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Learning History

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  • Larry Cywin
    Just wanted to add my own perspective in how I learned history... Went to school in suburban Chicago in the 60 s and 70 s. We had a lot of American History,
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 31, 2003
      Just wanted to add my own perspective in how I learned history...
      Went to school in suburban Chicago in the 60's and 70's. We had a lot of
      American History, especially in grade school. Also had to pass a class on
      history and government to graduate from high school. Maybe I was lucky, but
      some of the teachers were great at getting the information to you in
      interesting doses. The best was probably a professor in Florida who more a
      social historian than anything else. She didn't just want you to know that
      William the Conqueror thrashed Harald at Hastings in 1066 (Western Civ.
      class), she wanted you to understand what that means today. The important
      parts weren't names and dates, but rather events and the effects they had.

      Larry
    • turf12001
      Hey! I m all for the practical history we can learn in our own backyards -- so to speak! Here is a letter I once received from the Smithsonian Institute. I
      Message 2 of 3 , Sep 1, 2003
        Hey! I'm all for the practical history we can learn "in our own
        backyards" -- so to speak!

        Here is a letter I once received from the Smithsonian Institute. I
        think it may be a little condescending, but maybe that's just me.

        Paleoanthropology Division
        Smithsonian Institute
        207 Pennsylvania Avenue
        Washington, DC 20078

        Dear Sir:

        Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled "211-D,
        layer seven, next to the clothes line post. Hominid skull." We have
        given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to
        inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents
        conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two
        million years ago."

        Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie
        doll, of the variety one of our staff, who has small children, believes
        to be the "Malibu Barbie". It is evident that you have given a great
        deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite
        certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the
        field were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings.
        However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of
        the specimen which might have tipped you off to it's modern origin:

        1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are
        typically fossilized bone.
        2.The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic
        centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified
        proto-hominids.
        3.The dentition pattern evident on the "skull" is more consistent
        with the common domesticated dog than it is with the "ravenous
        man-eating Pliocene clams" you speculate roamed the wetlands during
        that time.

        This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses
        you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the
        evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into
        too much detail, let us say that:

        A.The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has
        chewed on.
        B. Clams don't have teeth.

        It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your
        request to have the specimen carbon dated. This is partially due to the
        heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to
        carbon dating's notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic
        record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced
        prior to 1956 AD, and carbon dating is likely to produce wildly
        inaccurate results. Sadly, we must also deny your request that we
        approach the National Science Foundation's Phylogeny Department with
        the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name
        "Australopithecus spiff-arino." Speaking personally, I, for one,
        fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but
        was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was
        hyphenated, and didn't really sound like it might be Latin. However,
        we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to
        the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a hominid fossil,it is,
        nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body
        of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know
        that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for
        the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the
        Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will
        happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your
        backyard.

        We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation's capital that you
        proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the
        Director to pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you
        expand on your theories surrounding the "trans-positating fillifitation
        of ferrous ions in a structural matrix" that makes the excellent
        juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered take on the
        deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive
        crescent wrench.

        Yours in Science,

        Harvey Rowe
        Curator, Antiquities
      • wa3ngg@aol.com
        In a message dated 9/1/2003 9:13:46 AM Eastern Standard Time, turf1@vt.edu ... Golly, you may have been had. There is no Smithsonian Institute at that
        Message 3 of 3 , Sep 1, 2003
          In a message dated 9/1/2003 9:13:46 AM Eastern Standard Time, turf1@...
          writes:

          > Here is a letter I once received from the Smithsonian Institute.


          Golly, you may have been had. There is no Smithsonian Institute at that
          address, although there is a Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
          Yrs,
          Bill Deutermann


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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