I was playing softball in the old guys league again. The last few days there has been a very good player in his 40s playing as well. He is a teacher, so I guess he has the summer off.
Sitting wait for my turn at bat, I heard the following conversation:
Teacher: my students never heard of the great ones, like Dick Groat or Roberto Clement. (These are old famous baseball players.)
Teacher: Things are different nowadays. When I was a kid I knew the names of the old guys like Phil Rizzuto and Mickey Mantle. (These are even older baseball players.)
Other Player: Are you kidding? These days kids don’t know who George Washington was.
Teacher: I gave a test last year to my social studies class. I asked them “Who discovered the Dominican Republic?” There were four choices, one was Christopher Columbus, and another was Sammy Sosa. Would you believe that many of them thought it was Sammy Sosa! (A famous baseball player who is from the Dominican Republic, at least I think he is.)
I walked over to the teacher and quietly mentioned that no one discovered the Dominican Republic since it is a country and countries are founded, not discovered, and I doubted that any of his choices has founded that country.
What I didn’t say was that Sammy Sosa was a better answer since at least he had been in the Dominican Republic.
This is not a column blaming teachers. I am simply concerned that our multiple choice test-driven society has reduced our conception of knowledge to random facts about nothing. It is so bad that even teachers have no clue what they are asking any more because they too were taught in this way.