Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for January 19th, 2023

A fifth installment of icicles

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On December 25th I spent nearly four hours photographing icicles hanging along a cliff in Great Hills Park just half a mile from home. In posts on December 28th, December 31st, January 8th, and January 14th you’ve seen how I tried out various approaches, both with and without flash. Now here are some more icicles from that productive session. The upside-down dead tree in the top photograph was an Ashe juniper, Juniperus ashei.



The second portrait is an artsy abstraction.
It’s almost monochrome, with a slight brown tinge in the lower left.

Icebergs often look blue. Icicles can appear that way, too:



Lots of the icicles that morning had a gnarly look. You might consider the ones below a sort of
bas-relief, given that they didn’t hang completely free of the vertical rock face behind them.
Once again the ice could almost pass for melted wax that had dripped and then congealed.







Last year I wrote a commentary about Marva Collins, an elementary school teacher in the poor Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago. I quoted parts of an article by Carrie-Ann Biondi in the Spring 2019 issue of The Objective Standard, including this one:

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.

This week I finished reading the 1982 (and updated in 1990) book Marva Collins’ Way, by the teacher herself and Civia Tamarkin, with a foreword by Alex Haley of Roots fame. Here’s a line that stood out:

The longer I taught in the public school system, the more I came to think that schools were concerned with everything but teaching.

That’s unfortunately as true today as it was in the 1970s and ’80s. This past November, people in Austin (but of course not me) approved a school bond package of $2,439,000,000 (that’s $2.4 billion!) mostly for school modernization projects, security improvements and other upgrades. None of that fortune will lead a single child to read better or do math better or know more about history, geography, or science. It’s a disgrace.

A big reason that so many children don’t learn much in schools is the ineffective methods that teachers have been trained to use. Here again Marva Collins was on to that half a century ago:

Over the years, I have come to believe that some of the problems plaguing modern education are the result of the emphasis placed on “progressive” teaching methods. In an effort to follow John Dewey’s notion of a student-centered rather than subject-centered approach to learning, schools have too often sacrificed subject matter, being more concerned with how they taught rather than what they taught. During the late 1960s and the 1970s, when our society was becoming fascinated with pop psychology, many young men and women entered the teaching profession thinking “As long as I can relate to a child, what difference does it make if he or she can’t spell cat?

If you’re interested in education, check out Marva Collins’ Way. In addition to dealing with effective approaches to teaching, the book includes many endearing stories about the children Marva Collins taught.


 © 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 19, 2023 at 4:31 AM

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