Stamp out quackery!

Medical quackery has a long history, but anyone who thinks that peddlers of snake oil and cure-alls are a thing of the past doesn't have an email account (or has the best spam filter ever made). The number of blatant come-ons I'm sent advertising "miracle" weight loss or sexual enhancement pills is so astounding -- the postmodern equivalent of the huckster shouting about his panacea powders on a street corner and skipping town as soon as he's sold a few bottles -- that I thought I'd delve into the history a bit. Turns out "quack" comes from the Dutch "quacksalver," meaning "boaster who applies a salve." (Sounds about right.)

Quack medicines (also known as "patent medicines") became popular in 17th century Britain, and were heavily imported to the US until the War of Independence (oh yeah, that thing we celebrated yesterday), when many British imports were curtailed. By the Civil War era, however, Americans had begun producing their own domestic cure-alls, which usually had no medicinal value and were sometimes even harmful to the user. William Radam's "Microbe Killer," which claimed to "cure all diseases," was actually a solution of dilute sulphuric acid and red wine. (Sounds like it might cure the user of his life right along with those diseases.) The quack business slowed down a lot in 1906 with the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act, which removed many of the most dangerous ingredients from these so-called "medicines." But sham doctors still had plenty to do between the passage of the act and the rise of quack spam today, as evidenced by this hilarious PSA from the 50s, Stamp Out Quackery!

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College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
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One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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North America: East or West Coast?
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