One of my favorite ways to rib students in class is by quizzing them on topics they should know, but they don’t. Think Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking,” but I’m the Jay asking the questions. In my latest foray, I asked 29 students these three questions:
- What country did the U.S. fight in the War of 1812?
- What eastern European country/area is involved in “some crisis with Russia”?
- Who were the first four U.S. Presidents?
For #1, thirteen students answered Britain/U.K. Among the non-blank, incorrect answers, there were five Frances, two Spains, and one each of Germany, Korea, Russia, and Japan.
For #2, twelve students wrote either Ukraine or Crimea. Among the non-blank, incorrect answers, there were two Yugoslavias, one Uganda, and one Thailand.
For #3, seven students wrote Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. Among the non-blank, incorrect answers, there were five Franklins, four Lincolns, and one Kennedy.
I never do this to demean students; I want to motivate them with a bit of healthy embarrassment because many of the students who answered incorrectly perform quite well in class.
Yet, if there is a silver lining to this lack of knowledge, it’s this – perhaps we should worry a little less about indoctrination because there is a chance that nothing students hear in school will stick with them beyond a given class.