• Richard Poth

Should young people of today need to learn about World War II?

Updated: Feb 26


I wanted to write a post that addressed a discussion based on The Apprentice TV show from last night. The contestants from the show could not say when WWII started and ended. This did shock me and it got me thinking.

World War II - 1939 - 1945

As a primary school teacher, I remember teaching WWII as part of the history curriculum. As an Education Technology consultant, I am constantly going in schools and working with teachers on topics about WWII. So why wouldn't at least one of these contestants know about WWII and when it started and ended? Then watching Good Morning Britain this morning and a discussion on the subject, I found myself on the side of the 22 year old rather than the respected 50 something. This young guy made some very valid points. He was basically saying shouldn't schools be focusing on the real time issues in the world and preparing for the future rather than dwelling on the past? He also said he remembers learning about WWII in primary school and never in secondary school. The 50 something then hit back by saying he would find out the secondary school name and report them! The older generation have got a lot to learn how education is moving forward.


Education has changed from when I was taught. Teachers were teaching knowledge. Teachers had to know about their subject thoroughly so they could teach it and answer questions posed by the students. As a primary school teacher back in the early 2000s, I remember having to study up on subjects such as the Victorians or WWII just so I could then teach it the next day. Even back then we did not have access to information resources we have today, so as teachers we had to know. Now, here's the thing, we don't have to know anymore. But what we do need to be able to do as teachers is encourage enquiry so the students can find out the information themselves. We have to teach the students how to learn! So if a student wants to know about WWII, then they should be able to effectively find the answer using the tools that they have. For students to learn about important historical facts they need to know how to find them and ask the right questions as to where the information came from. They need to critically think about how the information was gathered and whether the information is authentic. They should be asking questions and ask questions on those questions. They need to be asking "WHY?".


The Apprentice does not allow the contestants to use the internet in any

way. They are using paper maps and old fashion methods to find information. And in the case of last night's episode, they had to find out what the different products were, in order to purchase them at a good price. The 50 year old in me is thinking "Good on you BBC, get the these guys doing it the old fashion way." However, the teacher and Education Technology Specialist in me is saying, "this is just not authentic". This is not a real life scenario. This is not how it works in the real world anymore. We are in a world of Alexa's and Google where we can find things out easily to then solve bigger problems. If they had the use of this technology then they could have found out when WWII started very easily and this discussion would not be taking place.


So should young people of today learn about WWII? Well, yes, they should, but it needs to be done to suit how young people learn today. It needs to be done in a way that will be authentic to them so they can see the benefits of learning about the past and not because the curriculum says you need to know this.


Now the question I pose is, “Should we prepare young people for a world without the internet?” :)

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