History Buzz May 15, 2012: T. Mills Kelly: How the History Professor Who Fooled Wikipedia Got Caught by Reddit


History Buzz


How the Professor Who Fooled Wikipedia Got Caught by Reddit

T. Mills Kelly encourages his students to deceive thousands of people on the Web. This has angered many, but the experiment helps reveal the shifting nature of the truth on the Internet. 

Source: Yoni Appelbaum, The Atlantic, 5-15-12


…These stories have two things in common. They are all tailor-made for viral success on the internet. And they are all lies.

Each tale was carefully fabricated by undergraduates at George Mason University who were enrolled in T. Mills Kelly’s course, Lying About the Past. Their escapades not only went unpunished, they were actually encouraged by their professor. Four years ago, students created a Wikipedia page detailing the exploits of Edward Owens, successfully fooling Wikipedia’s community of editors. This year, though, one group of students made the mistake of launching their hoax on Reddit. What they learned in the process provides a valuable lesson for anyone who turns to the Internet for information.

The first time Kelly taught the course, in 2008, his students confected the life of Edward Owens, mixing together actual lives and events with brazen fabrications. They created YouTube videos, interviewed experts, scanned and transcribed primary documents, and built a Wikipedia page to honor Owens’ memory. The romantic tale of a pirate plying his trade in the Chesapeake struck a chord, and quickly landed on USA Today’s pop culture blog. When Kelly announced the hoax at the end of the semester, some were amused, applauding his pedagogical innovations. Many others were livid….

Last January, as he prepared to offer the class again, Kelly put the Internet on notice. He posted his syllabus and announced that his new, larger class was likely to create two separate hoaxes. He told members of the public to “consider yourself warned–twice.”…READ MORE

History Buzz September 28, 2011: Cornell History Dept. Creates Minor to Engage Students


History Buzz



Source: Cornell Daily Sun, 9-28-11

Following a noticeable decline in the number of students enrolled in history courses, the University’s Department of History has taken measures to boost its enrollment and attract students from a variety of disciplines.

This fall, the department added a history minor — one of 38 offered in the College of Arts and Sciences — and has recently added several new 1000- and 2000-level courses intended to appeal specifically to freshman and sophomores.

Though administrators said enrollment data was unavailable, many said they noticed a decline in the number of students enrolled in history classes.

The department has seen “its enrollment decline somewhat in the past few years,” said Barry Strauss ’74, chair of the history department.

Jon Parmenter, Director of Undergraduate Students for the history department, said the department is “certainly concerned about enrollments.”

According to Strauss and Parmenter, the new history minor — which can be fulfilled by taking five courses, including one seminar class — is aimed at increasing enrollment by targeting students who may be reluctant to take history classes without getting credit toward a degree.

“We’ve noticed a lot of undergraduates are interested in having as diverse an experience as possible to document on their diploma,” Parmenter said. “It seems as if minors are increasingly important in showing that students have a broad array of interests.”

Strauss added that the College of Arts and Sciences also encouraged all department chairs to consider adding minors to their departments as a way to reduce the pressure on undergraduates both inside and outside of the college.

“We wanted to make it possible for all undergraduates to explore this subject without wearing themselves out by trying to pursue a double major,” Strauss said. “It’s a different way of reaching out to students who are still interested in history.”…READ MORE

History Buzz September 27, 2011: Julian Bond: Students’ Knowledge of Civil Rights History Has Deteriorated, Study Finds


History Buzz



Source: NYT 9-27-11

When Julian Bond, the former Georgia lawmaker and civil rights activist, turned to teaching two decades ago, he often quizzed his college students to gauge their awareness of the civil rights movement. He did not want to underestimate their grasp of the topic or talk down to them, he said.

“My fears were misplaced,” Mr. Bond said. No student had heard of George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, he said. One student guessed that Mr. Wallace might have been a CBS newsman.

That ignorance by American students of the basic history of the civil rights movement has not changed — in fact, it has worsened, according to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, on whose board Mr. Bond sits. The report says that states’ academic standards for public schools are one major cause of the problem.

“Across the country, state educational standards virtually ignore our civil rights history,” concludes the report, which is to be released on Wednesday….

Many states have turned Dr. King’s life into a fable, said Mr. Bond, who now teaches at American University and the University of Virginia. He said his students knew that “there used to be segregation until Martin Luther King came along, that he marched and protested, that he was killed, and that then everything was all right.”… READ MORE

Sandra Day O’Connor: Failing Grades on Civics Exam Called a ‘Crisis’

Source: NYT, 5-4-11

Fewer than half of American eighth graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights on the most recent national civics examination, and only one in 10 demonstrated acceptable knowledge of the checks and balances among the legislative, executive and judicial branches, according to test results released on Wednesday.

Leigh Vogel/Getty Images For Colonial Willia

Sandra Day O’Connor pushes civics with Web-based games.

At the same time, three-quarters of high school seniors who took the test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, were unable to demonstrate skills like identifying the effect of United States foreign policy on other nations or naming a power granted to Congress by the Constitution.

“Today’s NAEP results confirm that we have a crisis on our hands when it comes to civics education,” said Sandra Day O’Connor, the former Supreme Court justice, who last year founded icivics.org, a nonprofit group that teaches students civics through Web-based games and other tools. …READ MORE

Linda Salvucci: History is being crowded out of the daily school schedules in many states across the nation; only 12 minutes a week?


History Buzz

Source: CNN, 6-17-11

This past week, we learned that American students are less proficient in the history of the United States than in any other subject. The New York Times reported that the National Assessment of Educational Progress released the results of a nationwide exam given to thousands of students. According to the results, most fourth graders couldn’t explain why Abraham Lincoln was important. Eighth graders couldn’t identify why American forces had an advantage over the British during the Revolution…READ MORE

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