It’s not cool to make up facts so that you can appear smart.
So it’s natural to want to keep misinformation in check.
Redditor Vegetable-Edge-9973, a German woman, did this openly to a classmate who made a very false and damaging claim about Germany’s educational practices. She received blowback, however, for the voracity with which she shut down this misinformation.
Wanting objective feedback, she went to the popular subReddit “Am I The A**hole” or “AITA” to hear from strangers:
“AITA for embarrassing someone for making up facts?”
Our original poster, or OP, gave us background about herself.
“Background: I’m originally from Germany, but moved countries after my a levels and currently visit college here via a scholarship (it’s a partner college of the German university I am officially registered in; saved me the tuition costs; will move back next year for my bachelor thesis).”
“Okay so on Friday I (21F[emale]) was in philosophy class about historical philosophy, our current topic’s about the importance of teaching history and critical history teaching.”
“I am not the biggest participator, but it’s not like we never participate. One girl starts to talk about how ‘Teach history to never repeat it’ isn’t necessarily true because ‘Germany didn’t fall back into dictatorship and they don’t learn about WW2.'”
OP openly corrected this person.
“Obviously that really struck me and I raised my hand and I explained to her that this was false and that, in fact, WW2 is a huge subject in German schools.”
“She called me a liar and said that German schools are prohibited from teaching about that. I was very confused because I would say my accent is very noticeable (but maybe she just didn’t realize it’s German).”
“So I told her ‘I went to a German school for 13 years, so I know what I was told in history class and WW2 was definitely the biggest subject.'”
“Other students chimed in and even our professor corrected her on this stance. Class moved on as usual.”
But then, the conflict wasn’t over.
“A few hours after the class I receive a private message from her, telling me that I was being unnecessarily rude towards her and asking if I had any personal problems with her. I don’t.”
“To be fully honest, before she sent me a message I didn’t even know her name and for me, she was just another face in one of my classes.”
“So I told her no and then she just said ‘Next time you should maybe not be as rude towards others who are just stating their opinion. You don’t need to embarrass them for it.'”
“Which baffled me because for me it was nothing personal at all and I really just wanted to correct her info since it happened to be something I am very knowledgable about (= education of Germany, not WW2.”
“While I know a lot of stuff after like 5 years of intense history classes and every-day German life that’s still very focused on it, I must admit it was never my favourite subject. But she said ‘Next time just correct someone in a kinder tone.'”
“I don’t see how I was rude in this situation. My friends already joked that she maybe mistook me as being rude because ‘Germans always sound angry.'”
“But even if that’s true, I dont think WHAT I said could be interpreted as a personal attack in any way?”
“I mean, she got corrected by other students and our professor as well, so it wasn’t just me. I personally don’t think I was rude, but maybe I am just missing something here?
Anonymous strangers weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Redditors agreed that OP wasn’t rude at all…or even close.
“I am German myself and i work for a globally operating country to have daily meetings with people from North America, Latin America, Asia/ Pacific region, Africa and all over Europe.”
“And i KNOW that we Germans tend to be very direct – its not meant rude at all, we just dont beat around the bush.”
“When someone states something as a fact that is not true, we say things like: ‘This is incorrect, the true fact is XYZ.’ While people from other cultures would word it like: ‘This is your opinion, i believe XYZ might be more correct.'”
“First very direct answer could be perceived as rude, while every german would be like: Ah, yes i was wrong. No problem.”
“You are NTA anyways, because what the girl stated was not an opinion but an incorrect fact, she even insisted on, calling you a liar. So, i dont see any rudeness here at all. But then again: I am german too ;)”-MadameMimmm
“Your exchange was extremely polite, made me chuckle a little because I’m a philosophy major (I have a bachelor and currently writing my master dissertation) and some of our philosophy classes were BRUTAL!”
“Our professors ‘baited’ us to start discussing and let me tell you, things got heated! Especially because it was very common for someone to say, for example, the word ‘free’ and the professor going ‘but…what is freedom?’ and chaos emerged.”
“I remember a lot of yelling LOL (well I’m in Italy and the stereotype about passionate Italians is 100% accurate) But the thing is, this was not even a proper discussion, it was a fact.”
“Like if a math professor asks what formula to use to solve this equation, someone says ‘x’ and someone else goes ‘no it’s y.’ That’s it. No need to be embarrassed, that’s university, that’s life.”
