As described previously, Trinity Church hosts a fair number of students who come to serve the less fortunate. Sometimes they’re from private schools – and sometimes from their public counterparts. Sometimes they’re from the NY suburbs and other times, they hail from places like Minnesota and Alabama. I find them all interesting – but none like the intellectual elite who visited this past week.
Getting a decent education in a New York City public school is a challenging proposition. I don’t think anybody would dispute that statement. Aware of this reality, educators have set up a few elite public schools to benefit those who are financially-challenged but at once intellectually gifted. To identify the elite, the city administers a standardized test, assigning each student with just a number so as not to discriminate. Nobody knows whether the student attached to that number is black, white, Hispanic, Asian, female or male.
I’ll not surmise why most who make the grade are of Asian origin. Whatever the reason…that’s just the way it is. But what surprised me about these kids was how amazingly normal, unassuming, modest and personable (in addition to being mostly Asian) they are. There wasn’t one who was weird, nerdy or Poindexterish. And they even handled a severely abusive and imposing homeless man with more finesse than fear.
Watching them sweep the floor was another matter entirely. Clearly, few knew how to use a broom – except one girl who explained to me that mom works at McDonald’s – so she does a lot of chores around the house. And by the way…she’s planning on attending MIT. When I asked if all her classes were predominantly attended by Asian students, she answered in the affirmative “except for French class. There they’re all white.” She then went on to criticize Mayor DeBlasio for his position advocating affirmative action. She wants her fellow students to “earn it.” Which was interesting coming from a girl who’s actually Hispanic.
My favorite moment with the kids came when I showed them the ingenious way I developed to wash windows. So impressed was one student that he high-fived his buddy and exclaimed “That’s genius!” Well genius would be a bit of a stretch. But I’ll take my compliments where I can get them.
And speaking of genius…CBS Sunday Morning had a show on the subject this morning. And for two whole minutes, they pictured ARETHA FRANKLIN (not Patti Labelle) and played one of her songs in the background. Oddly, it was not “Respect” or any of her big hits recorded by Atlantic Records…but rather, an obscure track from her days with Columbia Records. I did not have to research who produced the record or wrote the soaring string arrangement. I knew who it was instantly. Hey! I’m no genius. That’s for sure. Nor was daddy. But he made it to CBS Sunday Morning as the producer and arranger of somebody who was. And that ain’t bad for a guy who’s been gone for 24 years.