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Jack Zaleski, Published April 13 2013

Zaleski: ‘Like when Hitler attacked Hawaii’

I was standing in line at a fast-food restaurant the other day, and I overheard a conversation between two high school boys. Couldn’t help it. They were loud and crude and rude.

“Naw, can’t go out tonight. I’m working on a report on that World War II crap, you know, for history. Got to get it done or that ol’ b_ _ _ _ will fail me …” one said.

Between taps on his smartphone, the other responded, “Oh, yeah, that Vietnam stuff. Yeah, my old uncle talks about that bull_ _ _ _ all the time…”

“No, no, no,” the first boy interrupted, “World War II! You know, some guy Hitler attacking Hawaii, or someplace. Vietnam was somethin’ else – China, or one of those countries way out there was in that one, I think.”

The other boy pondered, then said, “I think Hitler was with the Germans, ’cause my grandfather used to talk about all that crap. A real badass, that Hitler, I guess …”

“Uh huh,” said his friend. “Well, I got Wikipedia stuff and all, so I’ll just get it all from that and hand it in.”

“Uh huh, good,” said the other boy. Then their order was ready, and they trotted off, tapping away on their smartphones. Well, at least the phones were smart.

The boys reminded me of another opportunity I had a few years ago to gain insight into what passes for education.

Two junior high-age girls were standing ahead of me in the ticket line for the blockbuster 1997 movie “Titanic.” They were all aflutter about spending a couple of hours in the dark with Leonardo DiCaprio, the then-young star of the film. If memory serves, one of the girls volunteered something like this:

“You know what? The boat sinks at the end. Really, it sinks, and Leonardo drowns! Really!”

“I don’t believe it,” her friend said, “Oooo, I hope not! Not Leonardo!”

“It’s a true story, you know,” said the other girl, tearing up a little. “Really happened a long time ago. There’s books and all. Really, he drowns …”

Kind of make you wonder what happened to them. College? Careers? Children of their own, who know history like mothers did? (“Mom! Guess what? The boat sinks!”)

Makes ya proud, doesn’t it? Ain’t history fun?

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.