An impressively interdisciplinary team of geneticists, biological anthropologists, archaeologists, and geologists has just published an article detailing the genetic makeup of a man who lived in Ethiopia some 4,500 years ago. Why is this relevant today? The analysis shows close genetic ties between some contemporary Sardinian farmers, German farmers from 7,000 years ago, and contemporary people living in Ethiopia and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa. That’s big news in these days of far too many complaints about “too many immigrants,” and far too much discussion about “race” as if it were a simple category with immutable boundaries.
But the larger story embedded in this research packs an even bigger punch. We humans have been on the move for a good 70,000 years, and our connections across Africa, the Middle East, and Europe have been actively maintained, with criss-crossed migrations and gene sharing ever since. Leaders of today’s far-right parties claim that ethnic and racial mixing is unnatural, and that migration goes against our nature. Donald Trump, Scott Walker, and Marine Le Pen need to study their history.
Racist, anti-immigration poster of the English Defence League, a far-right street protest group dedicated to opposing Muslims living in the UK
There’s surely something to offend every political sensibility in a provocative essay, “Let the Palestinians Have Their State,” just published by Liel Leibovitz in The Tablet. But for that reason, it’s worth reading. Equal-opportunity-offender essays are bold enough to propose solutions that–dare I say?–might just be viable, if all those who are offended actually considered their proposals.
Anthropology teaches us that we remain comfortable in our preconceived assumptions and prejudices at our peril. Why not imply the insight to the mess that is the MidEast?
A new study reports that pre-kindergarten programs in Tennessee fail to achieve any long-term gains. Republican lawmakers are already seizing on the news as evidence that pre-K programs don’t work in general, and should no longer be funded.
By contrast, the same study reports that pre-kindergarten programs in Boston are achieving significant long-term gains. Democratic lawmakers will no doubt seize on the news as evidence that pre-K programs do work in general, and should be further funded.
As usual, the devil’s in the details.
The Tennessee program emphasizes passive classroom strategies that are dull even for college students, let alone three-year-olds: children sit and listen while a teacher talks.
The Boston program emphasizes active learning strategies that are tried-and-true even for college students, let alone three-year-olds: children learn to measure distance by measuring the shadows their bodies cast on the ground, and brainstorm about making their city a better place by using skills they learn in reading, math, art and science to present a proposal to City Hall.
1. Conclusions are only as good as the data they draw from.
2. “Think global, study local” should be the official Congressional mantra.
3. Everything is better with ethnography.