How Debunking Myths has become my “Call of Duty”

The 1940’s are making a comeback  in the South Bronx.

Gang-bangers are foregoing their Roca Wear and Akademiks for zoot suits.  Little Dominican girls are listening to Tommy Dorsey and wearing bobby socks.  One kid was suspended for jitterbugging into the principal, known as a “real square” among the children.

Okay, none of that is actually happening, but one part of the decade is a huge hit…the Second World War.  And it’s all thanks to “Call of Duty.”

This franchise has almost literally caused me to torch certain classrooms with a flamethrower.  It has become the bane of my existence.  There are days when I cannot complete a single lesson without some smiling urchin piping up about Guadalcanal or the body count at Bastogne. “Mr. D, when are we going to learn about the Pacific theater?  Were there Bangalores in the Revolutionary War?  Did the Native Americans trade for Browning Automatic Rifles?  How would Martin Luther King have done at El Alamein?”

For those unfamiliar with the franchise, “Call of Duty” is a series of games for the Playstation, XBox 360 and the PC that follow first-person accounts of Allied soldiers in WWII.  The games themselves are incredibly lifelike, and have expanded to an extent that you can experience almost any battle from Stalingrad and Kursk to El Alamein, Kasserine Pass, Iwo Jima and so on.  In the beginning , I was really pleased that the game has affected my boys this way.  It really got them excited about history, and it was really fun to hear them talk about campaigns of long ago.

Pretty soon, though, that euphoria turned into exasperation, as every waking minute was spent deflecting their focus away from “COD“.  When we covered the Constitution, their minds were outside Leningrad.  When we studied the Iroquois, they imagine what colonists could’ve done with Sherman tanks.  Believe me, it would be pretty cool to see natives fleeing from the business end of a “Purple Heart box,” but it has gone too far.

Parents, please…I try to cover (and I MEAN try) World War II at the end of fifth grade.  Keep “Call of Duty” out of sight until then.  Who knows–it could make for decent resource material for a project.  A lot happened before 1941, however, and they need to know that first.

And damnit, no more machine gun noises!

1 Comment

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One response to “How Debunking Myths has become my “Call of Duty”

  1. Lina

    This is a really fascinating! I wonder if COD actually helps kids learn the material, by making them get more engaged, or if it actually makes it harder because they are dealing with conflicting information across the fact/fiction divide. I bet there is a nice chunk of change to be made in developing academic video games for the classroom. Unfortunately, using these tools to help kids learn may also contribute to the quickly diminishing attention span of youngsters these days. What a pickle.

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