Greek-American Stories: History in the Minds of School Kids

I’m sure we’ve all heard stories about the ancient Greeks before. It was required reading in some schools. In other schools it might have been required reading, but it wasn’t required that students understand it. But I had recently read in a magazine a collection of history scraps collected by a retired teacher, history as written by eighth graders through college students. I repeat! college level! If you don’t know the journal article yet, I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up. Here are a few that I find really entertaining and informative. And if you’re paying attention – who knows? – maybe you will learn something too!

This play was written by a high school student who was asked to read and write an essay based on what he had read: “The Greeks were a highly learned people, and without them we would have no history. They invented three types of columns – Corinthian, Ironic and Dorcian – and created the Apocalypse. They also had myths. A myth has it that Achilles’ mother dipped him in the River Stynx until he became unbearable. Achilles appears in Homer’s Iliad. Homer also wrote The Oddity, in which Penelope was the last hardship Odysseus had to endure on the journey. Actually Homer was not written by Homer but by another man by that name.”

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Another student wrote: “Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. You killed him. Socrates died of a marriage overdose. After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline.”

OK athlete! Here’s a good one: “At the Olympics, the Greeks raced; They jumped, threw the cookies and threw the java. The reward for the victors was a coral wreath.”

This was written by a student who hopefully didn’t go into politics: “The government of Athens was democratic because the people took the law into their own hands. There were no wars in Greece because the mountains were so high that they could not climb over them to see what their neighbors were doing. When they fought the Persians, the Greeks were outnumbered because the Persians had more men.”

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If the following student ever decided to become a playwright, I would stop ever seeing a play: “Aristotle was famous for his plays. He rationed his situations by relieving himself in long soliloquies. Another play, written by another Greek, is about a son who loves and invents his mother [the] Oedipus complex where his head is full of ideas every time he sees his mother.”

This one almost sent me to the medicine cabinet to find something that would calm my frazzled nerves. “Eventually the Romans defeated the Greeks. History called them Romans because they never stayed in one place for long. Julius Caesar wiped himself out on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March murdered him thinking he would become king. Dying, he gasped, “Hee, Brutus!”

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The teacher who had to read and correct this next one probably took early retirement. “Nero was a cruel tyranny who tormented his poor subjects by playing the violin for them. Today Rome is full of fallen arches. And Athens has a lot of Fallen Bows too.”

Well, we can only hope that the story was later saved by a historectomy. I’d bet none of those kids knew the names of the three ships Christopher Columbus sailed in. But we know, don’t we! You are the Ninja, the Pizza and the Santa Domingo. Zeus help us!

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