April 12, 2018


Some years ago I was taking a class on historical methods. This involved learning proper citation and research techniques for HISTORY MAJORS. This was a 300 level course. Everyone in it was at least interested in HISTORY. 

The course was taught around the Holocaust, on the third day of class (my first day) a young lady tapped me on the shoulder and quietly asked a word that the instructor kept repeating in his lecture, but had given no explanation for, as if it was somehow supposed to be common knowledge...

"What's  an Auschwitz?"

"A NAZI concentration camp. One of the big ones."

"A what?'


The scariest thing about this is that in the course of the class it became clear that his young woman was not actually stupid. She was quite bright. She just didn't know.

People don't believe me when I tell them this.

However, via Instapundit, come indications that she was not a fluke....

More than one-fifth of millennials in the U.S. -- 22 percent -- haven'theard of, or aren't sure if they've heard of, the Holocaust, according to a study published Thursday,
Two-thirds of millennials could not identify in the survey what Auschwitz was

In other news, I note what is surely an unrelated trend.

And that taps out my bitter sarcasm reserves so I have no words left for the revelation  that Winston Churchill is widely thought to be a fictional character

This 2D lass sums up my thoughts on the matter though...

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 09:28 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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1 Some years ago, I was sitting at lunch in the dining room of my old college. In the course of the conversation, someone mentioned Rommel. Out of the eight people at the table, he and I were the only two who knew whom he was talking about. On another occasion, someone who had just seen Ian McKellen's version of Richard III asked me whether that "really happened in England in the 1930s."

Posted by: Edward at Thu Apr 12 22:04:09 2018 (h8yX6)

2 I almost don't want to blame her for this. The real problem is the way that US history courses are taught in the US.

They're almost always presented in two parts, one covering everything up to and through the Civil War, one covering everything after that. And that works pretty well for the first half - plenty of time to go over the early colonies, the founding fathers, the events of the Revolution, the westward expansion, and the Civil War and a bit of Reconstruction.

And then you get the other half of the course, which was crowded twenty years ago and now has another twenty years to cover since then. The real problem here is that you've got a lot of history teachers that love to go over every movement in the progressive era in lavish detail - the establishment of organized labor, the women's suffrage movement, the evils of Jim Crow, etc. Students will probably have a lot of extra reading assignments on the virtues of these progressives and the evils of capitalist greed (personally I had The Jungle twice...) You'll get the Great Depression in super high-def Smellovision, down to the point of memorizing three-letter acronyms of legislation ninety years old (and yeah, because it's on the test).

And then you hit 1939, and the teacher looks up and notices, crap! It's already late April and they've got another fifty years to cover in three weeks, plus final exams. I didn't really get a single decent unit on World War 2 in the several history classes I had growing up. I had to teach one of them, since the teacher straight-up admitted she didn't know a lot about it and wasn't that interested in it. Then directly after you've got the McCarthy era (can't miss that) and the counterculture era (can't miss that), but maybe five minutes apiece on Korea and Vietnam.

Really what they need is at least another semester in order to cover more stuff. Probably easier to carve that out than to negotiate down the Six Month Advertisement for the Democratic Party (except, of course, we won't mention party affiliation when talking about Jim Crow!) Break it out so that you've got one semester to spend on 1870s through the 1920s, one for the Great Depression era through 1950, one for everything since then?

(World History classes have the same problem in spades with big casino - there's an awful lot of World and they usually only have one year to cover the whole damn thing. Rarely do they cover the 20th century worth a damn, but with more excuse.)

Ultimately you can't learn everything about history in school. I'm just shy of 40, and someone who reads history books as a hobby, and with an IQ high enough I can't reasonably brag about it and be believed online, and I still have big holes in my body of knowledge. I know just about nothing about Australian history outside of WW2, for example; not much about Canada either. I'm pretty fuzzy on the history of the Red Revolution up to the late 30s. There are entire wars in Europe in the 1800s that I have barely heard of. And I'm actually interested in this stuff and have made an effort to patch holes beyond my usual interests.

But yeah, this sort of thing... I'll bet you every one of those kids heard of the internment of Japanese during WW2.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at Fri Apr 13 18:37:06 2018 (h8yX6)

3 I had a similar experience, talking with a friend and the topic of WWII came around, and we mentioned Auschwitz and his 19 year old (at the time) housemate in all innocent honesty interrupted us and asked, "Who's Auschwitz?"

We educated him. Because his public schools did not.  

Posted by: Mauser at Fri Apr 13 20:54:28 2018 (h8yX6)

4 Too bad that the History Channel stopped being the "hitler channel" and became a "aliens are here channel".  Perhaps students ought to read this reddit forum and watch a few of the recommended youtube channels.  https://www.reddit.com/r/history/comments/7b623h/youtube_channels_to_learn_history/

Posted by: jon spencer at Fri Apr 13 21:23:07 2018 (h8yX6)

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