Dan McCaslin History- World Cultures and Religions
(805)969-7732 x316 My Ph.D. and M.A. degrees came from UCSB, and I’ve also studied at UCLA, The American School of Classical Studies in Athens, the New York Institute of Fine Arts, and in 1975-76 I was the Taggart Fellow in Underwater Archaeology at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mediterranean archaeological sites include ancient Corinth, Isthmia, Phourkari, H.S. Tekke (Cyprus), and served as the Field Director of the Tel Dor Harbor Project (Israel). In addition to publishing a number of research articles in ancient Greek history and archaeology, my book Stone Anchors in Antiquity appeared in 1980. I truly enjoy teaching and working with early adolescents. In this exciting time of a human’s life genuine curiosity exists about “self and society.” We try to explore social organizations and personal identity in this class. I have been teaching history/social studies at Crane since 1980. An inveterate traveler, especially to Greece (1 year), Germany (2 years), and India, significant time has also been spent in Italy, Cyprus Island, and Israel. Most of these have yielded material, particularly photographs, which get utilized in the Western Civilization course.
Resources – the textbook is World History – Connections to Today (Prentice Hall), although we only read certain limited sections; it is supplemented by The Early Western Image and many handouts, often primary source selections written during the time periods we study.
Over 4000 digitalized color images from the Western Civilization Video-disc supplement my own 6000 color slide collection of primary source photographs.
In this year-long social studies class we study the origins of Western Civilization leading into the early modern European period (Renaissance and western science). Emphases include a study of Stone Age life and cave art (France and local Chumash pictographs), ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, the Axial Age (ca. 500 BCE), Classical Greece, the Roman Empire, rise of Christianity in the West, the High Middle Ages, and the Italian Renaissance. This is a dialogue-based class with limited homework, but important readings of specific primary source materials. First we delve into the idea of Western Civilization. We focus on the Stone Age, what is not “civilization,” comparing it to the Neolithic Revolution and beginnings of villages and eventually cities like Babylon. We make our own cave art pictographs and travel to the Sierra Nevada for a week pretending we are living like “Ishi,” the last Californian Stone Age human, and we study the ancient pictographs at our Sierran camp. We focus particularly on the ancient Classical Greeks since they have had a fundamental impact on the modern USA — e.g. democracy, jury trials, empire, art, spectacle entertainment [sports], technology, philosophy and science, important thinking concepts. We later compare and contrast the Roman Empire with those of Hammurabi, New Kingdom Egypt, Athens, Great Britain, and our own global hegemony today. In order to manage such an overwhelming array of material we employ organizing thematic strands as we try to make sense of so much information: these include authority, art, communication & trade, technology and science, belief systems and religion. History has two interlocking definitions from the ancient Greek term istoria [ιστορια]: 1) to ask questions (research); 2) to tell a story (narrative; synthesis). Western Civilization makes up the central narrative, the essential framework, which explains when and how we ended up in the Cramer Learning Center (my classroom) thinking the way we do today in 2008. A watchword is “biology is not destiny.” There is an emphasis on building an active tolerance of earlier cultures and civilizations, as well as increasing our cultural and religious literacy.
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