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Letter: Am I Elitist?

“Elitist”. That’s a moniker with which I am frequently affixed and insofar as I contend that rule by philosopher-kings, cultured aristocrats, and scholarly noblemen bequeaths more enlightened governance than democratically-elected lawyers and other chattering classes, the charge is not wholly unwarranted. But that’s not the variant of elitism to which most are referring. 

 

One of the great ironies of my life, amidst myriad, is that unlike proponents of egalitarianism and liberal democracy who brand me “elitist”, I don’t think there are, or ought to be, significant socioeconomic barriers to individual achievement. One will frequently hear the egalitarians

blame poverty, racism, sexism, discrimination, and cultural bias for the failure of young people to reach their full potential in life. But Samantha Garvey, last year’s runner-up in the Intel Science Talent Search, lived with her family in a homeless shelter. Ioana Radulescu, the Island

Trees High School Class of 2014 salutatorian, came to America from Romania in 2004 speaking almost no English. And the young museum volunteers I’ve worked with over the years, most of them from Asian and Islamic countries - and aspiring to be engineers, microbiologists, and physicists whilst their peers think they’ll become rock stars or professional athletes -are not from privileged backgrounds. Too, the biography section of book stores buckle under the weight of volumes about women, minorities, gay people, handicapped people, and people who grew up in poverty who went on to accomplish great things in life. 

 

Now I think there is one major obstacle in contemporary American life and that obstacle is the culture of mediocrity and it is because of my personal jihad against it that I’m sneeringly and sanctimoniously called “elitist’ by those whose income, formal education, and social standing oftentimes exceeds mine own. I’ve been called snobbish, rude, intolerant, condescending, ignorant, and a few Anglo-Saxon unprintables in a family newspaper because I demand scientific evidence and historical accuracy to support extraordinary claims rather than Facebook memes, bumper sticker slogans, and pop culture clichés plastered on coffee mugs. I been labeled a bigot because I insist that right and wrong are not merely personal preferences, lifestyle choices, or social constructs handed down to us from on high by the feel-good psychobabble of TV talk show hosts and the lyrics of drug-addicted rock stars, but intrinsic elements in the human condition categorized by centuries of philosophy and theology. I’ve been called overbearing because I think that adults should employ spelling, grammar, and composition that exceeds what in my grandparent’s youth was deemed the Third Grade reading level. 

 

If young people don’t grow up to be knowledgeable, cultured, polite, civic-minded, and responsible adults it’s because they are more interested in smoking dope, drinking beer, getting tattoos, watching sports on TV, playing video games, and hanging-out at the car lot behind

Wal-Mart. It’s because they come from homes where books, science, art, religion, history, philosophy, and volunteering in the community are less important than worshiping pop culture celebrities, professional athletes, and gadgets; because family outings are to the Mall rather than to museums, libraries, churches, and historic sites. It’s not really all that “elitist” to suggest that what’s preventing young people from attaining their full potential in life is a culture of mediocrity that offers only lazy, self-centered, ignorant oafs as role models. In fact, there’s something rather democratic about the notion than anyone - irrespective of race, color, religion, gender, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, or physical handicap - can contribute something to society. And there’s nothing snobbish or condescending in observing that it’s the people around them that don’t expect, reward, or respect hard work and education that’s holding people back from achievement. 

 

— Paul Manton


News

A clown named Renaldo performed magic tricks for an enthusiastic audience as part of the National Circus Project, which visited Levittown Public Library on Wednesday, July 16.

 

All 150 tickets available for the performance were sold out in this interactive magic show for children. Throughout the entire circus act, children laughed and raised their hands as high as they could to be chosen as one of Renaldo’s helpers.

 

Raising her hand to participate was three-year-old Kirsten Cantwell from Seaford. “She was upset that she didn’t get picked,” said her mother Melissa Cantwell.

 

Kirsten Cantwell goes to any activity offered at the library, and is starting to enjoy watching magic shows. According to her mother, she really enjoyed the performance.

 

In the circus show, National Circus Project performer, Al Calienes, acted as Renaldo the clown.

 

“The show has different components of acts in the circus,” explained Calienes. “We teach children circus moves.”

 

With the National Circus Project, children get to see magic tricks performed live. “We infuse enthusiasm by showing them, and they in turn will be able to repeat the process,” said Calienes.

Renaldo performed plate spinning, where he spun a plate on a stick and passed it along to the stick of one of his helpers from the audience, who then passed the plate down a line of three more helpers. This interactive way of teaching the children magic tricks really allows them to absorb what they are learning.

 

The National Circus Project travels and performs for elementary schools, as well as middle and high schools. When the National Circus Project is not going to schools, they perform at library shows, summer camps, and other types of events.

 

The performance entertains the adults as well as the children. “We involve everybody,” said Calienes. “Everybody’s engaged on some level or another. “

 

At every library performance, Calienes donates the children’s book he wrote and illustrated Renaldo Joins the Circus to the library. He feels that he owes a lot to the library system. “Anything that ever meant anything to me I learned in the library,” said Calienes.

 

Calienes learned how to draw from the library, which is how he became a commercial artist. One of the main characters he would always draw would be Renaldo the clown. “I wanted to make him real so I joined the circus,” he said.

 

Calienes has been performing with the National Circus Project for seven years and has been in the circus business going on 26 years.

 

The National Circus Project brings magic to children at any school, camp or library all over Long Island as well as across the country.

 

Last June, Nassau County passed legislation that allows for the deployment of a speed enforcement camera system in school zones for each of the 56 public school districts in the county. 

 

The new systems will be implemented throughout the county on July 25, and will be operational on scheduled school days throughout the year. 


Sports

Levittown’s Division Avenue High School varsity baseball team, under the direction of coach Tom Tuttle, won the Class A County Championship, garnering a third-place ranking in New York State. This is the team’s 13th county championship win and the second county championship for the school in the past four years.

 

In addition, senior Chris Reilly was named Championship MVP for throwing a complete game shutout in game two and going three for four with two RBIs. 

Taylor Traenkle, a junior at Division Avenue High School recently received the MVP award for the Nassau County Varsity Hockey League Association.

 

Traenkle, who plays no. 9 for the Levittown Ice Falcons, led the way averaging 2.8 points a game with a total of 25 goals and 23 assists in just 17 games. 


Calendar

Lazy Days Of Summer - July 26

Flea Market - July 27

Darlene Prince and the Bragg Hollow Band - July 28


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com