Every so often a student survey is trotted out to show the current generation’s lack of knowledge regarding history.
The latest comes from Scotland, where according to a recent poll, one in 20 Scottish children think Adolf Hitler was Germany’s national soccer coach, 21 percent believe Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels was a “well-known Jew who wrote a diary in his attic” and 15 percent believe Auschwitz was a World War II-based theme park.
Here’s a question that wasn’t asked: How many students gave idiotic answers because they were either trying to be funny or simply didn’t care?
These kind of multiple-choice surveys are obviously imprecise, but they’re often held up as examples of a faulty education system, a society that doesn’t appreciate history, a citizenry that has forgotten the sacrifices of past generations, etc., etc.
“Some of the answers to this poll have shocked us,” said Major Jim Panton, chief executive of charity Erskine. “Schoolchildren are the future of our country and it is important that we help them to learn about our history.”
Yes, it is important that children know and understand history.
However, if these results were gathered from testing that reflected on students’ actual grades, it would be easier to assess whether schoolchildren today really have a serious lack of understanding about the events of the 1930s and ’40s, or whether they’re just passing time by trying to be funny.
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