Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for October 28th, 2021

Tenants of the forest floor

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During an October 11th return visit to Bastrop State Park I made some pictures of the forest floor, which in places was a carpet of dry pine needles. An even thicker carpet of them had contributed to the devastation wrought by the wildfire that raged there in 2011 and destroyed most of the pines and oaks in the park. Charred remains are still conspicuous in many places a decade later, as the first two photograph confirm.

In the tradition of Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches the Egg, I’ll add that Eve Found an Ovum, which is to say a bird’s egg. The inside was liquid except for an air pocket, which conveniently formed an oval within an oval in the picture below.

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In the 1920s my father came to New York City as a teenager, a poor immigrant speaking Russian but no English. Because of that, he was initially put in school with children years younger and much shorter. The humiliation proved a great incentive for him to learn English really fast, and before long he was with schoolkids his own age. Not only that, but he soon qualified to attend Townsend Harris High School, an elite school for the smartest students. Jonas Salk, who went on to create the first polio vaccine in the 1950s, was a classmate of my father.

Decades later, when I was now the teenager, my father would occasionally complain about how Fiorello La Guardia, a “populist” mayor of New York City, had shut down Townsend Harris High School in 1942, supposedly to save money. History repeats itself. In our own time it has become increasingly common for “woke” politicians pursuing “equity” [a horrid word that means ‘the forced sameness of outcomes for racial groups’] to shut down programs for the gifted and talented, as smart kids have come to be called. In the 1930s and ’40s the “problem” was “too many” Jews in those programs; today it’s that there are “too many” Asians. The fact that students are admitted to those programs based on objective tests is irrelevant to ideologues, who often hold that there’s no such thing as objectivity, or if there is, then it’s a tool of white supremacy. As part of their hegemony, white folks apparently made the mistake of lending too much of their whiteness to Asians, who now outperform them.

Zaid Jilani recently wrote a good article about this entitled “Culture — Not Racism — Explains Asian American Educational Success.” I recommend it to you. You may also want to read an essay by Jilani from earlier this year, “The Cult of Smart.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 28, 2021 at 4:33 AM

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