On editorial obtuseness, when I was selling my novel The Open Curtain, which is set firmly in Mormon Utah (except for a number of hallucinatory bits) and which has a plot that hinges very specifically on weirdnesses from Mormon ceremonies and on an actual Mormon ritual murder, I got a very enthusiastic note from an editor saying he wanted to do the book, but only wanted to make one change: instead of Mormonism, could the religion be Catholicism?
Okay, okay. Fourth grade Tennessee history.
We had been drilled that “cavalry” was defined as “soldiers on horseback.” Right.
Only my family had been to an event at the Memphis Equestrian Grounds, so when the test came around, I thought, “I can make that one word SHORTER.”
It was the only question I got wrong…
I do ‘fondly’ recall my junior English teacher who believed that literature should be divorced from its historical context. She tried to teach The Grapes of Wrath without mentioning the Great Depression, which was impressive. But what really put it over the top was when she asked: “Now, was Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address given before or after the Civil War?” ::headdesk::, I believe was my response, especially since my father dabbled in Civil War history.
And thereby hangs an alternate history saga.
My freshman HS social studies teacher had a joke exam question after we did a unit on the Arab world:
What color was the Prophet Muhammad’s favorite white horse?
And yep, some students got it wrong. (Extra credit: The white horse was named Barack, Lightning.)
That’s like the very old joke about the farmer who had two horses and never could tell them apart, until one day he carefully measured them and found that the black one was a foot taller than the white one.