Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Only a Kid"? So?

Benjamin Coady, a guy who knows a thing or to about history, was strolling around the Metropolitan Museum of Art a few months ago when he noticed something interesting. He'd expected to just see "art on a wall", but here was, of all the captivating things, a map of the Byzantine Empire, supposedly at it's largest. He checked the dates and found something out of place.

This one includes parts of southern Spain and northern Africa. That one did not.
Coady did the natural thing for a guy confident in his own knowledge: he informed the front desk.
They didn't believe him. They instructed him to fill out a form. So he did.
Several months later, curator Helen Evans emailed him back. "You are, of course, correct about the boundaries of the Byzantine Empire under Justinian."
And now the story has gone viral. Because everybody is fascinated by the Byzantine Empire (What, you've never heard of Justinian? Good. I'm not as stupid as I thought I was).
Benjamin Coady is thirteen years old. He said, "The front desk didn't believe me. I'm only a kid."
This is Benjamin on an exclusive tour:

Benjamin impersonating a work of art while on an exclusive tour:

And Benjamin on a normal day:

If he were thirty, nobody would care to read it and no reporter would care to look up the spelling of 'Byzantine'. But now everybody from yahoo to upi is abuzz with responses.
"I to would be proud if he were my child. Heck, he's not my child and I'm proud of him. Nice job young man."
" Let us all take a moment to rejoice in the fact that there are still young people genuinely interested in History..."
"Wow! A teen who has actually opened a book instead of an iPad, laptop, new Playstation game. Maybe there is hope for the next generation. Good catch!"
-tcquilter, Tampa, Florida

Why is it so surprising that a thirteen-year-old knows something? I'm more impressed by his courage to speak up. And the whole idea that teenagers spend the majority of their time doing this:

It's a stereotype. Whenever I walk around with my earphones in public, whether I'm at a library or movie theater or simply walking down a street, I can't help but feel that all the adults are sorting me into a single category.
Smart people exist. Smart people occasionally do something worthwhile. Young people are not any stupider than they were thirty years ago. It may seem that way because now you read about a car crash and think "one of them" instead of "one of us". Everything's different looking back.

Funny how "them" seems to be the biggest scapegoat in history, more than Obama, communists, witches, Jews, Muslims, youth, and even the weatherman. Everything that happens must be somebody's fault, but somebody is too vague a term to pin down on some mortal human being we come in contact with.
And no, history isn't doomed either. Not unless you layoff our teachers for not teaching math and science. the ways of the future.

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