If it makes you happy

If it makes you happy February 11, 2020

Here’s your open thread for February 11, 2020.

Happy 58th birthday to Ms. Sheryl Crow:

Crow is exactly half as old as Lucille Randon, who celebrates her 116th birthday today.

Natalie Dormer and Sarah Palin, both of whom became famous playing conniving villains on TV, share a birthday today. It’s also the birthday of Burt Reynolds, Leslie Nielsen, Tina Louise, Jennifer Aniston, and Damian Lewis. Jeb Bush turns 68 today (please clap).

Thomas Edison was born on February 11, 1847. He won a Grammy Award 163 years later. It just goes to show that it’s never to late to start chasing your dream.

That extremely posthumous Grammy was for Edison’s technical contributions to the recording industry, one of many fields his many inventions helped to create. I went to school just a few miles from his laboratory in Menlo Park (now Edison), but schoolchildren all over America learn all about Edison’s inventions. Because he was American.

This is a weirdly parochial aspect of American education. Ask any American fifth grader “Who invented the lightbulb?” and they’ll know it was Edison. What about the airplane? They’ll tell you all about the Wright Brothers. Good job, kids! Now, who invented the automobile? 

There’ll be an awkward pause before eventually they’ll tell you that Henry Ford invented the assembly line. Because that happened here in America. But the automobile itself? They don’t know. They were taught it doesn’t matter. Some foreigner, probably. Not an American, so it ain’t in our fifth-grade textbooks. Weird. And also, I think, consequential.

Not invented here so it won’t be on the test.

Lydia Maria Child was born February 11, 1802. She wrote “The New England Boys’ Song about Thanksgiving Day” which caught on and lives on. You’ve probably sung it yourself at some point — “Over the river and through the woods …” More importantly, though, Child was an abolitionist, an advocate for women’s rights, and a proponent of justice for Native Americans. So most of what she wrote didn’t catch on and still hasn’t caught on.

On this day in 1790, the Society of Friends (the Quakers) petitioned Congress for the abolition of slavery. Congress opted to ignore that. You’ve probably been told at several points that we mustn’t judge Congress for doing so because, after all, they were “men of their time.” But the Quakers were people of their time too. And so were all the people who were enslaved in 1790. Sufficient moral evidence was readily available for anyone who wasn’t working ferociously hard to ignore it. Still is.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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