Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Sensitive briar seed pods

with 33 comments

A week ago you saw an August 22nd view of a sensitive briar flower globe (Mimosa roemeriana) in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. Now from that same photo foray you get a look at some prickle-covered sensitive briar pods in front of one of those flower globes.

☆       ☆

“Systemic racism”?

I deplore the practice of labeling every little thing “racist.” If everything is “racist,” then nothing is, and the word has no meaning. Similarly, we often hear the claim that America is “systemically racist.” Of course that was once true, most notably during slavery and then during the century of so-called Jim Crow that followed. While there are—and, given human nature, presumably always will be—individual people of one race who bear ill will toward people of another race, it’s no longer true that institutions in the United States are systemically biased against the groups they used to discriminate against.

Except in education. The American education bureaucracy has done and keeps doing an amazingly efficient job of making sure black and brown kids don’t get a decent education, even as educationists hypocritically decry the racist treatment of those groups.

For decades the National Center for Education Statistics (NAEP) has gathered data about how “well” American students of various ages perform academically. The results are sorted into three categories:

Basic “denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at each grade.” [As a math teacher I’ll add that having only a partial mastery of the prerequisites for the new material being taught makes it very difficult for a student to understand the new material.]

Proficient “represents solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, applications of such knowledge to real world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter.”

Advanced “signifies superior performance beyond proficient.”

The other day I looked at the NAEP’s chart for the 2019 performance in grade-12 mathematics [go to page 9 in that document]. The results were predictably and persistently appalling for historical minorities.

A scandalous 66% of black 12th-graders fell below even the basic level in mathematics! Only 26% scored at the basic level, and 8% at the proficient level. Add those three numbers together and you get 100%. That’s right: so very few black 12th graders reached the advanced level that their numbers rounded to 0% for the top category.

Hispanics did only a little better. 54% of Hispanic 12th-graders fell below even the basic level in mathematics. Only 35% scored at the basic level, and 10% at the proficient level. Just 1% of Hispanics made it into the advanced category.

Did you have any idea how very bad the situation is?

What’s to be done? Come back next time and I’ll offer a suggestion.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 14, 2021 at 4:32 AM

33 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. At first glance, I wasn’t especially attracted to this photo. But when I came back for another look, and let my eye wander around a bit, I found something I like very much: those bands of magenta running up the stem and around the sides of the seed pods. I’ve never noticed the color of the flower present in the pods, but there it is — and it’s very nice. Once I spotted it, it was easy to see those colored bands as little zippers.


    September 14, 2021 at 9:20 AM

    • To use slang from the ’50s, the magenta really sent ya. And did you know that Zipper was originally a trademarked name for a particular kind of fastener?

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2021 at 10:30 AM

  2. The purple in the background makes the photo of the briar pods truly stand out, thus an outstanding photo.

    Peter Klopp

    September 14, 2021 at 9:41 AM

  3. I am not sure how I feel about this. Technically very well done and I like the light on the pods. I usually like your use of a background out of focus flower but for some reason this one does not appeal. I think this might work better without the magenta in the background which for me diminishes the nice light on the pods..

    Steve Gingold

    September 14, 2021 at 5:57 PM

    • I wish I’d taken a few shots of the pods without the flowers behind them so we could compare the two approaches. My own reaction to my pictures isn’t always constant. There have been times when I’ve looked at a picture in one of my scheduled posts and have been dissatisfied enough with it that I’ve gone back and reprocessed the image before posting. At times I’ve also looked back at pictures posted years ago and wished I’d done something different at the time I took the picture or in the way I processed it. I can do something about the latter (and sometimes have) but not the former, at least not till someone lends me a time machine.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2021 at 4:06 AM

      • I don’t always reply so quickly but have waited for your response as I felt a bit uncomfortable with the relatively negative comment. I appreciate the openness and honesty you expressed. I feel worse about those remarks referring to our artistry than our politics. LOL

        I have done and likely will continue to do the same. Sometimes I post an image and am not sure how I feel about it when it becomes favored and other times I post something I am quite proud of and it gets little notice. In the end it is what we feel about our work and not that opinion of others. I think you have questioned a time or two having received notification of a post of mine only to get a response that it can’t be found. That’s my attempt at going back in time. My post this morning is coincidental and in no way a response to this of yours. It was already sitting in queue when I commented here.

        Steve Gingold

        September 15, 2021 at 4:17 AM

        • And I usually reply pretty quickly but we were out visiting friends yesterday evening so I didn’t get around to answering accumulated comments till this morning (there’s still a bunch to go). I never mind an honest discussion of photographs. People’s reactions vary so much. I’ve never cottoned to so-called street photography, and people who practice it probably don’t think much of my nature pictures.

          Of the thousands of pictures I’ve posted here, there have been a few that I was particularly fond of but that no one said much about—just as you said has happened to you.

          As for coincidental postings, we’ve certainly had our share.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 15, 2021 at 5:04 AM

  4. When I was a PhD student in MD I was poor and used to live in a neighborhood where most people were black. The schools, particularly middle and high school, were so very bad. The middle school didn’t have at the time a single permanent teacher, most teachers would leave as soon as they could. My son attended elementary school in this neighborhood and it was ok, but in middle school I transferred him out to a private school and most parents who were able to did the same or moved to another county. It seemed unfair that some of my son’s friends had to stay in a school system that did not favor them. Within one year I got a job in CA and moved out, but I still think about how unfair the public school system is to economically disadvantaged families. I don’t know what the root of the problem is.

