Formative Years

Early lessons last a lifetime

Daniel Glick fell in love with animals when he lived in Uganda for a year beginning in 1967. He was 12 and his mother was conducting dissertation research on languages there. "We were able to visit many of the game parks of East Africa before the political turmoil of the 1970s and '80s did damage to them," he says. "I was able to see things—black rhinos, elephants and cheetahs—that, sadly, are now threatened or endangered."

The intervening decades have only darkened Glick's view of the prospects for wildlife—so much so that four years ago he took his then 13-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter on a five-month trip around the world to see animals before they disappear. (The trip was recounted in his book Monkey Dancing: A Father, Two Kids, and a Journey to the Ends of the Earth.)

But reporting our story on species that have returned from the brink of extinction ("Back from the Brink") has helped renew his optimism. "It was a remarkable experience to bear witness to these species' recovery," Glick says. "What gives me hope is that there is still a cadre of incredibly dedicated and passionate individuals, like turtle researcher George Balazs and his students, who are trying to preserve all the threads of our planet's intricate web of life."

Jane Elliott, Stephen G. Bloom will tell you, is "a hugely complicated person. People seem to love her—or hate her. In all my years as a journalist, I've never come across anyone about whom opinions varied so radically." Elliott is the Iowa schoolteacher who, after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., devised a classroom exercise about discrimination that is still widely taught, and widely castigated, around the world. "Many of her former students view Elliott as a genuine saint," says Bloom, author of Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, who wrote our story about the surprising impact of her exercise ( "Lesson of a Lifetime"). "Others look at her as a wicked egomaniac. After I tracked down a [school] principal who supervised Elliott, he hung up on me when I asked him to assess her contribution to education."

Over six months, Bloom interviewed more than 50 of Elliott's former students. "What did they say?" Elliott asked him. "Are they angry with me? Did the experiment change them? Did it make them better people? Oh, I hope so."

The rules for our third annual photo contest, entries for which are due by noon, January 5, 2006, have changed slightly. Check them out at Or write to Photo Contest, Smithsonian magazine, MRC 951A, P.O. Box 37012, Washington, D.C. 20013-7012 for a printed copy.