Sunday, February 28, 2010

AIA and SAFE Outreach Programs: Education or Indoctrination?

Nathan Elkins' "scholarly" hatchet job on Ancient Coins for Education ("ACE") and its program to teach kids about ancient history through coins (see below at http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2010/02/elkins-treasure-hunting-101-in-americas.html), got me to think about the Archaeological Institute of America's ("AIA's") and Saving Antiquities for Everyone's ("SAFE's") own outreach programs to youth.

A link to the AIA programs can be found here: http://www.archaeological.org/webinfo.php?page=10260

A less well-developed link to SAFE's programs can be found here: http://www.savingantiquities.org/education.php

I'll let the reader decide to what extent each organization's programs reflect a desire to educate versus a desire to indoctrinate.

4 comments:

Nathan T. Elkins said...

Peter,

I am happy that you have finally read the article for yourself, although you continue to misrepresent its contents.

To clarify, SAFE was not mentioned in the text of the article and so I wonder why you bring it up.

AIA, SAA, ASOR outreach and education programs were mentioned; they teach archaeology. Nowhere on these websites outreach and education pages do you see a program of teaching kids about ethics. Instead the programs are focused on how excavated ancient objects and their contexts inform modern people about ancient society.

Contrast this with the ACE program and ACE website where the ACCG's lobbying efforts are featured prominently and ACE educators are told to ignore ethical concerns in the most brutish of fashion in the "ethical guide." Additionally, the ACCG's founder has in no uncertain terms written about ACE as a tool to "recruit" supporters. That was his word choice.

When it comes to secondary education and outreach, some programs are pushing an agenda, but I think it is clear what groups are pushing that agenda.

All best,
Nathan

Cultural Property Observer said...

Nathan- Thank you for your comments.

Please explain how I have misrepresented your views. I quoted you directly and provided examples from your text, no? As I have mentioned, I find your treatment of ACE to be quite harsh and undeserved. The ACE program really is just a bit more organized version of what coin collectors have long done-- gone to schools (mostly Latin classes) to share their interest with kids. You are the one who has belittled and demeaned that effort. So what if the ACCG supports it? You may know Wayne Sayles primarily from his work with the ACCG, but he has long been a booster of ancient coin collecting (having written numerous books and founded CELATOR Magazine), and ACCG's partnership with ACE reflects that spirit of boosterism. For God's sake man, without coin collectors (and dealers) there would be no ANA or ANS, for that matter. So perhaps this is not as bad as you suggest to expose kids to the world of coin collecting.

I'm not sure where on the ACE website, lobbying efforts are "featured prominently." I found the text of letter ACE sent to CPAC about Cyprus back in 2007, but that was it. Perhaps there is something about ACE's appearance at the Italian MOU hearing back in 2005, but I could not readily access it. In any event, I would charaterize ACE's lobbying activities as very spotty, certainly much less than for groups such as the AIA, CAARI, SAFE, etc.

As for SAFE, I agree, SAFE is not mentioned in your article, but you are certainly a member of SAFE, an archaeological advocacy group with ties to the AIA. See http://www.archaeological.org/webinfo.php?page=10314 (stating SAFE is a "sister organization.") In any event, given your article, I just raise the issue of whether SAFE's and the AIA's activities are calculated to indoctrinate or to educate. Personally speaking, from my review of their web sites and my observations of the two organizations, I suspect the AIA program is largely educational in nature while the SAFE program is mainly seeks to indoctrinate-- I suppose you would say for a good purpose, though.

Still, as for the AIA's educational effort, it seeks to promote archaeology, no? I don't see anything wrong with that. Nor do I see anything wrong with promoting ancient coin collecting, though.

Peter Tompa

Nathan T. Elkins said...

Peter,

The ACCG and ACE partnership are prominently featured on the ACE website, check again. It is one of the tabs on the web page.

You sensationalized a few of my quotations in your summary without providing the background to those comments. For example, the way that bulk quantities of earth-encrusted coins are sourced, which was the basis for one of the quotations you used out of context.

Similarly, you took other quotations out of context, when the evidence for ACE as a recruitment tool was discussed according to statements made by certain ACE directors and ACCG leaders. It is clear that the ability to recruit sympathizers is a key feature of the program in the minds of many; they have said no less.

Additionally, you talk about "taking to ACE to task" about speaking at the Italy hearing. Your phraseology here is a gross exaggeration. All that was stated in the text was that ACE had reciprocated ACCG's support by speaking at the CPAC hearing on Italy; there was nothing more on the issue and they certainly were not "taken to task over it." The focus of the article, which you fail to address, is the way that educational material is sourced. It is indeed ironic that such objects are used to teach "archaeology" amongst other things.

I think your own use colorful language in your multiple posts on the article (two before you read it and two now that you have) betrays your own attached emotionalism to the issue and the fact that you are not reading the text with a critical eye (by the word critical I mean thoughtful reflection).

All best,
Nathan

Cultural Property Observer said...

Nathan- Now, you are engaging in the game of "what I meant" rather than "what I said." You are also falsely equating boosting coin collecting with boosting dealers' "commercial agendas" whatever they might be. You accuse me of "emotionalism," but you have to understand that I have now read your article closely and found it to be highly insulting and unfair. We need more programs to teach kids to love ancient history. I'm glad the AIA has its own program to teach kids to love archaeology. I'm also glad ACE has a program to teach kids to love history through ancient coins. I think giving kids coins that would otherwise have trouble finding a "good home" is a great use for them. I agree it would be better had they been properly recorded, but unfortunatly, they have not been, and ignoring them won't change that fact. At least ACE puts them to some good use.

Peter Tompa