    Alessandra Chaves

    September 14, 2021 at 7:18 PM

    • I’ve been trying for decades to understand why the people in charge of education in this country let things get so bad in the first place and have kept things so bad even since. After all these years I still don’t understand it. A lot of reality denying has gone on. Alas, with the increased control that reality deniers have gained over our institutions, I don’t see how things will get turned around. That’s why I’ve been so despondent for the past year. One of many ironies is that a lot of the people now pushing woke ideologies, including about education, are wealthy, and they send their own kids to private schools.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2021 at 4:28 AM

      • The best public schools are in wealthy neighborhoods where housing is very expensive. There were a handful of liberal parents at the time who insisted on staying in the local public school and decided to volunteer in the school to keep an eye on the situation. I don’t know what happened to their kids. I had to work on my dissertation and I had no time to police the school grounds, act as a substitute teacher and complement the education at home.

        Alessandra Chaves

        September 15, 2021 at 4:54 AM

        • Until all kids have access to safe schools, good education and good nutrition, there will be disparities in performance.

          Alessandra Chaves

          September 15, 2021 at 5:06 AM

          • And even if those conditions are met, I believe disparities will still exist because of different home environments and cultural milieus. For example, something like 70% of black children are born to unmarried mothers:


            Steve Schwartzman

            September 15, 2021 at 5:34 AM

            • If schools were similar in the service they provide across the board, then we would be able to test the hypothesis that other factors are playing a role in preserving inequality. Despite that, I believe that at least a few more kids would still would be able to break the vicious circle if given an opportunity. But I agree that the situation is very complex, as you have pointed out. There are also low income underserved white neighborhoods where kids, I’m sure, endure the same challenging family situations and bad school service, and I bet they fare equally badly in math tests.

              Alessandra Chaves

              September 15, 2021 at 7:47 AM

              • Yes, there are poor white kids who get cheated out of a good education, too, though my impression is that the proportion is lower. Way back in the 1980s I wrote about the already low quality in our schools, and I made the point that although we couldn’t directly do much about kids’ bad home lives, we could and should guarantee that during the hours the kids are in school we uphold standards and do our best to make sure kids learn.

                Steve Schwartzman

                September 15, 2021 at 8:24 AM

        • I wonder what percent of liberal parents keep their kids in public schools when the local schools aren’t good, and whether that percent has changed in recent years.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 15, 2021 at 5:42 AM

          • No idea. I think a lot of them move to upscale neighborhoods where other liberals congregate and schools are good. The behavior consistent with fighting for social justice would be, stay and fight for the local schools. Personally I was not in a position to do that, I was a foreign National with an expiration date on my passport and a degree to finish. Here in CA we found an excellent charter school, my son was very happy there and did well.

            Alessandra Chaves

            September 15, 2021 at 7:40 AM

            • It’s good that you had the option of an excellent charter school. As you’re aware, teachers’ unions, education bureaucrats, and leftist politicians are all trying to kill charter schools.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 15, 2021 at 8:17 AM

              • I don’t understand why.

                Alessandra Chaves

                September 15, 2021 at 8:19 AM

                • Power and money. Many public school teachers don’t want to compete with teachers doing a better job in charter schools. The more charter school teachers there are, the fewer teachers there’s a need for in the regular public schools. Teachers unions donate almost exclusively to leftist politicians, so those politicians do all they can to comply with what the teachers unions want. Charter schools don’t require teachers to have teaching certificates, thereby breaking the strangle-hold the education schools have on would-be teachers.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 15, 2021 at 8:36 AM

                • We loved our charter school! My son woke up every day excited about going to school. The teachers were awesome and seemed to love teaching. Lots of hand on projects that keep those teenagers occupied with creative pursuits. I highly recommend that parents at least investigate the charters available to them before making a decision.

                  Alessandra Chaves

                  September 15, 2021 at 8:45 AM

                • Part of the problem is that leftist-controlled jurisdictions have put caps on the number of charter schools, so demand exceeds supply. For New York in 2016 I found this:

                  “In New York City, there are an estimated 68,000 applicants for nearly 23,600 available charter school seats – creating a citywide charter waiting list of an estimated 44,400 children. Demand for charter school seats remains strong with a 4% increase in applicants from the 2015-16 school year. In fact, for each charter school seat in Harlem and the South Bronx, there are nearly four applicants.”

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 15, 2021 at 8:52 AM

                • How about the rightists-controlled states?

                  Alessandra Chaves

                  September 15, 2021 at 4:56 PM

                • Public primary and secondary education is controlled by local school districts. The majority of America’s population lives in urban areas, and most cities are controlled by Democrats. I haven’t searched for data about charter schools in any urban or suburban districts that happen to be controlled by Republicans. I’d like to see a comparison.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 15, 2021 at 6:15 PM

                • Thanks for the explanation

                  Alessandra Chaves

                  September 15, 2021 at 8:43 PM

  5. I don’t want to argue but I do think systemic racism exists in additional areas. Anyway, thank you for providing all the info. And an interesting photo!


    September 14, 2021 at 7:33 PM

    • As a math teacher I’m given to relying on facts. My impression is that the general public doesn’t know how bad things are in American education, and I expect most people won’t have been told how very poorly our legacy minority kids perform in school. That’s why I cited the NAEP figures.

      I expect you could make a case for areas other than education. That’s a field I have first-hand experience with and feel I have something to contribute to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2021 at 4:39 AM

  6. […] I provided data showing the dismal lack of academic knowledge and skills among black and Hispanic schoolchildre…. Ideologues blame that on “systemic racism,” and I’m willing to grant that our […]

  7. Great pop of colour behind steve ..


    September 21, 2021 at 12:24 AM

  8. […] academic performance has on average remained abysmal. If you want to know how abysmal, check out my commentary from last September, which gives the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: