09 May 2007 by Published in: General musings 18 comments

Brian Dirck has a post on his blog today that includes some of the more brilliant responses received from his students during the recent final exam period:

Among my more creative exam answers: manifest destiny” was, according to one student, “Beyonce gone wild.” Abraham Lincoln had a “leery” relationship with slavery. Lee was a Union hero, Grant was a Confederate, and Sherman trashed Ohio during his march to the sea (or perhaps that was the Great Lakes?). The Confederacy “succeeded” rather than “seceded,” and antebellum America had a “sexual crisis” of epic proportions.

This would be hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetic. How is it that history has gotten such short shrift in high school curricula that someone would actually equate Beyonce with the doctrine of manifest destiny? I’ll tell you. It’s that ridiculous No Child Left Behind nonsense instituted by the moron in the White House that emphasizes test scores over actual teaching. And that, my friends, is the most pathetic thing of all.

All I can think about when I consider this is the bumper sticker I saw last week: Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot. ‘Nuff said.

Scridb filter


  1. Wed 09th May 2007 at 8:34 pm

    Speaking from my almost seven years as an adjunct instructor at two community colleges, I can say that you get some real winners every now and again. Fortunately, I’ve found that it is usually the exception and not the norm. I guess I’ve been blessed with generally good students all these years. As a teaching assistant to Dr. Chris Fonvielle at UNC-Wilmington, we’d get responses like this on exams as well. It does make you wonder how they made it to college. But, as Jimmy Buffett would say, “if we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.”

  2. Jim McGhee
    Wed 09th May 2007 at 8:35 pm

    Eric: I taught American history at the college level in the early ’70s and received similar answers, or worse, on examinations. I am afraid that the lack of interest and poor teaching predates the current administration’s policies. God help us all.

  3. David
    Wed 09th May 2007 at 9:12 pm

    I laughed when I read the first part of your blog, but after thinking more about it, it made me really sad. I will give you an honest story. My college roommate and I were traveling back and forth between our college campus (Virginia Tech) and our home (Alexandria, VA), many years ago. We were on Route 20 in VA, passing by the Wilderness Battlefield shelter. I asked him, “What war was fought here?!” I am sad to say that I had no idea. One year later, I was taking a course on the Civil War and Reconstruction, taught by James Robertson, and have been hooked on history and the Civil War, ever since. It is just sad that kids can graduate from high school today without any knowledge of, or interest in, the history of this country and the surrounding world. I applaud teachers who try to share these important subjects without those willing to learn, and you, as a writer and historian, are definitely included in that category..

  4. Mike Peters
    Wed 09th May 2007 at 11:52 pm


    As we talked a shot time back, there is some govt. official who wants instructors to only teach history that happened from 1900 on. What a bunch of bull! No Revolutionary War that made us a country, no Civil War that kept us a country. etc. That sacrifice is not worth moving a few kids forward.


  5. Lanny Thomas Tanton
    Thu 10th May 2007 at 9:12 am

    Dear Eric,

    I am not surprised at what Brian and some of your readers have encountered. As a Baptist Pastor, I meet people all the time that are shallow and have no interest in asking and answering the deep questions about the meaning and purpose of life. Part of the problem is the hectic pace of our culture. Everytime we blink we are in a new world. Nokia, for example, attempts to introduce a new or improved product every 45 days. This pace leaves us with enough energy and time to concentrate only on the present. Thus we now have a culture that knows more about Paris Hilton than George Washington and where fame is based on mere television exposure instead of solid or courageous accomplishment. This trend will ensure that we know the price of everything but the value of nothing, fulling our stomachs while starving our souls.

    Best wishes always,

  6. Dave
    Thu 10th May 2007 at 11:19 am

    Sounds like many villages are missing their idiots. How I long for the day when Clinton/Carter were in power and all the kids were super history smart.(Lol)

    This problem didn’t start in the year 2000.

    The blame should placed on the schools(both grade and University) for teaching a PC, postmodern history that teaches students that they should be ashamed of our own history and by doing that,students tend to ignore history. On a society that holds sports and entertainment figures up higher than anyone else. And on the parents that don’t show their kids that history is important.

    To just blame this on Bush is simplistic and short sighted

    All of us that are students of history should take the time to pass on what we have learned to others, however we can

    Keep up the good work, Dave

  7. Thu 10th May 2007 at 12:39 pm

    There is an excellent blog called “Steamboats are Ruining Everything.” I think that abou sums up the comments above. Every generation has the same complaint to make about the younger generations; only the content and references differ. In high school I was the kid who wore sunglasses in the back row of my history class and responded with “Word” whenever the teacher said something. On my best days I entered the class before it started an fast forwarded the tape that accompanied the film reel.

    Blame the president, political correctness, SOL’s, Nokia, blah, blah, blah…

  8. Ken Noe
    Thu 10th May 2007 at 2:21 pm


    I’ve been collecting these for seventeen years. The best/worst was a ten-page paper I once received on “the Army of Northern Vagina.” Spelled that way consistently throughout. “So,” a friend of mine said, “I had always wondered what the South was fighting for.”


