Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Who Discovered What?

Clay Allison - Live at the Electric Banana, Pittsburgh, PA (5/22/84) Part 1
Clay Allison - Live at the Electric Banana, Pittsburgh, PA (5/22/84) Part 2

Had a fun talk with a couple of my students the other day about Columbus versus the Vikings and who discovered America. Or which known European historical figure "discovered" the Americas, to be more politically correct perhaps.

They were flabbergasted at this idea; it went against everything they'd been taught. And these young ladies were 17 and 18 years old. But they had never once heard about this. Or if they had, they'd forgotten. My best guess, though, would be on the "Never Told About" side.

History teachers at the middle and high school level can be a fairly conservative bunch, both personally and politically, and it often shows in their teaching. I've met exactly two that I'd think of as "liberal." Also, the textbooks they use can be pretty conservative. After all, most textbooks in the US have to meet a vetting standard out of Texas - not a bastion of liberality. This is because textbook publishers desperately have to sell to the Texas school system, it's such a huge customer. So they tailor and basically censor their textbooks to meet the parochial demands of the Texas board which reviews such. California also plays a huge role in this process, but the best bet for publishers is to error on the side of conservatism even if historical truth and fairness and scientific reasoning and a bunch of other good things get jettisoned along the way.

My students probably didn't want to know as much about this as I told them, a common ailment I've found since I can go on and on at length on topics I enjoy (a fact any regular reader here will attest to), but the discussion was entertaining and enlightening. Their textbook actually mentioned "Lief Erickson Day' and they wanted to know when that happens. Lucky them, I said, it's this week - before Columbus Day! The rest of the conversion centered on where in town they could buy Viking helmets to celebrate.

Hmm. What does this have to do with some live Clay Allison? I dunno, except maybe that I've already said about all I can say about my obsession with all things Opal/Kendra Smith-related? And that the past is always prologue.

Now playing: Ken Chambers - Out of the bag
via FoxyTunes


Memphis said...

Never really understood the "discovered America"thing.So the natives that were already here werent aware of their own existence?Like dogs ? hmmm Weird .

Nazz Nomad said...

The Vikings??? Shit they barely beat the Lions yesterday!

Hank said...

Saw a BBC documentary on tv recently about how some Irish monk is thought to have paddled across the Atlantic to America, sometime during the 6th century - or was it the 7th? Can't remember, but before the vikings, anyway.
The type of boat he was supposed to have used was rather small, so it seemed kind of unlikely. But, still, a fascinating story. So, maybe the Irish "discovered" America! (For the record, I'm not Irish myself, Swedish actually. And the vikings didn't have horns on their helmets.)
Can I just finish by saying I really enjoy yor blog? And that you have extremely good taste in music? (By which I mean, of course, that it mirrors my own so much it's weird).
Oh, and that us Europeans are really scared of Sarah Palin?

gomonkeygo said...

Hey, Hank - thanks for the nice words about the blog, first, and glad you like the music. It's weird to discover that there are other people who like the stuff you do when all along maybe you thought you were just a weird loner. It was easier to think that way twenty years ago than now, with the Intertubes and everything putting all us weirdos in touch with one another.

I think that show must've been about Brendan (or St. Brendan) and the boat was probably some form or coracle or curragh. I remember that National Geographic had a great piece on a guy who recreated this in the late 70s or early 80s. Remember reading it at my grandparent's house when over for Sunday dinner. It was reading articles like that that sparked my interest in history. Getting a new perspective on reality, learning that the past is not immutable and monolithic but a changing and interpretable story, one we need to constantly re-examine to understand the present and plan for the future as a species.

Probably, in historical times, the Irish/French/Portugese/British/Welsh/Scots/Danes/etc can all make a claim for having been first. I like the notion that French and Portugese (sp?) fishermen knew of the great cod fisheries off Newfoundland for centuries but wouldn't tell - trade secret! The possibility of early shipwrecked Europeans or traders also explains the mysterious stories of blue-eyed or blonde Native Americans that supposedly greeted some early explorers.

Have a great weekend, Hank, and come back often. Tell your friends, especially if they're weird!

Shemp said...

Do not forget off the coast of Oregon and Washington state the stone Chinese anchors from 500 A.D.

I guess the first Chinese, who discovered America, were the red skinned Chinese who came across the Bering Strait some 20 to 50 thousand years ago. Who today share the same DNA as American Indians. And if you check you will find Russian speaking Chinese in Siberia who have red skin today.

So who discovered America? Reality does not change just our perception of it. So now the question is, what is reality?

Remember "He who wins the war writes the history".

There are young Chinese today who know nothing of the brutal actions of their government from just the last 40 years. Because the government wants it that way.

The English came to America murdered as many as they could and now write the history.

It boggles the mind to think of the changes made this way over time. Making what we know even less meaningful. As nothing is real, it is only presented to us by our fathers the way they want it to be in the first place. Another easy example, T.V. and movies from the 40's and 50's. They only show what they wanted society to be, not the way it actually was. This impulse does not change but only repeats. Teach that in your class.

Now I ask you again . What is reality?

Nina said...

I can not thank you enough for posting this!

You have made me a very happy girl!