Daniel Behan – The Cradle of Civilization

Daniel Behan teaches American and World history classes at Elijah Parish Lovejoy Middle School in Rochester, New York, and says that he always tries to make his classes fun.

He teaches three American History classes and three World History classes each semester. “The American History class is pretty straightforward, for the most part,” he says. “I teach the birth and development of that landmass we know today at the United States, with a special emphasis on its geography, economy, government, military, and foreign affairs.”

Daniel Behan says that one of the differences in his American History course, however, is the time he devotes to pre-European North America. “Too many American history courses just start with the first Europeans coming to the New World. And I think that does a disservice to our students; it really shortchanges them.”

And so he spends a month of each semester on a section he calls “The First Americans.” It is based on modern anthropological and archaeological evidence of a land bridge that was used by Asians about twelve thousand years ago to migrate to what we know today as North America. “Of course, there’s always the kid at the back of the room who says, ‘But where did they come from before that?’ And I tell them that they probably came from Africa about a hundred thousand years ago. And that Africa is the cradle of civilization.”

Daniel Behan says that a lot of the kids want to spend more time on that than what he has planned for the rest of the year. “For a lot of kids, it’s the first time they’ve heard that.. And they already know about the Pilgrims and other origin stories. I’ve got to stay on schedule, of course, but it isn’t uncommon to spend an extra week or so on the first Asians, and even Africa – which, as it happens, I cover in more detail in my World History course.”


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