A man purporting to be a U.S. history teacher noted in a now-deleted TikTok video several of his Gen Z didn’t know who Adolph Hitler was and believed that disabilities advocate Helen Keller was a “Nazi.”
In addition, one student believed that “D-Day,” — the June 6, 1944, Allied invasion of Europe during World War II — was a rap artist.
At the start of the video, the teacher asked his middle-school students if they knew of Keller (above, in 1905), who lost her sight and hearing after suffering an illness at the age of 19 months.
“Helen Keller is the Nazi guy,” said one. “He’s like a terrorist.”
So this is terrifying. History teacher discussing major events with Gen Z students. pic.twitter.com/dsXkn3pkc2
— Jamie (@jamie2181) February 21, 2021
The stunned teacher said in response, “Helen Keller is a Nazi terrorist that is a male. Is that what you’re telling me right now? Are you thinking of Hitler?”
“Who’s Hitler?” asked another student.
Obviously taken aback, the teacher attempted to explain that Hitler rose to power as a dictator in Germany as head of the Nazi party who was responsible for starting World War II in Europe and exterminating more than 6 million Jews.
But before he could finish his explanation, another student interjected to say that Keller was a falsehood.
“Helen Keller was the blind and deaf person who was fake — she didn’t exist but everyone believes she was deaf and blind,” said the student.
Born in 1880, Keller, a real historical figure, would become an advocate for disabled people as well as a noted author and lecturer. She died in 1968.
The teacher went on to see what students knew about Pearl Harbor, a reference to the Hawaii-based U.S. naval station attacked by Imperial Japan on Dec. 7, 1941; one student said they thought it was a bridge. Another thought D-Day was a rapper.
“Are you being serious?” the incredulous teacher asked at one point.
Social media users responded with similar shock online.
“So this is terrifying. History teacher discussing major events with Gen Z students,” one person wrote on Twitter, according to the UK-based Daily Mail.
“This doesn’t bode well guys,” another user wrote.
Another user claimed that Gen Z’s lack of historical knowledge is how conservatives can be elected to Congress.
“If you want to know how Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene got elected, this video where HS students claim Helen Keller didn’t exist—OR WAS HITLER—never heard of D Day or Pearl Harbor and are generally completely ignorant of American history gives you a scary indicator,” the user wrote.
Regarding the false belief that Keller was not real, Newsweek reported that the conspiracy’s spread on TikTok came primarily from a since-deleted video by @alleyesonharshita, whose clip was viewed more than 600,000 and used the hashtag #helenkellerwasntreal.
The May 2020 video pushed back on Keller’s many remarkable accomplishments and intoned, “It’s time for the lies to end.”
Another TikTok user, @krunk19, whose video drew 2 million views, also questioned discounted Keller’s accomplishments as well as those of her initial teacher, Anne Sullivan.
“We’ve gotta talk about this whole Helen Keller thing, ’cause I’ve had enough,” he said. “I’ve heard it my whole life. She’s deaf, she’s blind, she’s amazing. No, guess what — she lied She’s a liar. Her and that monster Anne Sullivan pulled the wool over our eyes, and nobody’s thought to question it.”
The user says his account is “purely satire,” but the conspiracy spread nonetheless.
Recent testing showed that U.S. students’ knowledge of history, geography, and civics continue to decline, according to results from the biannual National Assessment of Educational Progress last year.
Just 15 percent of 8th-grade students were proficient or above in history while just 25 percent scored sufficiently in geography and civics.
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