The Buttafuocoization of America
Rasch, Bradley W., Phi Delta Kappan
Mr. Rasch intended to prove a weekly news magazine wrong on its finding that a large percentage of American students could not properly identify our enemy of World War II. But the magazine was vindicated.
AS A PART-TIME instructor in the social studies departments of two community colleges, I enjoy keeping my students abreast of current news that relates to the areas that we are studying. I even like to call their attention to recent news articles that are interesting but not exactly related to what we are covering in the course.
Two years ago I read an article in a well-respected weekly news magazine that infuriated me. It angered me so much that I brought it to my classes to expose it as an example of poor research. I was going to band together with my students to prove this article a fraud.
The article stated that, given four choices, a large percentage of college students could not correctly identify which nation we fought during World War II. The correct choice among the four was Germany. It also stated that a very large percentage of students could not correctly identify an entire continent on an unmarked map.
I introduced this challenge to my students with a sense of righteous indignation. I suggested we go about proving the magazine wrong (albeit in a nonscientific way) and then write a letter with an attitude to the magazine's editor. The class agreed with gusto.
We decided to prove the magazine wrong on its first finding -- that a large percentage of American students could not properly identify our enemy of World War II. I gave the class a multiple-choice question asking them to pick the nation we fought during World War II. The options were:
The majority of the class felt that the United States had fought Russia during World War II. The magazine had been vindicated in its judgment of American students. I knew that it was incumbent on me to make a riveting and eloquent statement about what had just happened. I felt this statement to be so important that I paused a moment to sort things out. …