Worst Olympics ever?; major dinosaur footprint discovery; is beer history legit?; Trump’s Florida “historian”; history teaching and retention of info


The Olympics are shaping up to be a nightmare, and they haven’t even started yet. Here’s an interesting article from Daily Beast, ranking the top 5 worst Olympics. Munich is obviously #1, and Berlin is #2, but what do they rank as the other three? Check it out.

Down in Bolivia, researchers have discovered the largest footprint from a carnivorous dinosaur ever to be found. It dates to 80 million years ago, suggesting that large meat eaters like this roamed in South America for longer than previously believed.

So beer history has been in the news lately because the Smithsonian posted a new position they are hiring for which involves collecting artifacts and conducting field research for a project on beer brewing in the United States. Is studying beer a legit lens for looking at American history and culture? This piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education makes a decent case for it.

So Trump’s “field director” in Florida is a self proclaimed historian. The dude is an African American that insists that blacks fought in large number for the Confederacy, and that it was “trade, tariffs, states’ rights, and religion” that led to the Civil War, not slavery. Sounds like the perfect guy to work for Trump, except for the irony that Trump is against free trade–a policy that would ignite a tariff war with foreign countries–, makes statements that embrace autocracy and autocrats, and is anything but a religious guy. Oh well, I guess that is not any stranger than the fact that Republican voters nominated him despite all these positions that are not conservative Republican ones.

We know that historian David McCullough has recently gone after Trump, but he has also recently expressed frustration with our nation’s historical literacy, arguing that our teachers should be history majors, not education majors. Historian John Fea posted McCullough’s comments on his blog and Twitter, and it spawned a discussion among history teachers. Many pointed out the problem of having coaches teaching in the classroom, but I think the problem only starts there (no offense to coaches that ARE qualified to teach history).  I have commented on this before on my blog, but I think the problem is that in both high school AND in college, we often test our students in ways that does not require them to have to rely on long-term memory to pass the class, whether  or not that involved the simple memorization of facts or the more important critical analysis/interpretation of those facts. (Students cram before a test, shoving stuff into short term memory, they pass the tests, and then retain nothing). Whenever we see videos of random people failing to answer basic questions about our history and government, we immediately blame teachers. Yet I don’t doubt for a moment that at some point those people were exposed to the facts, probably utilized that info on a test (including critical analysis), and passed the class. But then they quickly forgot the information because it was only in their short term memory. Yes, often we have teachers in classrooms that are not qualified to teach history, and in college classrooms we often have experts on history that  often have no clue how to teach. In either case, I am convinced that one of the root problems is that we are not teaching in a way that insures retention. I am as guilty of it as anyone, and am always thinking about how to address the problem. Hopefully all teachers are.



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