of the U.S.? They attacked them, not our country." "They attacked people, like us, that's why."
Gotta say he's got a point.
"Here's a good rule of thumb..."
Concerning: An outrageous amount of Jewish conspiracy crap, the worst of which basically blames them for pogroms and The Shoa/Holocaust. Also, and probably related, a large amount of people who think a YouTube video is a proper source for a paper or presentation.
Interesting: The same things because I am a professor. Meaning I teach at a university. Meaning these kids actually had to do OK in High School. And I don't teach a low level course either, meaning they had to do ok in other history courses.
Here's a good rule of thumb folks: If it doesn't have sources, it's not a source.
In a college music history class, one student wrote on her exam:
"Bach had 20 children, 2 wives, and practiced on a spinster in the attic."
Surely, she must've meant to have said "spinet."
"I made multiple students..."
Not one of my students, but last year we were doing a long research project for all the sophomores. I was student teaching and my mentor teacher (who was a very bad teacher) had a student who wrote their whole research essay on how 9/11 was faked.
Now, this is not really the student's fault. The teacher was supposed to teach about source credibility and finding reliable sources. They were also supposed to check their student's sources and read their drafts and generally trouble shoot when they got stuck. The student should have never gotten to the stage of final draft using only conspiracy theory based websites without anyone noticing. That is a teaching failure not a student problem.
I made multiple students re-do steps of the process because they had crappy sources and we talked extensively about what made sources high or low quality all semester long.
As a teacher it's important to remember that your students will come up with all kinds of weird and sometimes shocking stuff, they're teenagers it's expected. It's the teacher's job to help guide them without publicly shaming them or making them feel stupid.
And more importantly your job is to give them the critical thinking tools to help them better navigate on their own, because you won't always be there to let them know the thing they just read on the Internet is a bunch of BS.
"I was presenting..."
I was presenting some Week Without Walls trip options at an international school. A good portion of the Muslim kids (the liberal ones who dislike their own conservative culture and governments) started booing/snickering when Israel was presented as an option.
"The kid spoke to his family..."
My high school history teacher met Revolutionary War hero Samuel Prescott's descendant. When Mr. Kirk said Prescott was half black, the kid shouted, "You're a damn liar!" Mr. Kirk told him that no, it's historical fact.
The kid spoke to his family and it had apparently become a family secret by the time he was attending my high school. Considering this was in the South, the family had good reason to be secretive.
His family told him Mr.Kirk was right but that he should still be careful who he tells about it. I wonder what he's doing now.
"For their final project..."
I did a class project based on Billy Joel's song "We Didn't Start The Fire." For their final project of the year, the class had to put together a PPT that described the historical significance of each event and each individual mentioned in the song. Every student had to participate in the project by speaking in front of the audience for a minimum of 3 minutes. I invited the entire high school to come and watch the presentation. It was impressive.
"He was the football coach..."
When I was doing my student teaching, I had to shadow teachers. A world history teacher told his students that the Eastern-Roman monk Methodius invented Methodism (a popular Christian sect in the south). Literally nothing about that is even close to true.
Methodius and his brother Cyril invented the Cyrillic alphabet for the Russians. Methodist Christianity was a hundreds of years later, in America.
He was the football coach, and a moron. At the same school, I sat in on an American history class and the teacher taught them about the KKK....without mentioning anything bad they did. Did not mention lynchings at all. He told they class that they helped enforce prohibition.
Confederate flag boots were the hot fashion statement at this school.
"The look on my professor's face..."
Background: History student with a background in Classics. Lots of work with ancient languages and such.
First day of my university program's advanced Ancient Greek history class. Keep in mind that this is a course reserved for History majors/minors. The professor, who is a really level guy, started his lecture by justifying the reasons why we study ancient cultures. He pulls from a variety of sources, including modern literature and advertisement, and relating them to progenitors. This goes on for about 40 minutes. Everyone is engaged. Connections are being made for the uninitiated. All is well.
In the last few minutes of class, as our professor was briefly surveying Alexander the Great's conquest of Asia Minor, one of the students raises her hand. At this point we're all generally relaxed. That didn't last. She asked:
"So what was the United States doing in this period? What were *we* up to?" That emphasis was very, very punctuated.
The look on my professor's face was absolutely amazing. I have never seen internal screaming look so transparent.
I really feel bad for that student. I sincerely hope she went on to do wonderful things.
"In an AP US History class..."
In an AP US history class some girl asked if Hitler was the reason we got into the Vietnam war.
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