Consider Yourself Warned

On August 25, 2008, I wrote a post here warning readers that students in my new class, Lying About the Past, would be creating a historical hoax and turning it loose online. Little did I know then that the hoax they would create — Edward Owens, the Last American Pirate — would turn into a phenomenon in the blogosphere, attracting notice around the world (and even from Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder). Who knew, for instance, that Edward Owens would end up being one of the Top 10 Wikipedia hoaxes?

When the class was over and the hoax brought to an end, the post I wrote here generated one of the most active debates I’ve had with readers. [Post 1, Post 2]

Well, consider yourself warned again.

In the spring 2012 semester a group of history students here at George Mason University will once again be creating a historical hoax and turning it loose to see what happens. Because the last cohort did a pirate hoax, you can count on the fact that this time around pirates are on the list of things they cannot use as the subject of their hoax.  Others include anything to do with medicine or health, anything that might cause someone to send us money (wire fraud), anything that violates any other criminal codes or the university’s responsible use of computing policy (no gambling, no porn, no copyright violations), and nothing to do with the American Civil War. This last exclusion is because too many people know too much about the Civil War and so fooling them would be almost impossible.

What will the students choose? At this point it’s impossible to know, but whatever they select, let’s hope it’s fun.

8 thoughts on “Consider Yourself Warned

  1. Kelly Kreis

    Mills, I am so excited to see that you will be teaching this class again. During my four years at Mason I don’t think I had any other class that challenged me to think outside the traditional history class box. I can’t wait to see what this semesters class comes up with.

  2. Mills Post author

    Hi Kelly: Thanks for the comment and the good words. Like everyone, you’ll have to wait until the end of the semester to find out. However, if you are still in the area, we might invite you in as a consultant… Mills

  3. Kelly Kreis

    I am down in Virginia Beach currently. But I can definitely make a day trip up there one day if you need someone. Good luck this year. I hope to see a class that is just as excited about this project as we were.

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  5. Brenda

    Hi Mills, I am so pleased to see that the hoax is happening again. I am looking forward to see how it all evolves, and will check in at the end of the semester. All the best, B.

  6. Mills Post author

    One of Bill Turkel’s students has written a blog post about the earlier version of the course, so I’m linking it here both because her take on this course is worth reading and because I hope that by linking to her post, others in her class will chime in.

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