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- a classic or contemporary work of literature, usually from the US
- a U.S. founding document or a global document inspired by it (such as the U.S. Constitution or a speech by Martin Luther King Jr.)
- an economics, psychology, sociology, or social science passage
- two science passages (or one passage and one passage pair) in Earth science, biology, chemistry or physics
This passage is adapted from Anita Desai, “The Artists Life.” ©2000 by Anita Desai.
Of course Polly had been introduced to Art as an infant. Of course the local school provided her—indiscriminately, as it did all children—with paint and clay and crayons, and she had made, as all children make, representations of her home and family—triangular-shaped father and mother holding hands, box-Shaped brother in outsized shorts standing apart—as well as of daisies in a vase, and even a lopsided teacup or two, each of them intensely satisfying for a day or two, then desperately unsatisfying thereafter.
But what Miss Abigail at the camp introduced her to was Real Art: in her whispery, bubbly, disquieting voice she had urged them to ‘paint your dreams—show me what you dreamed last night’. She had spaced the words, leaving great gaps for them to fill, and then sighed a replete sigh, as one might when overcome by swirls of incense, when Polly presented a particularly lurid or mysterious painting—headless, shrouded figures in shades of purple appearing on the surface of a lake with large, many-pointed stars shining down on them out of a streaky sky, or purple pigeons swooping down out of a pink sky to light upon lilac roofs (Polly was very attached to the colour purple, and perhaps it was only a coincidence but that was the colour that dominated Miss Abigail’s tie-dyed shifts too). For the sake of that narrowing of green cat’s eyes, that slow exhalation of breath that spoke such volumes, and simply for the sake of staying close to that enchantingly incense-scented young woman with her flowing red hair and flowing purple dresses, Polly dedicated the summer to paint, letting others canoe, shoot arrows, roast marshmallows or run around working up a sweat.
She came home reluctantly, dazed into an uncharacteristic silence, with her paintings rolled up into an impressively long roll—Miss Abigail had insisted she always use large sheets of thick paper for her art. The family had been faintly surprised by what she spread out on the dining table for them; they turned to her with quizzical looks and remarks like ‘Very nice, dear,’ and Now what is that supposed to be?’ making her roll them up again in offended exasperation, and carry them up to the attic where she spread them out along with all her painting equipment. She was determined to find herself a tie-dyed skirt, wear her hair loose, not in tight painful pigtails any more, and spend the rest of the summer drawing long strokes of purple and lilac paint across sheets of paper, humming the melancholy tunes Miss Abigail had hummed at the camp.
Unfortunately it was very, very hot under the attic roof, and in that thrumming heat of late August she would find her head spinning after a while. So much so that she was compelled to stretch out on a sheet of canvas and fall into a kind of stupor, struggling to keep her eyes open. Spiders descended from the rafters and spun their wavering webs, or dangled like aerial acrobats over her head. Seeing one unroll its lifeline and drop, cautiously and investigatively, closer and closer to the nest of her hair, she swatted at it, and upset a mug of water over a painting of a volcano spewing blood-red and orange paint. The water and paint seeped through several layers of paper, staining not only one but several other paintings as well. That was when she descended the stairs, arms crossed over her chest, chin sunk, looking down at her bare feet, oppressed by the burden of being an artist. ‘What’s the matter, Polly?’ her mother asked, ‘got a headache?’ and her brother jumped out from behind a door, with a Tar-boor that made her drop her arms, jerk up her head, then stick out her tongue. It was then that the maple’s drooping August skirts and the rotting rubber tyre hanging from its branch became the only option for her during the remaining days of summer. It was then that she discovered she could sail through the green leaves and the yellow air and be the artist without having to go through the sticky manoeuvres required by actual painting. Truth be told, she had no distinct memory of any of Miss Abigail’s paintings, only of her loose hair, the long skirts, the whispering voice. She became convinced that art was not so much a matter of painting as of being an artist.
This passage is adapted from Colleen Haight, The Problem with Fair Trade Coffee.” (c) 2011 by Leland Stanford Jr. University. The Fair Trade movement seeks to help producers in developing countries get a fair price for their products, such as coffee, while promoting environmentally sustainable practices and the ethical treatment of workers.
Why do we care about fairly traded coffee? One reason is the importance of coffee to the economies of the countries in which the crop is grown. Coffee is the second most valuable commodity exported from developing countries, petroleum being the first. For many of the world’s least developed countries, such as Honduras, Ethiopia, and Guatemala, coffee exports make up an enormous share of the export earnings, comprising in some cases more than 50 percent of foreign exchange earnings. In addition, many of the coffee growers are small and their businesses are financially marginal.
