TOUGH TO BELIEVE: Cultural (IL)Literacy in Regards to History

Written by Andrew Linn on September 22, 2014

Back in July, I wrote an article regarding cultural literacy, in which I focused on the overall perspective of the topic. Today, I will focus on how cultural literacy affects the subject of history.

To some people, history is a meaningless subject full of events, dates, and dead people (e.g. Western Civilization or American History’s Dead White Males). But the purpose of learning history is to learn from the past, thus avoiding mistakes and tragedies.

Unfortunately, not everyone has grasped this truth. In 2001, Professor Anders Henriksson compiled a list of answers from the exams and statements from the papers of college students throughout the United States and Canada. He then converted the list into a book titled Non Campus Mentis: World History According to College Students. He wrote a revised edition in 2008 titled Ignorance Is Blitz: Mangled Moments of History from Actual College Students.

Given the creativity of some of these remarks, it is unclear just how many students were being silly, were actually ignorant, or perhaps a combination of the two. When I read the various quotes from the original edition to my family, one of my nephews kept asking the same question: how can these people be so dumb? Cultural literacy would be the answer.
And now here’s a list of some of the quotes from Henriksson’s books:

–History, a record of things left behind by past generations, started in 1815.

–Many things in history are inevitable when somebody does something.

–Bible legend states that the trouble started after Eve ate the Golden Apple of Discord. This was the forbidding fruit. An angry God sent his wraith. Man fell from the state of grace. It was mostly downhill skiing from there.

–Prehistory, a subject mainly studied by anthroapologists [FYI: that is one of several misspellings throughout Henriksson’s books], was prior to the year 1500.

–Prehistoric people spent all day banging rocks together so that they could find something to eat. This was the Stoned Age.

–Civilization woozed out of the Nile about 300,000 years ago. The Nile was a river that had some water in it. Every year it would flood and irritate the land. This tended to make the people nervous.

–Hammurabi was a lawyer who lived from 1600 B.C. to 1200 B.C.

–Judyism had one big God named “Yahoo.”

–Moses was told by Jesus Christ to lead the people out of Egypt into the Sahara Desert.

–The Book of Exodus describes this trip and the amazing things that happened on it, including the Ten Commandments, various special effects, and the building of the Suez Canal. Forty centuries later they arrived in Canada. This was the promise land of milk and chocolate.

–ing Minoose became Head Cretin.

–Socrates was accused of sophmorism and sentenced to die of hemroyds.

–Cesar was assinated on the Yikes of March.

–Augustus did have to leave the Empire due to his death.

–Mary and Joseph went from inn to inn trying to find a place for Jesus to be born, but they were refused everywhere because they were Jewish.

–During the Dark Ages it was mostly dark.

–Medieval people were violent. Murder during this period was nothing. Everybody killed someone.

–Monks were assigned to monkeries, where they were suppose to live as nuns. Many, however, simply preyed by day and played by night.

–The Hundred Years War (1320-1600) was fought over English holidays in France.

–Escaped peasants could be free if they went to a city and hid there for a hundred years and a day.

–The French king moved the Popes to Arizona where he could keep an eye on them.

–Man was determined to civilise himself and his brothers, even if heads had to roll!

–Magellan circumcised the glob.

–The Popes, of course, were usually Catholic.

–The Holy Omen Empire soon collapsed like a pack of cards.

–Deism was the belief that God made the world and then stepped on it.

–The Boston Tea Party was held at Pearl Harbor.

–Washington defeated the Allies at Gettysberg.

–The Irish had to imagrate to the United States because of Hitler.

–The Automaton Empire remained on the “Sick Bed of Europe” during this time.

–The Civil War began in 1830. Many soldiers repeatedly gave their lives for their country.

–Picasso was the famous artist who painted the Mona Lisa.

–The Russo-Japanese War exploded between Japan and Italy.

–Austria fought the Snerbs.

–The Russian middle class were called Bolsheviks.

–The Teapot Doom scandal was a factor leading to Prohibition.

–Germany invaded Poland, France invaded Belgium, and Russia invaded everybody.

–Wars fought in the 1950s and after include the Crimean War, Vietnam, and the Six-Minute War.

–The Berlin Mall was removed.

–It is now the age of now.

–The main problem in the Middle East today is that there are problems. There would not be all these problems if the West Bank would lend more money to the Arabs and if the Palaced Indians were not so troublesome.

Given these various answers and statements, one can understand the importance of learning history and that students everywhere become culturally literate in history (and all other subjects for that matter).



Andrew Linn
Andrew Linn is a member of the Owensboro Tea Party and a former Field Representative for the Media Research Center. An ex-Democrat, he became a Republican one week after the 2008 Presidential Election. He has an M.A. in history from the University of Louisville, where he became a member of the Phi Alpha Theta historical honors society. He has also contributed to and Right Impulse Media.