Edison was a classroom nuisance


Consider for a moment some of the amazing Americans who shaped the development of history. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Charles Kettering, Marie Curie, Charles Lindberg are a few who come to mind quite readily.
I had a conversation with a man this past week who asked the question, “Why is it that the United States isn’t producing individuals like this any more?”
It seems a very good question, don’t you think?
Patience. I find it interesting to study the life of Thomas Edison, who started public school in Milan, Ohio, filled with so many questions that the teacher quickly lost her patience with him.
She said there must certainly be something wrong with the boy, citing his broad forehead and slight stature and boundless energy as proof that he was not normal.
She didn’t think she could handle him in her classroom.
Edison’s mother pulled her youngest son out of the public school and decided to teach him at home. When his aptitude quickly went around her ability to instruct, a tutor was hired.
Edison’s questions regarding mathematics and physics seemed impossibly advanced, and his level of energy was said to be most baffling.
Fascination. Edison found himself a job at about age 13, working at the local railroad. He continued to ask questions while immersing himself in anything new.
He found it fascinating that the rail office had a teletype, carrying Associated Press news stories, where he could learn of news before anyone else. This was during the pre-Civil War debates of Lincoln and Douglas, and news was avidly pursued by a curious public.
By using this connection, Edison started penning his own little newspaper. He quickly was making $10 a week on his own publication.
At its peak, Edison was making $10 a day on this little venture. He was 14 years old.
Compromised. It was during this time that an angry railroad conductor swung at Edison’s head, and his already fragile hearing was made even worse.
Later that year, he came down with scarlet fever and his hearing was completely lost in one ear, and compromised significantly in the other.
So, any hope of traditional classroom education was lost to him at that point.
Many would have given up and taken any job as a laborer just to make enough money to get by.
Edison, with his constant thirst for learning, used whatever spare money he had to set up a laboratory in the family basement.
When his mother began to fret about the danger of having volatile chemicals in their home, Edison decided to set up his chemical lab in an adjacent building.
He continued to teach himself all sorts of things through his own alternative education.
If it were today. It has been said that if Edison were in public school today, he would have been labeled as a child with attention deficit disorder.
His thinking seemed way too ambitious to be considered normal, his energies seemed so scattered, as he was always starting several projects at once.
Quite often, though, his myriad projects ended up meshing in to one, proving some new concept that no one had touched upon before.
When Edison died in 1931 at age 84, he held an unbelievable 1,093 patents. He was considered the greatest inventor ever born.
All this from a man whose first teacher considered him too much of a nuisance to remain in her classroom.


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!

Previous articleEnvironmental economics is muddy
Next articleLife on the Stark Electric Railway
Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.