The Buttafuocoization of America

By Rasch, Bradley W. | Phi Delta Kappan, June 1994 | Go to article overview

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:

A. Mexico

B. Vietnam

C. Russia

D. Germany

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. …

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