Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for August 7th, 2022

Mustang grape gall

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When it comes to native grapevines, central Texas claims the mustang grape (Vitis mustangensis) as its most common. To the best of my recollection, not till July 12th of this year, while walking along Bull Creek, did I ever find a gall on a mustang grape. Below is a view from the side.

UPDATE: Thanks to a link from Steve Gingold, I can add that the gall midge Ampelomyia vitispomum seems to have instigated this growth on the mustang grape vine.

  

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While still teaching in the Austin public schools back in the late 1970s I became aware of Marva Collins, a black schoolteacher in Chicago who likewise became disenchanted with public education. She founded her own school and succeeded in educating poor black kids by holding them to high expectations and standards, not putting up with excuses, and loving her students.

I hadn’t thought about Marva Collins for a long time but for some reason she came to mind the other day and I looked to see if she’s still alive. She’s not, having died in 2015.

An article by Carrie-Ann Biondi in the Spring 2019 issue of The Objective Standard includes the following:

After graduating in 1957 from Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia with a degree in secretarial science, Collins sought a job as a secretary. She explained, though, that “none of the private companies wanted to hire a black secretary.” So she took one of the few jobs open to an educated black woman in the 1950s American South: She became a teacher. Collins found that she enjoyed teaching secretarial skills at Monroe County Training School. There, she learned how to teach through trial and error, recalling what best helped her to learn, avoiding the mistakes some of her own teachers made, and taking seriously the feedback she got from the school’s principal. Even so, after two years at that job, she moved to Chicago, holding that it would help her develop independence from her father.

In Chicago, Collins first worked as a medical secretary. She soon fell in love, got married, and, in time, had three children. Finding that she “missed the classroom . . . the excitement of helping students discover the solution to a problem,” Collins applied for a teaching position in the Chicago public school system. Although she had no teaching certificate, because of a teacher shortage she was hired to teach second grade.

Collins’s lack of a teaching degree worked to her advantage—and to that of her students. She trusted her own experience and disregarded the Board of Education’s teaching guide, which prescribed the “look-say” method to teach reading, simplistic Dick-and-Jane books with lots of pictures, and dull workbooks that drilled “skills” without teaching students how to think for themselves. Ignoring all of this, Collins developed teaching methods that truly worked. She used phonics to teach reading, incorporated literary classics and poetry into the curriculum, facilitated in-depth discussions of the readings, had students memorize poetry and write papers for oral delivery, and used positive (rather than punitive) discipline to address misbehavior.

After 14 years in the Chicago public schools, Marva Collins felt so at-odds with what the district as a whole was doing that she resigned and eventually started her own school.

Observers in Collins’s classroom repeatedly were astonished by the high-level curriculum she developed for students ages three to thirteen. She began each year with essays such as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” and fables such as “The Little Red Hen.” Students soon moved on to poetry, including works by Rudyard Kipling and [Henry] Wadsworth Longfellow. In time, they progressed to Plato’s dialogues. By second and third grade, they were reading William Shakespeare’s plays (Macbeth and Hamlet were student favorites) and reciting Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. With these under their belts, it was not uncommon for students to dive headlong into a seemingly unquenchable reading frenzy. And Collins kept hundreds of books on hand, suggesting just the right one for each student to read next. Each student wrote a report every two weeks about his latest book, presented it to the class, and answered questions raised by the other students. This sparked so much interest in reading that book that students vied to be next on the waiting list.

Marva Collins went to the greatest works that English-language literature had to offer. What a contrast from today’s racial essentialist imperative to jettison anything by “dead white guys.”

In 1981 Cicely Tyson played the title character in the made-for-television movie “The Marva Collins Story,” with Morgan Freeman playing her supportive husband. I was surprised to find the full 112-minute film available to watch for free on YouTube. Check it out the next time you have two hours for an inspiring movie.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 7, 2022 at 4:33 AM

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