Week 24- A Superlative Letter to National Geographic (IMO)


The biggest!  Really?

The most powerful!!  Prove it.

The most important!!!  Please stop it.  Now.  No, I’m not kidding. 

This is the letter I am about to send the National Geographic, The History Channel, PBS, and the BBC. 

Dear National Geographic,

As much as I appreciate your dedication to history and your willingness to create documentaries on issues that may go overlooked by, say, A&E, I grow more and more frustrated by your egregious abuse of superlatives.

My class has benefited from at least two of your documentaries this year, and for that we are very grateful.  However, my students and I were appalled by the sheer number of “best”s, and “biggest”s, and “most influential”s  that we were regaled with.  It is also galling because we are educated.  We know that, say, the port in Carthage and the port in Syracuse, compared with the port at Caesarea, also used tufa rock (which your video doesn’t seem to think we need to know) to make amazing defense works.  Archimedes’ port easily rivals the work of Herod the Great’s.

I ask you, Where is your evidence?  I teach my students to defend their arguments.  I require that they do not take anybody’s word at face value.  I expect them to question authority, mine, yours, especially the text’s.  Is it that you feel that the information isn’t interesting enough?  If it isn’t, maybe you aren’t telling the story correctly.  Because, the story of history is far more interesting than any throbbing soundtrack or abundant list of superlatives can make it.  And if you are going to make comparisons, please don’t assume that I don’t know anything about any other place on the planet.  It’s offensive.  Maybe it was the best thing in Judea.  Maybe it was the best thing on the planet, at that time, that we know of.  But after a series of documentaries all saying that whatever it is they are presenting is the best, it rings hollow; sounds false.  Teeters dangerously close to propaganda.  The bad sort.

Again, I thank you for the work you do in bringing this information to the screen.  But I will ask the same of you that I ask of my students when they present me with research: prove it or don’t say it.

Thank you,

A History Teacher

If anybody wants to help me put together videos that show how big, say, Alexander’s Empire (at its fullest) was to the size of, say, the Roman Empire (at its fullest), please contact me.  Or, if you know of someone already doing this, please let me know.  I want to start the Intelligent Society of People Who Bust Superlatives.  Represent.


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