  9. Jim Epperson
    Thu 10th May 2007 at 2:21 pm

    I want to know how a normal American college student can think the country was experiencing a *sexual* crisis in the antebellum years? What, the problem was entirely because all those studs down South weren’t getting enough?

    But, then, we do have RE Lee’s letters to his cousin Markie to explain…


  10. Thu 10th May 2007 at 2:40 pm


    That’s absolutely priceless.

    Care to share a few more with us?


  11. Thu 10th May 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Robert E. Lee was there defending the boring Texas border. Lee was bored and unhappy with this job so congress offered him a Lieutenant Colonel in the Second Cavalry.

    When Lincoln was elected, Georgia met and decided to succeed.

    The First Battle of Manassas took place at the injunction in Manassas.

    George B. McClellan launched the Penisular Campaign. The Union Army, Robert E. Lee commanding, retreated.

    The cavalry attack was led by Jab Stuart.

    At the Battle of Antietam, John B. Gordon held “Bloody Lane,” and was wounded in the face. That gave him a scare for the rest of his life.

    U.S. Grant steadily climbed the military leader until President Lincoln made him general in chief of all the Federal forces.

    The witty General Joe Johnston figured out a way to oppose the massive Union forces.

    The dead at Kenesaw Mountain were buried in their gold watches, and finely dressed officers in their chains.

    Confederate headquarters in Atlanta lost continence with Sherman’s movement.

    The southerners at the battle of New Market had to be reinforced by cadets from the Virgin Military Academy.

    In my personal view slavery ended when the north won the Civil War.

    The Ku Klux Klan is a chapter in history that for the most part is ignored tentionally and unintentionally.

  12. Thu 10th May 2007 at 3:32 pm


    Those are fabulous. Thanks so much for sharing them. I laughed out loud as I read them.


  13. Jim Morgan
    Thu 10th May 2007 at 3:40 pm

    The fact that the Army of Northern Vagina was eventually defeated by a larger force clearly proves that size does matter.

    Jim Morgan

  14. Thu 10th May 2007 at 3:42 pm

    You know where I think you need to look for the answer to this, Eric? Not the government (somehow it always seems to come up that it should solve all our problems) and often not even the school system – which passes kids through every year when they can barely read and write.

    The parents. And as a parent myself, I can unequivocally state that. Parents don’t take enough active interests in their children’s education. It’s often understandable when both parents have to work, but not taking some time to check into your child’s progress and education is inexcusable.

    When Bush leaves, America’s kids won’t suddently become brilliant. Don’t kid yourself. Hey, the highschoolers today were in grade school when Clinton was President, so do we blame him too? And the college students were in high school then.

    Ask parents just how familiar they are with their kids’ schooling. What are they currently studying in history this week?

    I think you’ll find the answer to much that is pathetic.


  15. Thu 10th May 2007 at 6:01 pm

    My wife and I went to our library today to order a film reel so I can look at some of Wm McKinley’s letters. While there, we checked the database for any books relating to the Spanish American War that I might not have read.

    The majority of titles were ‘not available’. There were a few books on McKinley and the war but shown as being in the children’s section. THat puzzled me but we jotted down some numbers and walked over to where the little people were playing games on the computers. I asked the librarian why the books were in the children’s section and she responded that the 5th and 6th graders used the books for their required book reports. As one might imagine, the books were in large, bold print with some nice pictures, about 20-30 pages in length and they were in the right place.

    So, how about the same subjects in the adult section? Not enough people are interested so the library doesn’t acquire those books. Straight from the mouth of the librarian in Colorado Springs.

    Hard to believe.

  16. Fri 11th May 2007 at 10:11 am


    At our local bookstore (a B&N), over the years they slowly moved the history section further back. It used to be up front. Now it’s the next to last row in the store, and went down from two shelving sections to one. What’s up front?

    Harry Potter
    Left Behind
    Arts and Entertainment stuff

    You get the idea. Kids and adults want bubblegum these days. It reminds me of the segment that Jay Leno would do – asking folks on the street history questions to see their answers. Hearing teens, 20s, 30s, and 40s people say that 1776 was when Columbus discovered Florida is truly revolting. That ain’t Bush’s fault… if people weren’t so caught up in their entertainment, parents took an active interest in their kids’ education, and the schools spent more than, say, one class on the Civil War, maybe we wouldn’t be churning out morons by the thousands.


  17. Scott
    Thu 17th May 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Sadly, our library system is regularly removing books with low circulation. So books on pop idols like Paris Hilton and Madonna are in and Grant and Lee are out. See the following:

    http://www.libraryola.com/files/WeedingFairfax.ppt#257,2,Fairfax County’s need to weed

  18. Uncle Ben
    Sun 20th May 2007 at 7:23 am

    The winners write the history books and they print what they want you to know not necessarilly what happened. My history book in elem school ( early 40’s) had only a very few pages on the French & Indian (Seven Years) War and half of one page was a picture of Gen Braddock on his cart. What happened in this war directly led to the Rev (AWI) War.
    Later in life I became an F&I, AWI reenactor(Royal Artillery) and through research came to know much of what really happened. As a result of this hobby, my elementary students got a much better picture of history.

Comments are closed.

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress