Why You Might Let Someone Crack a Coconut on your Head

It's amazing to me how many different types of Hindu ceremonies there are, and how many I'm not familiar with. This National Geographic video showcases an annual ceremony in Tamil Nadu, in Southern India, where priests break one coconut after another on people's heads as a way of thanking the goddess of wealth, Laxmi. Devotees-- who are required to be 18 years or older-- offer their skulls as a coconut cracker as thanks for having their prayers answered.

According to National Geographic, the ceremony has a bit of post-colonial lore behind it as well. As one local told reporters: "When the British were trying to draw a railway line against the wishes of the villagers here, they found big stones just like coconuts, beneath the ground. They sarcastically told villagers that if they could break these stones with their heads, they would change the course of the railway line. The villagers broke the stones and the line was shifted." Some of the locals say since then the ritual has been performed at the temple using coconuts, and that these rituals draw thousands.

Be sure to click here to watch the full video. The vigor and speed with which the priest performs the ceremony is stunning (and a little frightening, even for someone who was dropped on their head as a kid!).

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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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