reply to post by butcherguy
Stars and flags for a great post, first off! Now comes the critique, which you had to be expecting after "first off"! I teach US History at the
university level, and I agree that textbooks and teachers have obscured as much as they illuminate in trying bring knowledge to our students. I am a
fairly outspoken critic of peers here and often to their faces, so I don't feel like I'm engaging in any kind of criticism I wouldn't tell to them
directly. We do a crappy job often and that's almost an impossible thing to fix in the large time spans we are supposed to cover in sixteen short
weeks. All I can do, or feel I can do is to tell me students that in every class they take they are going to get an individual teacher's take on
what's important and why, so you have to go beyond the classroom or to other academics to piece together anything you remotely wish was "objective
truth." We begin to construct our "bias" at the point we put together the reading for a class and what lectures you'll get. That's unavoidable,
just to get maybe 30 lectures on 150 years of history into a "second half" of US History class.
Second, it's not always important who actually invented what unless there is some kind of attempt (and don't get me wrong, I think there's been
many) of textbooks to obscure the identity of the inventor. Then you have to ask "why?" In the case of Edison, for instance, he got the contracts
for electricity, but he got his ideas from Tesla and screwed him in the process.
But my main point is that what's even more important most of the time, is what was the impact of the invention. The cotton gin, for instance, made it
possible to use less slaves to pick the seeds our of cotton at harvest time, and thus freed more to be sold west to new cotton growers in Texas and
Arkansas, etc. and resulted in a whole scale break up of black families who had up until the invention of the Cotton Gin, been largely allowed to
function as families on single plantations for generation, even though their marriages were not recognized any more after the 1700s. It was a period
where the mother became the matriarch of the African American family and black patriarchy has never reasserted itself since, thus absentee fathers.
Now, don't get too involved in that issue; I'm not saying the patriarchy is natural or preferable or anything else, just that the Cotton Gin was
important for economic reasons, but destroyed the two-parent tradition in the African American family and that it hasn't recovered from that five
generations down the road from slavery.
So yes, we should cover more on inventors and I do more than most, since my American History classes include more than most on the history of science,
but it's always a tough issue to decide what to cover or not cover and a lot of this gets left out simply because you have to pick and choose what to
emphasize and why.