I thought American schoolchildren were muddled in their historical thinking, believing that Abraham Lincoln was at the first Thanksgiving, or that George Washington delivered the Gettysburg Address. (For the record, neither of those are true. Just so we’re clear.)
It turns out that factual mistakes of historical knowledge aren’t limited to children on this side of the Atlantic.
Mind you, this doesn’t actually mean anything; the children were probably asked who the first person to walk on the moon was, and Churchill was the first name to come to mind because it’s a name they’ve heard often. I’m sure that a similar survey done in the United States would find children of a similar age believing that Ronald Reagan was the first man to set foot on the moon.
There’s just a gap of knowledge and teaching.
Back to Winston Churchill, Astronaut.
We could blame Doctor Who and Dan Dare and even Thunderbirds, all for showing generations of British children that Britain was a space power, that went to Mars and conquered the solar system.
Upon considered thought, this isn’t a bad idea for a retro sci-fi story — “The Adventures of Sir Winston Churchill, Astronaut.” And Churchill fistfights three-headed Venusians, makes peace with the methane breathers of Titan, and has run-ins with the telepathic Space Nazis. It would be cheesy, with bullet-shaped spaceships with the flared exhaust fins and Jules Verne-styled cockpits. Oh, and a planet of the Amazons! Because cheesy retro sci-fi always has a planet of the half-naked Amazons.
Yes, now I’m just taking the piss.
On a serious note, it’s refreshing to see that American children aren’t the only ones confused about their past. The teaching of history doesn’t seem to be as important or noteworthy as the teaching of math and science. Knowing where we’ve come from, though, can point society in the direction it can go. Surveys like this show the gaps in knowledge that need to be filled.
Of course, I’ll be thinking about “Winston Churchill, Astronaut” all day now.