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School leaving exam: the masterpieces of students and teachers…

Imagine a world where D’Annunzio is a Beautician but also a WC, lupins are wolf cubs, Berlin is the capital of England, India in Africa and Kant becomes a philosopher of the categorical aperitif…

It is not the beginning of an absurd comedy, more simply they are only some of the creative answers given by students and teachers at the school leaving exam taking place in these days.


D’Annunzio and his beauty salon

“Gabriele D’Annunzio is a beautician”. There is a sort of aversion to the word aesthete… Sill better than someone who transforms poet (vate) into water (pronounced ‘vater’ or WC)… yes, this also happened…

Romeo and Lucia or Renzo and Juliet?

Literature is full of love stories with a tragic ending. However, at least in the Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), the happy ending is guaranteed. It’s a shame that for one school leaver even the novel of Alessandro Manzoni ends with the death of either Renzo or Lucia (who, we are not to know). Are we sure there was no mix up with Romeo and Juliet?

The comic pessimism of Leopardi is equally important, whereas the Late Mattia Pascal is ascribed to the poet Pittarello.

The peak is reached though when the ideal of Verga’s oyster becomes the story of the mussel. And what can be said about Dante being born in Milan…

Not even foreign literature is immune from such dilapidation: someone said that Dubliners is set in London (someone also said that Orwell wrote it and not Joyce).

There’s no Germany without Hitler

The question what does Tacitus’s Germany talk about? the answer was: Hitler. There is a problem: this would mean to say that both the 1st Century Roman historian and the 20th Century dictator managed to live for almost two thousand years. Fascinating…

And furthermore the book written by Hitler became Mein Kraft (instead of Mein Kampf), like the brand of spread cheese.

Hiroshima…or Fukushima?

In 1945 in Hiroshima there was a big earthquake which caused the collapse of an important nuclear power station, with consequent risks for people and the environment. But didn’t it happen in Fukushima? Furthermore in 2011? Wasn’t Hiroshima one of the two cities struck by the launch of the atomic bomb at the end of the second world war? Details. 

Turin? It is the Capital of Tuscany. Umbria? It is a city near Assisi (yes, but now it is right to ask: “which region is it in?”).

Historical horrors

France was invaded by Germany in 1940, in spite of the two nations being allies. Under the Giolitti government there was the conquest of Ethiopia (and not Libya). Amongst the protagonists of the second world war, there was also Napoleon. The Renaissance began five centuries late (not in the 15th century but in the post-war period). 

The art… of giving the wrong answer

One student said that Van Gogh painted Munch’s The Scream. For another Magritte is a writer…

Scientific errors

“Under strain muscles produce milk” (not lactic acid). The Golden Fleece is not the mythological coat of Chrysomallos but a muscle in our body. Geography couldn’t be left out of the list: if he hadn’t done the exam, a boy would still be convinced that Berlin was the capital of England.

«What is the tax on milled cereals”: minced meat». Indelible memories.

But what story is it?

One student said that Hitler didn’t exterminate the Jews, but the Arian race, adding that the second world war began in 1945 with that.

Just before his turn, one student asked another…  “Can you tell me who wrote the diary of Anna Frank?” (as if she had a ghost writer who had been in the shadow until today?). 

“The Gioconda was painted by Giotto” (and not by Leonardo Da Vinci).

To the question “What is the practice of deliberately wounding yourself called?”. The answer? Simple: “Self-pleasure”. 

The current President of the Republic is the mysterious Matteozzi. Whereas the Cold War: it was fought in Siberia, the 3rd World War started in India; the painting Guernica: painted by Pablo Escobar (infamous drug trafficker and protagonist of a popular TV series), even though it was painted by Pablo Picasso

Someone said Will Smith is the protagonist of the famous novel 1984 by George Orwell (the true name of the character is Winston Smith), Dante became a famous Italian Jew (for others he wrote the poem X Agosto, which is amongst Pascoli’s most famous poems). Not even Giovanni Verga seems to get away with it: his masterpiece The House by the Medlar Tree (I Malavoglia) is attributed to Italo Svevo (who wrote Zeno’s Conscience (La coscienza di Zeno)). The great Latin historian Titus Livius gets on a bit better. He was muddled up with a Roman Emperor…

A student established that “the French revolution started in Germany”. A young enthusiast of the contamination between literature and music said that “Pirandello’s most famous novel was Mattia Bazar”.


The teachers are equally good… Speaking of mathematics, a member of the commission, maybe an Italian literature enthusiast, asked a pupil to explain the famous “Theorem of Petrarch”. Poor Pythagoras, he was replaced by Petrarch. 

What can we say about the cycling champion Gino Bartali? For one member of the Commission he was a 1980’s sportsman. Shame that the same exam question referred to Bartali’s commitment during the period of Nazism in defence of the Jews.

A particular case concerned the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti: a Science teacher insisted on attributing to him Bones of Cuttlefish (Ossi di seppia) by Eugenio Montale, whereas an Italian teacher gave him the credit for writing Verga’s Mastro Don Gesualdo. What made everybody jump up from their seats, however, was a teacher who even credited him with having written Infinito. Shame that it is one of the most famous works, if not the most famous of Leopardi…

For History and Geography things didn’t go much better: America is in the east of the world, explained a teacher, while another assured that Venezuela is one of the Asian States. For one teacher the defeat of Caporetto took place during the 2nd World War, that apparently started because Hitler invaded Pearl Harbour.

Physics also put on a bad show with a teacher, according to whom the force of gravity equals 10, whereas a Maths teacher, after giving a candidate an exercise to do, apparently turned to a Science colleague candidly admitting: «You check, I get muddled up with numbers».

Once there was Gino and Michele, with their ants to make us laugh… today reality. Shame that in some cases, there is more cause for tears than for laughter!