Archive for the ‘Area Studies’ Category

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Are You Smarter Than a 12th Grader?

June 13, 2008

The latest thing in humanities education in Indiana is a new high school social studies course called Geography and History of the World. Introduced a couple of years ago, the curriculum is going to be mandatory for students graduating in 2011, unless they take World History and Civilization.

Geography and History of the World begins with the Tigris-Euphrates, Nile, Indus, and Huang Ho/Yellow Rivers (3300–500 B.C.E.) and ends with global climate change (the present). In between are such rich and substantive questions as: What are culture hearths? How are national identities and forms of government affected by world religions? How have the functions of cities changed over time? How do innovative art forms and scientific thought spread from their origins to other world regions? What has been the impact of changing global patterns of trade and commerce on the local community? And believe me, there’s a lot more.

Last summer a few workshops were offered by universities for teachers of this new course, and they were packed. Here’s the kicker: there is no textbook.

Will this ambitious program work in real life schools? We can only wait and see. But the intent is clear, and it has to do with turning Hoosiers into global citizens who are literate in the humanities.

This entry was posted by: Nancy
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Una Herencia Mexicana: Otra Vez

June 9, 2008

A few weeks back Robyn Fink from Purdue’s student newspaper, The Exponent, contacted the Indiana Humanities Council to comment on the Mexican Art exhibit in Lafayette (Una Herencia Mexicana). I gave her about two pages of me blabbing away and, skilled reporter that she is, she was able to condense said babbling down to my three most cogent sentences.

You can read her piece here. It’s a little old now but the exhibit runs until August 22nd so it’s still relevant. More importantly of course, you might want to see this exhibit because some people think it might be pretty darn neat.

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Harold Lee Miller and Fair Culture

June 4, 2008

A friend of mine turned me on Harold Lee Miller a local photographer who not only happens to be very, very good, but is publishing a book on fair culture this winter through the Indiana Historical Society Press. I just viewed the pictures available on his website and they’re quite engaging.

I know that sounds like a toss-off compliment, equivalent to “They were nice in the good parts and good in the nice parts” but each picture really has its own personality despite sharing compositional elements and backdrop. Some pictures are unsettling, others are comfortable. Some show animals and their people as partners, others show the people being very much in control. I’m not here to write picture-by-picture reviews (although I am enamored of the guy with the cow) you just need to go check out the site yourself.

Miller style is clean and simple which is part of their engaging nature because it is immediately evident that there’s a lot of passion in these photos but it being delivered to the viewer through subtle signals that cease being subtle immediately upon discovery.

I would personally like to see a wider spectrum of fair culture represented in the finished product, but even if there isn’t, the photographs on display here offer firm assurance that the book will be worth picking up.

This entry was posted by: Jim
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The Other Cultural View

May 29, 2008

Like a lot of people, I sometimes use Wikipedia to check a quick fact (“Fargo is not the capital of North Dakota?!). I wasn’t quite satisfied, though, with the Wikipedia entry for the word “kata,” an idea that is central to Japanese culture.

Wikipedia tells us that kata are choreographed patterns of movements, primarily in the martial arts. My sense of kata is more general: that there are certain traditional “ways” of doing things, such as the way of Zen, the way of writing, the way of business, and so on.

At first glance, it seems that the cultural message is not to deviate from that which is taught. But I think it becomes something else: to understand thoroughly in order to know what alternatives exist. When you learn what is correct, you are ready to innovate.

Such a concept is not natural to us in the West, in other words, not intuitive in our culture. The great value of Eastern thought, it seems to me, is to show us what we are not and thus what we are.

Still, I can think of two places in American culture where the intense discipline of kata can be found. One is sports — so perhaps the martial arts are in fact the proper venue for kata. The other is computer programming, where knowing what is correct is the entrance to much innovation. Not surprisingly, there is such a thing as Code Kata.

Boye Lafayette De Mente has a good book on Kata: The Key to Understanding and Dealing with the Japanese.

This entry was posted by: Nancy