The lesson for today’s class of nine and ten year olds was on working together constructively in a team. The task was to work in small groups to research and present a short report on a leader from history. My job as classroom aide was to assign a famous name to each group while the teacher helped the students get organized.
One child really wanted to research Mahatma Gandhi, a second liked the sound of George Washington, and a third was keen for Adolf Hitler. Reasonable requests, I thought, and for the rest I randomly chose Abraham Lincoln, Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan.

What could possibly go wrong?

Looking at the causes of death, a disturbing trend emerges. Abraham Lincoln – assassinated. Julius Caesar – assassinated. Mahatma Gandhi – assassinated. Adolf Hitler, a man responsible for countless atrocities and the death of millions and thus arguably the person on this list most deserving of murder, managed to avoid numerous rumoured attempts at assassination only to shoot himself in an underground bunker.

And as for Genghis Khan…

Mercifully, the boy chosen as reporter for the group working on Genghis Khan was still developing his public speaking skills; he held his book up in front of his face, so I couldn’t hear from the back of the room what he was saying. The kids at the front of the room couldn’t hear what he was saying either. But from the mounting look of horror on the teacher’s face, she could hear only too well.

“Umm…yes, you’ve done some good research there, but perhaps we don’t need to go into quite so much graphic detail…”

Later she told me what they’d found out about Genghis Khan. Apparently it revolved around his wartime exploits, the dismemberment of his enemies, and in particular the removal of their “man parts”.

I’m guessing that next time, I won’t be the one handing out names. But if I do, I’m going with Queen Victoria – died in her bed aged 82, and famous (albeit erroneously) for covering up piano legs.

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