“And honestly how could she actually believe that people in Germany don’t study WW2? It’s ludicrous!”-slytherinsus
“NTA Next class, just say ‘my hair is green.’ When people correct you, loudly say ‘y’all can ignore my statement and privately tell me why it is wrong.'”
“Besides all that, you’re in CLASS, this is the place to be wrong, so you can be corrected and LEARN. She’s a dumba**.”-BadWolf7426
“You absolutely shouldn’t have ignored her statement, because if you had done so and so had everyone else, a bunch of kids would have walked away thinking Germany still refuses to teach kids about the atrocities of WWII.”
“You did the right thing. This girl felt attacked because a bunch of people told her she was wrong, and she decided to blame you. She should have checked her facts.”-Sabrielle24
And most people noted that a fact is not a matter of opinion.
“NTA. It’s funny that you mentioned that Germans sounding angry as a reason because I was thinking this as I read the post.”
“I think it’s perfectly possible this girl hasn’t really had any real interaction with actual Germans so can easily be taken aback by the forwardness in how you guys tend to communicate.”
“I had a friend that was awful at correcting people, she tiptoed around it not wanting to appear rude, but it always came across a bit passive aggressive.”
“An example would be her saying something like ‘Oh, I didn’t know Rio was the capital of Brazil, I always thought it was Brasilia, I’m probably not remembering properly’ if you called her on it, she would admit she knew it was Brasilia but was trying to spare feelings.”
“I appreciate the German directness, just understand not everyone is used to it.”-LDKCP
“NTA based on how you sound it honestly just sounds like a classroom discussion and she didn’t like coming across as uneducated in front of everyone else which is her problem not yours since you can’t control how people react/feel.”
“You can only control how you react and you seem to have reacted kindly.”-frightnightz
“NTA. What strikes me is that she said, ‘Next time you should maybe not be as rude towards others who are just stating their opinion.'”
“What she seems to not understand is that saying something that is incorrect because you do not know the facts is not an opinion. Something that isn’t true is not an opinion.”
“You did nothing wrong. You had the advantage of experience and shared it. I think it is laughable that she said to ‘just correct someone in a kinder tone’ and yet she called you a liar.”-patjames904
“NTA Professor here. First, thank you for speaking up in class and sharing your experience.”
“Second, I cannot come up with an excuse for your classmate. Has she never been in a class before? Errors of fact need to be corrected on the spot.”
“Third, let me tell you what your professor thought at the time:”
“‘Sweet, a classmate with actual experience corrected this misapprehension. That is way more effective than my correction, since students take each others’ lived experience very seriously, and even the most anti-intellectual ones will usually listen to their classmates’ experiences.'”-matthewsmugmanager
“NTA. It is amazing to me the number of people these days who claim that saying or posting an incorrect ‘fact’ will insist that they are entitled to their ‘opinion.’”
“My personal favorite is the guy who claimed that President Obama did not react to 9/11 competently. When told that President Bush was president at that time and Obama did not hold any political office at all, he said he was entitled to his opinion.”-Artistic_Bookkeeper
OP provided an update about the girl from her class’s behavior.
“So yeah the ‘update’. She texted me a lot throughout the day.”
“I told her several times that she’s making it a bigger thing than it actually is, but she said she wanted me to realize how my tone was rude and how I could ‘hurt others’ unintentionally if I wouldn’t realize and change it (??) She mentioned that she was taught this in school.”
“At first I thought she might’ve misunderstood something but a lot of you commented that you were actually taught this as well?”
“So I guess it was a genuine mistake by her then. I offered her to send her pictures of a German school book.”
My brother is still in school, so I thought I could ask him to send me a picture of his index to prove that WW2 is like 1/3 of the books, if she didn’t trust my word, but she said she believes me and this was 100% about my tone.”
“I repeated my statement that I was correcting her, it was not meant to be rude and that class discussion is the place for disagreement and correcting each other, but she insisted that I was being rude.”
“So after a while I just gave up and told her that I think the talk is going nowhere but ‘If you ever need some more info about German education, feel free to ask me. I’m more than happy to give you some more insider info.'”
“That was my last message to her and I just left her last message (‘I wish you would realize that you came off as hurtful. But let’s leave it at that’) on read.”
It doesn’t seem like our OP’s conversation with this girl was fruitful, unfortunately, but at least she believes that WWII is taught in Germany extensively now.
Ultimately facts must win out.