Some bugger with silly facial hair
Prior to being formally taught the details of World War II in class, I would hope that you knew a fragment or two of the details (except of course if you're educated at the Ahmadinejad School of Selective History, in which case that whole "Holocaust" thing didn't really happen) and that you'd at least know some of the countries involved, perhaps a leader or two, who won, etc...
It appears that this current bunch of freshman have not only never given any thought to this information prior to class, but continue to be as absorbent as cellophane diapers. After some weeks of discussing WWII, doing papers, worksheets, watching videos, etc. This question was asked:
Who was Germany's fascist leader during World War II?
In two different classes, the student asked this question did not know the answer. One student was even prompted with "he was the leader of the Nazi party." Nothin'. Not a sausage. Nada. B'doon saut. As tempted as I want to put a finger to my top lip and raise my right arm in salute, I didn't. I sat there and wept silently. I had just come from their math class in which they had collectively managed to forget everything they had ever been taught about the distributive property, so I was disheartened to say the least. It seems we had filled their heads with all that we could and reached capacity for now. If we could get them to forget a few vital functions, we could maybe make space for more knowledge, but then without the knowledge and memory of why breathing is important, the effort may be fruitless.
Sadly, the same thing happened last year too.
I wasn't the best student in school, by any means, but I could tell you who the short-arse with the ridiculous Charlie Chaplin 'tache was, and so could all of my classmates.
I could spend some time hypothesizing as to why they fail to retain some of the more obvious scraps of information, bringing into discussion cultural priorities, background knowledge, home environment, the almost infinitesimally small probability of reading for pleasure and independent knowledge acquisition, virtually nonexistent study habits, and the sense of entitlement without appreciation of what those before us have sacrificed in order that we may live the lives we do... But I just can't be bothered.
One of these days, I'm going to be carted out of the damn building screaming "HITLER! HITLER! IT'S FUCKING ADOLF HITLER!" and sent off to sensitivity training and/or the loony bin.