Perhaps trivial, but history education is dead in England

December 17, 2006

History education is dead in England. British kids don’t know enough history, so the makers of the board game, Trivial Pursuit, have modified the history questions, dumbing them down to meet the lowered expectations of failed history teaching.

The Sunday Telegraph’s on-line edition has the story.

Where once there were puzzles to stretch most players’ general knowledge across a range of subjects, now they appear to have come straight out of the pages of Heat or Hello! magazines.

Questions such as, “Who heckled Madonna at an awards ceremony for miming in her concerts?” and “What is Prince Charles’s nickname for Camilla?” are no longer confined to the entertainment category, but now count as history. (The answers are “Elton John” and “Gladys” respectively.)

Questions that tested the knowledge of players in science and history, especially, have been downgraded.

The Sunday Telegraph analysis of a random 100 question cards from the latest box of Trivial Pursuit revealed that one in 10 of the science and nature category were celebrity or popular culture-based, compared to one in a whole box of question cards from 1992.

In the history category, 62 questions in the latest version of the board game related to events in the past 10 years, compared to only 30 questions in the earlier edition.

In times gone by, in the U.S. people would work to gain the sort of knowledge that would allow them to answer the tougher questions in the old “College Bowl” quiz program. Now we lower the bar, and make the questions more trivial.

Would that explain why the U.S. and Britain both have such difficulty applying the lessons of Vietnam, or Korea, or even Gulf War I?  People simply don’t know the lessons.  And so it is that our education systems condemn us to repeat the mistakes of Vietnam, Korea, and Gulf War I.




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