Rethinking man’s history of warfare; big news coming about the Pyramids?; More on Mercy Street; Whiteness History Month?; Levin vs. Gates; those old movie accents

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Interesting stuff here about an archaeological discovery that seems to push the history of human warfare back into the era of nomadic hunter-gatherers. While evidence of organized warfare is obviously very common among the earliest settled “civilized” societies, this find is unique in regards to earlier hunter-gathers. Fascinating.

And while we are on archeology: are researchers on the verge of a major new discovery involving the great pyramids? A recent study involving scans of the pyramids has revealed some data that may lead to something big, but they aren’t revealing much yet. So, don’t get frustrated that this story brings more questions than answers. I guess we will have to stay tuned.

Well, I’m glad to see that I’m far from the only Civil War enthusiast that really liked the first episode of Mercy Street, and sees the potential it has for dealing with some pretty important historiography. For example, the debate between Nurse Phinney and Dr. Foster about whether it is a war against slavery, or a war solely for Union. As Jen Simone writes here for the Gettysburg Compiler, “We all know that this argument is not one just created for dramatic effect.”

So what’s up with an Oregon college’s “Whiteness History Month?” You’ll be happy to know that it isn’t exactly what the title would suggest. (But you know, we had to wonder).

Here’s just more distressing news about the historical and basic civics literacy of Americans, this one focused on college graduates. These results are troublesome, but I think us teachers need to view it as indication that for whatever reason, students are largely not retaining in the long-term what we are teaching them. I’m convinced that this is mainly because students are in the habit of “cramming” stuff into their short term memory, because it is all that is needed in order to pass most high school and even college tests.  Personally, I’ve been rethinking and retooling some of my teaching and testing methods to try and get students out of the habit of thinking that studying is cramming. And actually, I’ve discovered that contrary to how the media has been reporting about this study (highlighting nothing more than the public’s ignorance) , its primary conclusions are geared toward stressing the need for improving civics lessons in both content and methods.

Uh oh, Kevin Levin is taking on Henry Louis Gates again, and with good reason. The TV show “Finding Your Roots” is great for coming up with historical sources about individuals, but not very good at contextualizing, interpreting, and questioning them. You know, the stuff historians do. In this instance, Levin points how the show failed in a recent episode involving actor Keenan Ivory Wayans’ ancestors, because it did not consider  how the Lost Cause might have shaped/distorted the history of one former slave in his family.

If you are a film lover like me, you’re already aware of why Hollywood movies of the 1930s, 40s, and early 50s frequently feature actors that are speaking with a peculiar and unrealistic accent. But if not, check out this quick video that helps explain the “transatlantic accent.”

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