"The History Teacher" first appeared in Billy Collins's 1991 poetry collection Questions About Angels. The poem depicts a history teacher who strives to preserve his students' innocence by telling them sugarcoated, fictitious versions of historical events with all suffering or cruelty removed. Despite his efforts to hide the truth about history—or perhaps because of them—his students become cruel and violent, bullying and beating up their peers on the playground. The history teacher remains unaware of the negative effects of his lessons, seemingly happy to live within the idyllic world that he has created for his ignorant pupils. Collins mixes his traditional wry sense of humor with a striking, serious message about the dangers of keeping learners from the truth.