Wednesday, November 06, 2013

I'm a Failure

I've had many afterthoughts since my last post several months ago, where I chronicled the academic crime committed against me by faculty members of Tel Aviv University. But while it's one thing to intentionally claim originality to ideas & work that are not your own, it's another thing to give a student a failing grade for correctly answering your quiz question on the subject!

Prof. Oded Lipschits, with guest appearances by other lecturers such as Ido Koch & David Vanderhooft, began teaching an online course in October titled The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem. It's divided into 6 parts with brief exams following each one. The first was of particular interest since it included the LMLK chronological division, one aspect of my 2004 book they blatantly plagiarized, for which they've never apologized (Israel Finkelstein's deceitful defense of their actions notwithstanding).

The quiz consisted of 2 questions, so if your answer for either one is incorrect, you receive a failing grade (50% on any school's scale is a capital-F failure). Each attempt also decreases your score. Since I was shocked that my first answer was wrong, I took it again with a slightly different answer, & still got it wrong (according to the professor), so the calculation was 6/13 or 46%. At that point I concluded that the teacher was more interested in having the students play a guessing game than learn history, so I stopped taking the quizzes. If I'm going to play a game, I'd at least like to get some physical exercise as a result.

Here it is (by the way, this question is part of the course material produced and copyrighted 2012-2013 by the prestigious Tel Aviv University, & my reproduction thereof without the permission of the instructor is not permitted, which just breaks my heart):

"Part 1 (questions 1-7): creating an historical timeline you are required to place the historical events in chronological order (i.e. in question 1 you should choose the first event, in question 2 the second event etc.). Please note that you have more events to place than places to do so."

  • "Conquest of Damascus"
  • "Destruction by the Neo-Babylonian Empire"
  • "Development of silver coins"
  • "Expansion to the Lowland"
  • "Expansion to the Plain of Esdraelon"
  • "Fortification of the borders"
  • "Introduction of the stamped jar handle system"
  • "Limited territory in highland"
  • "Sennacherib Campaign"
  • "Subjugation to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the days of Ahaz"

In other words, the question is arranged into 7 sub-questions, where you select 1 of 10 multiple-choice answers. A wrong selection for any 1 of the 7 sub-questions results in the entire answer being wrong. Here's my 1st attempt:

  1. Fortification of the borders
  2. Conquest of Damascus
  3. Subjugation to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the days of Ahaz
  4. Introduction of the stamped jar handle system
  5. Sennacherib Campaign
  6. Destruction by the Neo-Babylonian Empire
  7. Development of silver coins

What ticked me off was that the automated response marked ALL 7 of those selections as "wrong/incorrect" by the TAU professor (via the automated program, which apparently follows GIGO logic). Here's my 2nd attempt (where I simply substituted the 1st event for another one):

  1. Expansion to the Lowland
  2. Conquest of Damascus
  3. Subjugation to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the days of Ahaz
  4. Introduction of the stamped jar handle system
  5. Sennacherib Campaign
  6. Destruction by the Neo-Babylonian Empire
  7. Development of silver coins

Now I'll provide quotations from the video lectures for each of the events mentioned; two were not, but they're still historical events, & the question did not say we would be penalized for selecting events not covered in the course. Note that the words you read may sound strange since they were programmatically transcribed from the audio (& provided online to accompany the course videos), sometimes distorted by the lecturer's accent, but they contain enough clarity to determine the relative chronology.

"900-801 Fortification of the borders"

"However, in a small and gradual process during the first half of the 9th century BCE, Judah started to develop as a kingdom to fortify it's [sic] borders and develop a more mature administration and economy. With the collapse of the of the [sic] economic political systems to it's [sic] West and to the South of Jerusalem in the second half of the 9th Century BCE, the Judahite Kings expand their [sic] sovereignty into these regions."

"800-751 Expansion to the Lowland"

"The typical over [sic] store jars in Judah, known also a lamerik [sic] jar or the Royal Judah jar, is a well known find. New study of these jars, including computer generated topology [sic] of large samples, of these of these [sic] older jars, demonstrated that there are three main chronological stages in the development and use of all the [sic] storage jars that were produced in the lowlands. In the first age, dated to the late 9th and the early 8th century BCE, when the lowland was still outside of any direct rule of Judah. The over [sic] storage jars were characterized mainly by the manufacturing of nonstandardized sub types. These jars appeared mainly in the lowland, also in large numbers in sight [sic] that were not included inside the border of Judah, like [FOREIGN], which is Biblical Gat, and Gaza [sic]. In the second stage, dated to the early mid 8th century BCE under the rule of Judah. [sic] And probably as part of it's [sic] developing administration and economy, the standardized jars became more common than the non-standardized jars."

[Note: The LMLK jars shared a general shape, not a standardized one as their volumes varied greatly; plus their handles were inconsistently formed & stamped.]

"732 Conquest of Damascus"

"When we will move to the south to central and southern Syria, we can describe three provinces that were established in the territory of around Damascus. Which was the largest and most important of the kingdom of the region when it was conquered by Tiglath Pileser the third in 732 BCE."

"732 or 725 Subjugation to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the days of Ahaz"

"Assuming that Judah became an Assyrian vassal kingdom during the years of Ahaz, at the beginning at the last quarter of the 8th century BCE."

[Note: See 2Kings 16:8-9.  From 2:21-2:50 & 9:50-10:06 in his section 1.4 lecture, he shows a timeline with "Judah's subjugation to Assyria" happening at 732; a similar timeline appears in Koch's 1.6 lecture from 5:59-6:07 & 6:41-6:48. No specific date is ever shown for the reign of Ahaz.]

