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Old 08-25-2006, 11:07 AM   #5
OLChemist
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Because of the ideological underpinnings of the pre-Columbian population debate, people can be quite attached to their particular population count. I've short-circuited these arguments on occasion by saying (in essence): whether you agree with 100 million figure of the high-counters -- like David Stannard author of American Holocaust -- or 15 million number of the low-counters - like R. J. Rummel -- isn't this way too many?

It can also be helpful to re-cast the discussion in different terms. I worked with a guy who was very much a John Wayne "we made a mistake by not letting them join the American mainstream" type. In one discussion he started in about how Americans had tried to help the Indians with "free" boarding schools. I personalized the arguement. I started out taking the tack of "yes, the people who started those schools really thought they were doing good." Then I asked him to imagine his son being taken away, asked him to imagine his son going through what my grandfather went through. Then I brought the whole thing into the present and told him how having relatives that had these experiences effected my life. By avoiding shoving guilt and blame down his throat (not that I am saying you do this), I got him to re-evaluate his attitudes.

As for the oral history, that is harder. This matter goes to a very deep difference in worldviews. With a lot of research it is possible to provide documentation that supports portions of the oral history. However, sometimes you can counter by asking how much of your educatee's family history, not just birth and death records but life histories, is verified by independent written sources -- several independent sources with appropriate creditials form "good" schools. Then ask if the act of writing something automatically prevents lying.

Anyway, my 2 cents.
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