Thursday, January 7, 2010
Wine According to John Cleese
I often make the analogy between the sort of beginner lectures in history that I have taught these past few years and an introduction to wine tasting. I am not much of an expert on wine, but if I were to ever be put in charge of a wine tasting class I would center the curriculum on making the case for wine. If students come away with one thing it should be an understanding of why your basic five dollar bottle of Manischewitz or Kedem Cream Malaga is grape flavored cough syrup and not actual wine and that it is worthwhile ten or twenty dollars to purchase a basic Merlot or a Chardonnay wine.
Similarly with history, if my students, whether or not any of them become professional historians or even amateur enthusiasts, understand one thing it should be what a professional historian is and does and how this is different from the History Channel or Rabbi Berel Wein. My students may never actually practice history, but the will know what real history looks like and they will hopefully be willing to invest the extra time and money when confronted with a historical issue. This is important for the cause of reason and truth and also so that people like me can have jobs.
Previously I used Monty Python to teach us a lesson about historical thinking. Here John Cleese comes to serve as our Maimonides with his "Wine for the Confused" program. Gentiles seem to approach wine somewhat differently. Cleese has to defend himself more against the top to bottom attack and not the bottom up.