The Daily Telegraph
Way of the World
University Challenge, a century from now. An Ai-generated hologram of Amol Rajan grins matily at the two teams. “Starter for 10,” it chirps. “What major historical event used to be commemorated in the United Kingdom on November 11 each year?”
Silence. Anxious glances. Finally, one of the captains plucks up his courage, and gives his buzzer a tentative prod.
It might sound far-fetched. But don’t rule it out. Because ignorance of the First World War is already astoundingly widespread, at least among young adults. Indeed, according to a new poll by Ipsos, an incredible two thirds of millennials (born 1981-1996) and Generation Z (born 1997-2012) don’t know that November 11 is Armistice Day.
This isn’t the first poll to lay bare the paucity of young adults’ knowledge, either. In 2012, it was found that two thirds of those aged 16-24 (the millennial generation again) didn’t know what year the First World War ended. Meanwhile, over half were unable to say what year it began – and 12 per cent thought that the Battle of Waterloo was fought during it.
So how come they know so little about such an important subject? Lord Roberts of Belgravia, the historian, calls the results of the new Ipsos poll a “damning indictment of history teaching in our schools”.
Personally, though, I think he’s wrong. It can’t be the schools’ fault. The First World War is on the curriculum in all parts of the UK. Every pupil gets taught about it. No matter how inept their teachers, therefore, all children are at the very least given some idea when the war was, and the date that it ended.
By early adulthood, however, a large majority of them have already forgotten even these most elementary facts. And, unless the under-40s are suffering from alarmingly early onset amnesia, there’s really only one possible explanation for that. They don’t care.
That’s all. It simply doesn’t interest them. They see no more point in remembering the dates of the First World War than they do in remembering what an oxbow lake is, or how to do long division. To them, it’s just yet another boring thing your teachers drone on about at school, but has no practical use in adult life.
If that’s their view, it would help to explain an unignorable recent phenomenon. On our letters page yesterday, a reader wrote that, while visiting London on Armistice Day, she was dismayed to see so few people wearing a Remembrance poppy. And almost all of those who were wearing one, she noted, were clearly over the age of 50. I’d noticed the same thing myself, and I’m sure others have, too.
Perhaps, in the eyes of many young people today, wearing a poppy is just something that old people do. They see it as another quaint, dated habit of the Baby Boomers, like listening to Cliff Richard, watching linear television or voting Tory.
Whatever the reason, it’s hard to avoid suspecting that the wearing of poppies will sharply decline, once the Boomers are gone. And, within a couple of generations, the tradition might even die out altogether.
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning,” wrote Laurence Binyon, “we will remember them.” But for how much longer, I wouldn’t like to guess.
ver 60 per cent of British adults are overweight. It’s an alarming statistic. Thankfully, however, there is at last some hope. Because scientists appear to have identified a revolutionary new way to lose weight. Simply lie down – and go to sleep. As part of a study at University College London, researchers monitored the weight of people who took a half-hour nap every day. And they found that, compared with people who spent the same half-hour sitting down, those who napped lost almost an inch more from their waists.
This is of course wonderful news. Except, that is, for one small sector of the population.
After all, if the overweight believe they can lose weight merely by taking a nap, they’re hardly going to bother wasting any more money on gym memberships. Which means personal trainers are doomed. Unless, that is, they’re willing to move with the times, and adapt their guidance.
I can picture it now. In a special range of videos for Youtube, Joe Wicks introduces viewers to his exciting new fitness regime. LIIT: Low Intensity Interval Training.
“Now remember, it’s really important to make sure you get the technique absolutely spot-on. First, lie down. Make sure your head is on the pillow. Pull the duvet up. Close both eyes. And… snooze! That’s it! Keep going! You’re doing great! Don’t stop! Just another 29 minutes to go!”