Timing matters when joking in history class

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Sam Bernstein staff writer

It is very easy to feel disconnected from history. It is hard for the modern student to relate to the Mayans. It is hard for the modern student to relate King Louis XVI. It is hard for the modern student to relate to Ben Franklin. That is understandable. A good Revolutionary War joke is greatly appreciated to break up long lectures about the politics of the Whigs. However, students should know that there are some sensitive topics that should not be joked about. These topics include, but are not limited to, slavery, Nazi Germany, Japanese internment and the Civil Rights movement. While most Normans are generally respectful toward these delicate events in history, some are unphased by the topics at hand and make jokes. It is beyond insensitive to make jokes about genocide and civil rights struggles, especially in a serious educational setting like a classroom.

We learn history to learn and grow from the mistakes of past civilizations. The deep-rooted racist past of our country which existed for hundreds of years is nothing to joke about. Clouding these lessons with inappropriate remarks and comments only desensitizes these horrific historical events. We learn about the Civil Rights movement because civil rights issues still exist to this day. We learn about the teachings and ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X because their lessons for achieving equality are still relevant to this day. Racism is not dead in our country and until the day it dies, we have to take it upon ourselves to seriously consider the teachings of those who stood up against the racial injustice of their time. Lessons on civil rights are massively important to the development of students’ understanding of other people and other cultures than their own.  By making a mockery of these teachings, we are stunting our growth as students.

Students can learn from lessons of genocides of human past as well. Joking about Nazi Germany only hurts the strength of the lecture being given. If we do not take lessons on those who stood up to fascism seriously, we’re not going to have a clue about what to do the next time we face the threat of a genocidal crisis. We are not correctly utilizing our history classes if we aren’t taking lessons on how to prevent fascism seriously. Distracting fellow students from genuinely processing the information being provided, especially during a massively important discussion like what to do when combating fascism, is ruining the educational experience for all.

By making jokes and ignoring the lessons at hand, you’re only setting yourself up for failure. By disrespecting your history lesson, you’re only losing the chance to listen to highly educated professors talk about information we could use for good in the future. In your lifetime, there will be thousands of appropriate times for you to make a quick joke. Those times are not during a lecture on failures of humans’ past.

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