Among the many complaints that educators and other grumpy old people have about the current generation of young people is that the current generation of young people doesn't know enough about history.

Frequently, there are news stories reporting such shocking findings as, "In a survey of 5,000 college freshmen, all 5,000 of them did not know if there ever was a United States president prior to George W. Bush."

But, if today's young people don't do well on history tests, it's not necessarily their fault. It could be the fault of the old people who write the test questions without taking into account the vernacular of today's young people.

Here, for instance, is a typical history test question written by a typical old person:

"In 50,000 words or more, analyze the major battles of the Peloponnesian War, explaining and assessing the ramifications of the conflict's outcome for the Ming Dynasty as it pertained exponentially to the residual economic development of Bolivia in the 17th century."

When the questions are written like that, it's no wonder young people seem to know so little about any event that happened before the birth of Angelina Jolie's latest baby.

Fortunately, I received a press release the other day about a new Web site that "offers novel scholarship opportunities to get college students thinking critically about history." To encourage the critical thinking, the Web site is conducting its first annual "What Sucks Most in History Contest?"

According to the site,, the essay competition is open to all Midwestern college students over the age of 17 and the grand prize is $1,000. The winner will be whichever entrant can best answer, in 200 to 600 words, the question: "What event, person, attitude or thing sucked most and why?"

The event, person, attitude or thing can be "Anytime in history up to the present" and judging will be done by "a combination of peers, university committee -- staff." The contest deadline is June 15, and, to enter, you must have access to the Internet and sign up for a free account on

As a longtime advocate of critical thinking about history, I'm happy to pass along this information to those of you who may be Midwestern college students over the age of 17. I've even written a couple of sentences that may help you get your critical thinking started.

"World War II really sucked because a lot of people got killed a lot and, like, it probably would suck to get killed. But then the U.S. won and that really rocked."

I can't promise that if you use my words you'll win the contest. I can't even guarantee that there IS a contest. Because, when I went online, all I could find out is that the contest supposedly is sponsored by a software development company in Fairfield, Iowa.

So it's possible that the whole thing could be some kind of bogus satire made up to fool gullible old people, and even if you write, like, something that's really awesome, you might not win anything.

And that would suck.

D.L. Stewart is a columnist for the Dayton Daily News. He may be contacted at

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