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Human Origins vs. Early America

Professor Richard Dent is an anthropology professor here at American university, and amongst his classes are two general education courses, Human Origins and Early America: The Buried Past. Because he has experience with these two completely different classes, he realizes that teachers have to approach their courses differently to reach the general education goals.

On one hand, in his Human Origins class, Prof. Dent is able to apply the “global perspective” easily to the course. He accomplishes this by demonstrating to his students the different perspectives on human origins and where they were developed. Students will look at research on primatology, both by the Japanese and by the American institutions, and realize how these two opposite cultures differ on their approach to research. This allows the students to critically look at the problems faced by the researchers and come up with their own conclusions about human origins.

On the other hand, in his Early America class, Prof. Dent finds it difficult to apply the “global perspective”. Therefore, he will present historical events in 15th and 16th century America and reveal how largely related these events were to events going on elsewhere in the world. This will demonstrate to the students that the idea of a global community is not necessarily new.

Prof. Dent uses a lot of videos in his classes to engage the students in the course. Although he believes PowerPoint presentations can be helpful in some cases, he considers that after too many of them they can become deadening and hypnotic. By showing videos Prof. Dent is able to make the class more interactive and engaging. Prof. Dent also believes that taking notes is an important part of his students’ learning. He has observed that through this process ideas are filtered and added, making the learning more effective. Although the class is mostly based on lectures, Prof. Dent engages the students through discussion on small case studies, which he believes are more effective for that class than traditional textbooks.

With anthropology, as Prof. Dent sees it, “it is not hard to incorporate outside views”, therefore he believes the general education goals are well met.