Inventing the Wheel

image from

One thing that comes with America being The Greatest Country in the World is that everything has to be an American invention. Even when it’s not. Even when it was invented decades ago, half a century ago, a century ago, in another country.

When I just started taking courses at the local state university for a bachelor’s degree, I thought I would take education as my major. That seemed to make sense, being a school librarian. But after two courses that were brain-numbingly boring and easy, I changed to English.

One of those first two, though, was a class that was supposed to teach future teachers how to teach math to their elementary school students. In reality the class taught the future teachers elementary school math. Long division, dividing and multiplying fractions…

But I digress. The point is that the class was taught by a professor who claimed that he and another professor at a university in Colorado or Montana or somewhere around the Rockies had developed a method of teaching multiple digit addition to deaf students. And he was going to present his method to us.

There it came. Tadaaaah!

The big thousands blocks, the hundreds slabs, the tens rods and the little unit cubes. Yep, the method that Maria Montessori developed almost a century ago. Adapted for American audiences as Made in Montana.

After all, apart from a few Montessori freaks, who would be the wiser? Even education graduate students at Harvard don’t learn about Montessori.

Then there are the front-loading washing machines. They have been around in Europe since at least the 1960’s, but you wouldn’t know it to see the commercials when America finally got wise to front-loading washing machines about a decade ago.

Same with tank-less water heaters. Also quite common, in Holland anyway, since at least the 1960’s. American commercials of about the last five years suggest it’s the newest thing in water heating, and that therefore a price tag of thousands of dollars is totally justified.

And a week ago I saw an article in the New York Times about a contest. Somewhere in the country a highway was cutting right across a nature area and lots of animals got run over while trying to get to the other side. So there was a contest for engineers to come up with a design for some way for animals to cross the highway safely.

The big winner was an engineer who came up with a wide bridge over the highway, landscaped with bushes and grass, and on each side walls along the highway that would funnel the animals to the bridge. Sound familiar, my Dutch friends? Since the 1980’s we’ve been driving under those every time we cross the Veluwe.

Click here for more animal overpasses.

So I’m sorry to burst your bubble, America, but you’re not always “the Jones’s,” and catching on to these things half a century later can’t exactly be considered “keeping up” either.

(photos not mine)

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