Rock’n roll and History

What do we make of it when a 22-year-old, hockey player can identify lyrics from classic rock’n roll hits of the 1960s and 1970s, but most of his demographic knows nothing about a major historical event like the Holocaust?

On the weekend I watched a TV interview with Jack Eichel of the NHL Buffalo Sabres who, amazingly, could match the song and artist to any selection of lyrics thrown at him. And all the songs were from 50 years ago! Quite a feat. I couldn’t do it.

It just so happens that last Sunday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The day before I had read an article referring to a new study by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the Canadian-based Azrieli Foundation. It found that 52% of Millennials in Canada could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto, and 62% did not know that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

No surprise to me. I do talks about this sort of thing, and cite surveys and studies galore that basically reach the same conclusion. For example …

  • A poll in the United Kingdom found that more than 28% of young people aged 18-29 said they didn’t know if the Holocaust really happened.
  • Gallup asked Americans if they knew what the Holocaust was and 70% said they did, which meant 30% didn’t. But nobody was asked to explain it.

The level of current ignorance goes far beyond the Holocaust. Gallup once asked Americans if they knew which country had dropped the nuclear bomb. Only 49% – less than half – said they knew.

Go back ten years and a survey by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum – the first museum in the U.S. dedicated to the First Amendment – found that while 22% of Americans could name all five members of the TV family ‘The Simpsons,’ only one in 1,000 could name all five freedoms from that country’s First Amendment.

Who is responsible for this state of affairs? A leading suspect is The School System. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about Canada, the U.S. or the U.K. The fact is our young people do not get a solid grounding in history from the school curriculum, never mind civics, grammar and math.

What is the net result of all this? Well, it may help explain why a man like Donald Trump is President of the United States.

The video in which I interviewed university students and asked them questions about World War II was made in 2014. It has gone viral. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the link:

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