The Time I Willfully Pissed Off My Civics Class On President’s Day

And why their hair collectively caught fire

Grant Piper


Photo by Jessica Tan on Unsplash

The year was 2012 and the date was sometime around President’s Day. I suppose it could not have been on the actual day itself because public schools have a nasty habit of taking off every federal holiday. It was the last semester of my senior year of high school and I had a large amount of teenage angst that gave me an insatiable urge to irritate all of my fellow classmates on a regular basis.

I was a pissant. But an intellectual one.

After winter break we were assigned a project in our government class in which we had to list our top three presidents and our bottom three presidents using all of the knowledge we had gained during our high school history classes to make our case. Then, we were tasked with presenting these lists to the class in (overly long) public presentations. They had to be at least 30 minutes in length.

(Now that I think about it, these presentations took up inordinate amounts of time and this was likely a project aimed at reducing teacher workload in the final stretch as it was enhancing our public speaking abilities, but I digress.)

After a casual survey of my fellow confederates, I realized that nearly every single one of my classmates had the exact same list. Washington, Lincoln, and FDR were the best presidents. James Buchanon, Franklin Pierce, and Andrew Johnson were the worst. Today, the list would likely include Donald Trump for the same reasons all of these lists were exactly the same. These lists had nothing to do with individual thought. These lists existed only because that is what they had been told.

This realization filled me with a sense of dread. Not only was I going to have to sit through hours of horrendous presentations by high school seniors that were all identical but it also showed me that no one had a desire to think outside the box. No one wanted to rock the boat.

I saw an opportunity.

I decided that I was not going to follow the crowd. I wasn’t even going to swap out some popular choices like Lincoln for someone more controversial like Teddy. I was going to go full nuclear.



Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.