Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cheers to History!

A 5th grade teacher from Michigan may have brewed up some trouble unintentionally after letting her class sample non-alcoholic beer. Apparently, the teacher's intention was to teach her students what people traditionally drank in the 1700s, since beer at the time was cleaner than most water.

This is very true. Any historian will tell you that modern water out of a tap is a miracle that many people in the 1700s could only dream of. You know what any historian will also tell you? History is filthy.

The teacher in question probably had good intentions, you know, in the spirit of 'bringing history alive!' and all sorts of other enthusiastic teacherly notions. But the problem with historical accuracy is not that our society is seriously lacking in it, but the fact that you can't, and probably don't want to, duplicate history.

The 1700s was not a hygienic or safe time. Anyone with visions of 'bringing history alive!' for their students today could bring up some pretty unpleasant experiences. Like oral hygiene from the 1700s, fashion, transportation; ah, the joys and memories of underqualified so-called professionals yanking sore teeth with a pincer also used for removing coals from a hot stove, corsets that broke ribs, horses that traced a path of poop everywhere they trod. History is important, but a lot of us are happy that it's the past.

That said, beer has a rich history and has been a part of human civilization for millenia, tracing its origins back to the early Sumerians. Humans have been ingesting beer and wine for longer than any of the highly sugared processed drinks that are currently on the market; a good reason to skip soda altogether and enjoy a drink or two (unless you're the designated driver, another victory of modern invention).

A note to this Michigan school; your principal might want to have another talk with the teacher in question when it's time to study Russia. Sure, those potatoes you're bringing to class seem harmless enough, until it's time to bring history alive! once more.

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