"720 or 735-705 Introduction of the stamped jar handle system"

"And in the third stage, dated to the late 8th century BCE when Judah was already under Assyrian rule, one type of the jars was adopted for use by the royal administrative system of Judah. As can be demonstrated by the appearance of stamp impressions on handles of jars from this type. ... Under Assyrian rule, the Judah high [sic] tradition of stamping or incising jar handles began with early LMLK impression [sic] in the end of the 8th century BCE, was followed by the late LMLK stamping version [sic] in the early 7th century. ... [per Lipschits; next quotation per Koch] ... In light of that, it is suggested that this system was mostly used during the last third of the eighth century BCE, when Judah was a vassal of Assyria."

[Note: At various spots during Koch's 1.6 lecture, "720 BCE" appears in his slideshow, but he never specifically says it. He shows Private seals being added to LMLKs in "705 BCE". His summary slide shows x4x stamps dating to "735-701", x2x to "735-701", & Privates to "705-?" So technically the introduction of LMLKs could've preceded the conquest of Damascus by a few years according to Koch.]

"701 Sennacherib Campaign"

"Ekron, an important center for the production of oil, was the main party to profit from the harsh blow dealt to Judah in Synachrib's [sic] campaign in 701 B.C.E. ... The intense trauma inflicted on the kingdom by [FOREIGN] campaign in 701 BCE, had an awful consequences [sic] for all matters related. ... More than half of them, were found in destruction layer of Larich [sic], dated to the Sennacherib campaign in 701 BCE. ... Judah also survived Hezekiah's revolt, and the Assyrian campaign led by King Sonagharib [sic] in 701 BCE."

"700-634 Limited territory in highland"

[Note: This was a poorly worded option. I put "700-634" based on the following quotation, which is the only time the highland was mentioned during the lecture; however, the lecturers might have intended it to mean an earlier time prior to the "rehabilitation" to which they refer; in other words, you can't be rehabilitated from a condition that did not exist, but they never stated when it existed.]

"At the same time, Judah enjoyed the economic prosperity of the entire region under Assyrian rule in the first two thirds of the seventh century, B.C. The Eastern and Southern border areas particularly the Negev and the Jordan Valley, integrated into the Assyrian and international commercial system, and flourished both demographically and economically. In the Judean highlands and the Benjamin region, a gradual process of rehabilitation took place and the status of Jerusalem was established as the central city."

[Note: So according to Dr. Lipschits, Jerusalem was apparently not established as the central city of Judah until after Sennacherib's campaign. During the first section of this lecture, he specifically refers to the united monarchy under Solomon in Jerusalem as having been fictitiously "created" during the 8th century before Christ.]

"624-623 Destruction by the Neo-Babylonian Empire"

"The events of the next year between April 624 and March 623 BCE followed by the withdrawal of Assyria from Babylonia proclaimed the beginning of the end of the empire."

"Development of silver coins"

Silver coins were not mentioned during this part of the lecture since none have been found in strata dating to the Judean monarchy. By deduction, they post-date Jerusalem's destruction by the Neo-Babylonians since famous (& expensive on the antiquities market) Yehud coins bearing YED inscriptions with images of owls or eagles date to post-Exilic times. However, the earliest coins known from any civilization contain some silver (electrum) & probably pre-date the NB destruction of Jerusalem. As written, this event is ambiguous, & a professor concerned with educating students would avoid ambiguity in a multiple-choice-style question. An appropriate question would be something like, "True or false: Silver coins have been excavated in Judean strata that pre-date the Neo-Babylonian conquest." It would also have been appropriate to mention that LMLK jars represent tangible remains of the barter system that predated the minting of coins in Judean territory.

"Expansion to the Plain of Esdraelon"

Esdraelon was not mentioned during this part of the lecture either. The kingdom of Judah (consisting of territory allotted to Judah, Simeon, & Benjamin) didn't expand to this northern region during the Judean monarchy, though it now resides within the state of Israel, which is governed by Jews (descendants of those 3 tribes along with some, but not all, Levites). The Encyclopedia Britannica dates Jewish settlement there to A.D. 1911. Note that students of this course pledged to answer based on their own work, & were not restricted from using other websites to research their answers.

So there you have it. Their own words are really too vague/ambiguous for a legitimate chronological test. For example, if you want your students to learn that LMLK seals were introduced by Judeans for the Assyrian government during Ahaz's reign, then don't say they were made in the "last third" of the century "at the beginning at the last quarter" of it; because that means they could NOT have been made from 733-726, which contradicts another lecturer who says they were introduced at 735!

I could go on, but the proverbial elephant sitting in the front row of the classroom was the glaring omission of the prodigious stamped jar handles found in recent years at Khirbet Qeiyafa (as well as the alphabetic script found there, at Gezer, & at Tel Zayit; in fact according to Dr. Lipschits, "It is during [the second half of the 9th Century BCE] that the first indication of an administrative system and the adoption of an alphabetical script appear..."). Another student posted a comment about this on the course's blog, & I replied with a couple of screenshots, edited slightly (& presented here as if they were entirely my own original work, not unlike the way these 2 lecturers copied & slightly edited my original LMLK seal drawings for their own personal gain):

Note that the cartoon lamb wearing black sunglasses was chosen as a humorous mascot to prompt students throughout the course to remember important pieces of information. I'm hoping this blog post will remind all students, past, present, & future to not be discouraged if they receive a failing grade on a poorly designed test.

Unfortunately the Heritage Singers' version of the Gospel classic most fitting to this blog post is unavailable on YouTube, but here's an excellent substitute:

G.M. Grena