Sarah’s Diary Episode Thirty

Jenny was very pleased with the discussion of Elizabeth as an innovator. The class seemed to realize that innovation doesn’t always need to be intentional. Elizabeth had no idea that movies would become a form of popular entertainment or that performance in her plays would spark the early stars in this emerging industry. Was she an innovator? Jenny didn’t really care what the students’ final decision was. She just wanted them to get a sense of how innovation can often be developmental over time rather than a sudden “aha” event.

Next, she wanted to share Mary’s story. In many respects, Mary and Elizabeth were quite different in temperament. Elizabeth was accepting while Mary could be cranky.

“Remember how cranky Mary was about the teaching in her high school,” Jenny began. “She found college teachers to be abysmal. They came into class, never looked at students, and just read to them from their notes. They were quite pompous and dismissive. They felt that teaching students was beneath them.”

“Mary wouldn’t accept this, and openly challenged her professors in class. She would often interrupt them with a dismissive question of her own like, ‘Do you really think we are learning anything from this lecture?’”

“Mary probably would have been kicked out of the University if she didn’t have the highest grade in every class she took. When she was sent to the President’s office after one outburst, she complained to him that she only had one good teacher at the University. The President’s response was, ‘Consider yourself lucky.’”

“When Mary graduated she began to work on teaching reform. She was fortunate to receive the backing of a wealthy man who had made his fortune even though he had been a failure as a student.”

“She became an advocate for a more holistic education based upon hands-on learning and lessons designed to provoke curiosity, deep thinking, personal connection, and ongoing development of the mind. Much of our best approaches to learning today came from Mary’s work. We are just now discovering through the research of neuroscientists just how valid Mary was in her beliefs.”

“She changed education as we know it, but you will rarely see her mentioned in any books tracing the evolution of our approaches to teaching. Male scholars working at the time on learning strategies are given the credit for what Mary had developed. They were published in journals and books, but women authors were not accepted. She was rarely even mentioned in the acknowledgements. Her fate was like many other women at the time working in other fields of inquiry.”

“I’ll leave you with the same question I ended last class with, was Mary an innovator?”

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“An idea that gets accepted is always more important than who gets the credit for it. The idea lasts. The credit is long forgotten.” – Anonymous

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