Many of my students suffer from what I call “The Hollywood View of History.” This term stands for an approach where students expect that a discussion of any historical event will end with “. . . and then the US stepped in and saved the good guys from evildoers!”
To give just one example, I have to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining that “No, the US didn’t help Bartolome de Las Casas liberate the indigenous peoples of the Americas from slavery in the XVIth century.” This is why when I teach the Spanish Civil War I repeat many times (and write on the board, and make everybody say it aloud) that “The US refused to help the Spanish Republicans to defend the legitimate democratically elected government from the fascists. The Republicans were helped only by the USSR and the International Brigades, consisting of volunteers from all over the world.” (Please don’t argue with me about this because I don’t have much energy for stupidity right now.)
Still, 70% students wrote on our first mini-quiz that “the US helped the Republicans to defend themselves from the fascists and the Soviet Union.”
Another issue was that, even though I said many times that the Spanish Republicans of the 1930s have nothing in common with the US Republicans, many students wrote “The Republicans in Spain were conservative fascists.” Republican = conservative is their way of applying the worldview that is familiar to them to other countries.
You have no idea how annoyed I am with the Spanish Republicans for not choosing some other appellation. They should have thought of how hard it would be for me to teach the Civil War to Americans in 2012! Those inconsiderate bastards.
P.S. This is an advanced course on Spanish culture and all students are expected to speak, read and write fluently in Spanish. Please stop writing me emails saying that students misunderstand what I say in class because I speak in Spanish. I have already answered half a dozen of these emails and I can’t take it any longer. I teach advanced courses in Spanish this year. These courses have a butt-load of pre-requisites and everybody speaks Spanish in them. Nobody becomes a Major in Spanish without speaking Spanish. Our language program is outstanding and our students have a very good level of Spanish. This is not a linguistic problem but an ideological one. Let’s just deal with this reality and move on already.