Please Tell Me You’ve Heard of Stalin?

August 20, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Posted in History, men, relationships, Teaching | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

My friend Tania and I used to perform something called the Nietzsche Test when on a first date. Basically, if you hadn’t heard of the great Nihilist, we weren’t interested. Well, it looks as if I’m going to have to rename it the Stalin Test.


Have you seen this man? (Last spotted circa 1999 in a GCSE textbook, I imagine.) Not in the flesh, obviously, but you know who he is, don’t you? Because, dear reader, there are people out there who have NO IDEA. The conversation which follows illustrates this fact:

Ignorant Man: I saw you walking towards the beach and thought you were going skinny dipping! Guffaws.  An embarrassing silence ensues.

Ignorant Man: So, what do you do then?

Me: I work in a bookshop.

Ignorant Man: And what’s your five year plan?

Me: I’m not Stalin.

Ignorant Man: Who’s Stalin?

Me: You know, Stalin? Stalin the DICTATOR?

Shaking my head in disgust, I stumble off into the sunset to drink onion-flavoured gin. You don’t even want to know what that tastes like.

How has this happened? How are there people out there who can name every Big Brother contestant ever but have never heard of a 20th century dictator responsible for millions of deaths? Yes, I had a brilliant History teacher whose method of demonstrating Blitzkrieg I have never forgotten (after explaining its characteristics, he asked us to use a board pen to show what it would have looked like: kinetic, visual & aural learning simultaneously, PGCE students). Stalin’s Five Year Plan didn’t exactly thrill me, but I would be appalled if I had no idea who he was.

We are becoming stupider by the day.



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  1. This is the funniest thing I have read all day, but I understand you were not trying to be comical. It is so SAD that most of our fellow human beings are clueless about most things…I am thankful that I have always done a lot of reading and self-educating, beyond what the school lessons taught…
    Keep up the great blogging!

  2. Humour and tragedy are common bedfellows. As they say, ‘If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry’. I’m glad you liked it: I enjoyed writing it.

  3. Ian Hyslop was bemoaning the fact that kids could name all the pikachu, but couldnt name 10 capital cities and suggested that they only way to make kids learn was to create trading cards. He also said that when Spitting Image was on, 10 year old kids could name everyone in the Cabinet and at least 2 in the Shadow Cabinet, but now even adults cant tell the difference between Cameron, Clegg and which Milliband brother is which

    • Hello Sorcha,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s a really good point you make, & one which is reinforced for me by my teaching experience: make it a game, or funny, & kids will be more interested. Dictator Top Trumps it is, then!


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