AMBOY – Did Adolf Hitler escape death and flee to South America at the end of World War II?
Who killed JonBenet Ramsey in December 1996?
The truth is out there – so are conspiracy theories, and a class at Amboy High School is exploring both, bringing fact and fiction together and then helping students separate one from the other.
While history books provide what have long been considered definitive answers, there are still skeptics, and in today’s world it’s easier than ever to turn theories into fact and fact into theories. Christopher Tidmore’s eighth-hour, half-semester class brings students together to dive into opinions that stray from final conclusions, and determine whether there is a reason to doubt the answers.
Friday’s topic was about whether the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, was real or fake.
“It’s crazy because now we’re in a time period where there’s a lot of conspiracy theories happening all of the time,” Tidmore said. “This class is not like other classes, and I’ve always liked to see the creative side of the students.”
Tidmore divided the class of about 20 students into two groups: the front of the room and the rear. He gave the front of the class the option to debate and research between real and fake. They wanted to discuss the moon landing as if it were fake, which hasn’t happened much for past units.
A pair of boys in the back of the room wanted to join the group up front, but Tidmore didn’t make that happen.
“This is a debate. We don’t want to do the whole Trump-Hillary 2016 disrespect stuff,” Tidmore told his students. “We want to keep it nice and respectful. We’ve always got to remember that.”
Tidmore has taught the class for 4 years. He begins the curriculum with ancient theories up to about 1800, and then goes into those in the 19th century. Many theories are about events after 1945, and the class will learn about moments in nonlinear fashion.
He even takes suggestions from students.
“We were asked if there were any classes that we wanted to change or create,” Tidmore said. “I just thought it would be kind of nice for kids to get something that challenges their normal thoughts about history.”
Kaylin Woodyatt, a freshman, was especially interested in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case. Ramsey’s parents were believed to be involved with the killing of the 6-year-old girl, but the case, which sparked national attention, remains open.
“She died and no one knows who murdered her,” Woodyatt said. “I think her parents did it, but they never got charged with killing her because they never got caught.”
Woodyatt likes the class because she can learn fun items about important moments in history.
“It’s very fun to be in,” Woodyatt said. “You’re looking at things you wouldn’t normally be looking at. You’re not looking at the facts, it’s based on opinion.
“Thinking, ‘Oh, it might be fake,’ was fun to research.”
Tyler Stewart wanted to take the class during his junior year but missed out on it. The senior now enjoys it, and found the discussion on Hitler’s rumored flight to Argentina “fascinating.”
As for the moon landing, he believes it happened, but understands some skepticism.
“There are some reasons why people could think that it wasn’t,” Stewart said. “The flag in the picture looks like it’s flapping, and that NASA made a special flag so that it would look good in pictures.”
Tidmore is considering including a unit on the death of Jeffery Epstein, a nationally renowned financier who was alleged to have participated in sex trafficking of minors in New York and Florida. He was found dead in his prison cell on Aug. 10.
So how did that happen? Who did it?
“I tell them at the end, ‘I don’t care what side you have to argue for; tell me how you really feel after the research,’” Tidmore said. “It’s always interesting how it changes.”
Conspiracy theories all around
Some of the topics covered recently in Christopher Tidmore’s conspiracy theories class at Amboy High School include:
• Area 51
• The Central Intelligence Agency
• The demise of Adolf Hitler
• Murders of John F. Kennedy, JonBenet Ramsey and Tupac Shakur
• Lizard people and aliens who control Earth
• Apollo 11 moon landing
• Recent presidential election controversies