Shortly after my family moved to Tulsa in 1989, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol sponsored several ads to educate drivers about the state seatbelt laws. The best I can remember, the slogan was: “Seatbelts are not just a good idea; they’re the law.” This was plastered on billboards and broadcast on television spots for months, perhaps years.
In any case, when we discovered the Full Moon Cafe on Shadow Mountain in Tulsa during this ad campaign, we were tickled to see a poster over the bar which read: “Gravity. It isn’t just a good idea. It’s the law!” For years, we enjoyed the Full Moon’s killer tortilla soup and a laugh over that poster, until the restaurant moved to another location. Apparently, the poster got lost in the move. Or perhaps the owners decided no one would get the reference to the OHP ad campaign any more; I never forgot.
In June of 2012, I published a post about the Marble Mania kit my physical science class assembled (My Students are Maniacs! ), and in the post I mentioned the gravity line when I referred to Newton’s laws of motion. In grad school, I was trained to give credit to sources, and I took that lesson to heart. Before posting to my blog, I decided to trace the source of that gravity poster and found Gerald Mooney at the Gerry Mooney Studio. I linked his site in my post.
Imagine my surprise a few months ago, when Gerry contacted me to thank me for giving him credit in my blog post. He said he sees the text of his poster all over the place on car bumpers or bulletin boards, but without his name–often attributed to “anonymous.” He also noted that he had once lived in Tulsa for short time, but I don’t know if he ever ate at Full Moon. In appreciation for giving him credit, he offered to send me a signed copy of his poster for my classroom, and I now proudly display it on my wall.
The lesson in this experience applies to me as well as my students. There are laws we follow because we’re required to: we wear seat belts to avoid getting a ticket. Then there are laws that we acknowledge because we have no choice: Newton’s laws of motion, for instance. And finally, there is the law of giving credit where credit is due: when we credit others for their ideas, we’re often rewarded in some way. It might be a good grade on a research assignment or it may simply be the knowledge that we’ve acted with integrity.