Freddie Bentley, a 22-year-old Instagram influencer, raised a storm of controversy in November 2019 by arguing that schoolchildren in the United Kingdom should learn less about World War II.
As an extremely popular social media influencer, Bentley felt that he was in a good position to reach out an make changes in the educational system, and he was not at all prepared for the negative backlash that occurred when he suggested the reduction or removal of information about World War II in school curriculum.
Bentley first expressed his controversial viewpoints about World War II on the popular television show “Good Morning, Britain”. He claimed that he wishes that he had learned less about World War II during history, claiming that the information was “so intense”. He went on to state that he believed that the intensity of the subject could be damaging to the mental health of young people, particularly millennials, arguing that “to be told that a certain amount of people died for you” is too intense and may negatively impact their mental health. He subsequently reiterated these views in an Instagram post, where he expanded upon his views.
Discussion about WWII arose after a team failed to identify 1939 as the year that the United Kingdom entered World War II on the reality television show “The Apprentice”. Bentley questioned the usefulness of teaching students about the 70 million deaths that occurred during World War II, and argued that more everyday life skills should be taught to students instead of the potentially-damaging knowledge about WWII. He suggested that, instead of teaching information about World War II, teachers could instead instruct their students about home mortgages and current political issues, which he believes would help young people become better educated about real-world issues and make them more well-informed as adults.
Bentley claims that he was not well-educated or well-prepared for everyday life when he was in high school, and he believes that the best way to ensure that future generations are well-educated is to teach them more about finances and current politics, rather than history, as this will make them better-prepared to understand the issues that they will face in their everyday lives.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bentley’s opinions about the teaching of World War II created a considerable amount of controversy. He has a group of supporters who agree with viewpoint, but the majority of responses to his opinion have been strongly critical. People on a variety of social media sites have accused Bentley of being disrespectful, uneducated, or even stupid, and the reasons for this are fairly evident. World War II was perhaps the most influential event of the 20th century, and resulted in the deaths of 70 million people, including 6 million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust.
Ignorance surrounding World War II, and particularly the crimes of Nazi Germany, is on the increase, and, as such, Bentley’s detractors feel that World War II is an important historical event that young people need to be aware of. Those who don’t know history, they argue, are doomed to repeat it, and there are few historical events in the last century more important than World War II. To not teach it would leave students with an incomplete understanding of the world they live in. Bentley, however, seems undeterred by this criticism, and continues to argue his viewpoint. Nevertheless, arguing about the importance of history, it seems, unleashed more controversy than Bentley was expecting.