True stories with a twist!

images-10“Why do I have to waste my time studying places I never heard of and will never hear about again? This whole project is a total waste of my time.”

These were the words of one of my high school classmates as our history class began a unit about East Asia. Far East: Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam.

Yes, those countries were remote and beyond the radar of our awarenesses at that time, the wonderfully innocent, relatively trouble-free 1950s.

Way too soon after my classmate’s objection to studying those countries everything changed. We were at war in Korea. Who ever heard of Korea before then? Whether they heard of it or not, every male above eighteen was called to serve in the military. There were no choices. In the days of the dreaded draft, very few young men escaped the call of the army.

Even Elvis Presley had to learn the names of those countries and where they were, as he signed into the army as Private Elvis Presley. We all knew the names of those countries by then. They were in every news headline.

By the time the Korean conflict erupted I had lost touch with many of my classmates. Including the boy in my history class. I sometimes think of those days and wonder what became of him. Was he one of those clueless young guys who suddenly discovered that his life was more closely connected to those countries than he ever could have imagined?  images-9

I don’t know whether he was against learning, against having to study subjects he deemed unnecessary, or whether he was a conscientious objector. I do know he lived at a time when individual opinions were not considered; no one was given the choice of whether to fight or not to fight. Soldiers were not given tests to determine their knowledge of far eastern countries.

What does this subject have to do with today’s situation? Teachers reading this post, may consider getting similar rebellious answers when studying the moon’s topography.

Just assure any questioning students that “You never know what facts of which places you might need to know in the future.”


  1. Don’t get me started on geography and history illiteracy in this country. Oh you already did. Great post.

  2. I believe the history of yesterday is very important because it helps shape the lives of people in the present. Unfortunately not all of it is beautiful. Take the wars you mentioned and the nations drawn into these battles. It’s a sad truth. But in it are lessons and reasons to ponder anew.

  3. Sadly, so many countries have now been divided into new countries….. And the education continues. Learning keeps us alive, alert and well-informed. Cheers! 🙂

  4. I just know I learn a lot here.

  5. You have to realize that in the backwoods of America, many still have no or little need for this kind of knowledge. They live in their own little town with no concern for what is happening worldwide. One young boy told me when he was in school, “Why should I study history. I will never use it.”

    Just recently I saw him and he said, “See I didn’t need to know any of that history working here in the feed mill.” Unfortunately, he was nearly correct.

  6. For some time, I have been reading about Central Asia. Very interesting history. Most folks have no idea where Kazakstan is located. I found when I went to work at the Census Bureau I needed to know the name of every place on earth. No kidding!

  7. Nice one. That would be a teen’s response who was living in the moment?? 🙂

  8. It’s amazing how accessible the world has become. I listened to a fascinating segment on NPR yesterday about responsible travel that kind of relates to your post. The debate was whether or not travelers (who had permission under special circumstances) should, for the sake of education and culture, visit places like North Korea even if it means supporting those regimes through tourism and or risking one’s safety. Not sure how I feel, but it was food for thought.

  9. There are many things we learn in school that we do not realize at the time that we might need later. When I studied French, I never realized that I’d visit Paris one day. Wish I had studied harder.

    You’re right, Ronnie, the world is much smaller today than in the 50s and 60s. If only we knew the names of those places for more positive reasons than a war or conflict we were engaged in.

  10. When I was a kid, we lived next door to a family that included a teenaged boy named Wally. His parents were very protective of him, and rarely let him leave the neighborhood without first finding out where he was going, who he would be with, and when he’d be back. When Wally was eighteen, he was drafted and sent to Vietnam, where he was shot and killed. I still wonder if he had any idea where Vietnam was.

  11. And now the world is even more interconnected and truly knowing our neighbors can be the key to peace.

  12. This is so true in today’s times… with international travel so easy and conflicts so quick to raise their ugly heads, one needs to know all you can about every thing… great post…

  13. Geography is a subject given little importance in schools–in this country– and certainly needs to be changed! Good post and a reminder of the need to know where places are in the world. We may be closer because of advanced technology, but there’s still nothing like a great map, globe, or atlas to show us where we are!

    • My husband tells me that he became such a geography guru by collecting stamps as a child. Now there’s a hobby very few follow these days.

      I wonder what today’s youngsters are learning from video games.

  14. Really makes one think! So sad to think that many have travelled to these beautiful and exotic places for all the wrong reasons!

  15. The days when men like my father married women like my mother and had children like me, all in hopes of avoiding the draft.

  16. Pre Vietnam war these asian contries were very beautiful, changing ownership often but such beauty.. I wish I had seen them then. c

    • They were innocent and pristine back then; I would have loved to see them too. But since I never heard of them then, and very few people flew so far for vacations, there was little chance to have gone back then.

  17. In the 50s I remember the drills where we hid under our desks with our arms sheltering our heads waiting for the Russians to attack. In the mid-60s, while the US was in View Nam, I was in Pakistan. Viet Nam seemed much closer from there.

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