The primary way in which FLO (Fairtrade Labelling Organizations) and Fair Trade USA attempt to alleviate poverty and jump-start economic development among coffee growers is a mechanism called a price floor, a limit on how low a price can be charged for a product. As of March 2011, FLO had fixed a price floor of $1.40 per pound of green coffee beans. FLO also indexes [ties] that floor to the New York Coffee Exchange price, so that when prices rise above $1.40 per pound for commodity, or non-specialty, coffee, the Fair Trade price paid is always at least 20 cents per pound higher than the price for commodity coffee.
Commodity coffee is broken into grades, but within each grade the coffee is standardized. This means that beans from one batch are assumed to be identical to those in any other batch. It is a standardized product. Specialty coffee, on the other hand, is sold because of its distinctive flavor characteristics. Because specialty coffees are of a higher grade, they command higher prices. Fair Trade coffee can come in any quality grade, but the coffee is considered part of the specialty coffee market because of its special production requirements and pricing structure. It is these requirements and pricing structure that create a quality problem for Fair Trade coffee.
To understand how the problem arises, one must understand that the low consumer demand for Fair Trade coffee means that not all of a particular farmer’s coffee, which will be of varying quality, may be sold at the Fair Trade price. The rest must be sold on the market at whatever price the quality of the coffee will support.
A simple example illustrates this point. A farmer has two bags of coffee to sell and there is a Fair Trade buyer for only one bag. The farmer knows bag A would be worth $1.70 per pound on the open market because the quality is high and bag B would be worth only $1.20 because the quality is lower. Which should he sell as Fair Trade coffee for the guaranteed price of $1.40? If he sells bag A as Fair Trade, he earns $1.40 (the Fair Trade price) and sells bag B for $1.20 (the market price), equaling $2.60. If he sells bag B as Fair Trade coffee he earns $1.40, and sells bag A at the market price for $1.70, he earns a total of $3.10. To maximize his income, therefore, he will choose to sell his lower quality coffee as Fair Trade coffee. Also, if the farmer knows that his lower quality beans can be sold at $1.40 per pound (provided there is demand), he may decide to increase his income by reallocating his resources to boost the quality of some beans over others. For example, he might stop fertilizing one group of plants and concentrate on improving the quality of the others. Thus the chances increase that the Fair Trade coffee will be of consistently lower quality.
This passage is adapted from Paul B. Wignall, The Worst of Times: How Life on Earth Survived Eighty Million Years of Extinctions. ©2015 by Princeton University Press. Approximately 252 million years ago, Earth experienced a mass extinction event, ending the Permian geologic period and starting the Triassic period.
For a long time the mass extinction was thought to be a protracted crisis spread over millions of years but by the late 1990s a growing number of studies were in favor of a short, sharp extinction. However, there is a big fly in the ointment when it comes to evaluating the timing of the crisis: quite a few Permian species survived for a short time into the Triassic.
Most Permo-Triassic boundary rocks contain a clear extinction layer marked by the point where a large number of species disappear forever. However, the overlying rocks often contain a mix of both typical Permian and new Triassic fossils. This “mixed” fauna [animals] persisted into the earliest Triassic, whereupon the Permian fossils—usually called holdover taxa in the paleontological literature—disappeared. In the Italian Dolomites the mixed fauna consists of Permian brachiopods and forams, some new short-lived forms (such as the bivalve Towapteria and several new species of forams), plus some longer-ranging forms that become briefly abundant at this level (the brachiopod Lingula and the simple foram Earlandia). The significance of these fossils has long engendered debate and not a little controversy. Some have argued that the Permian holdovers are simply fossils that have been reworked from the underlying pre-extinction strata and incorporated into the younger sediments. However, this notion is easily dismissed because the mixed fauna contains new species that were not present before the first extinction. Others simply dismiss the mixed fauna as unimportant.
A recent review by Shen Shu-zheng of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology and twenty-one coauthors simply tried to brush the mixed fauna under the carpet when they concluded that the new species constituted a “trivial rise in diversity … but do not change the general overall trend of overall decreasing diversity [at this time].” In their view the mass extinction becomes a clean-cut, single event with only a few “trivial” short-lived survivors that can essentially be ignored.
But the holdover species cannot be dismissed so easily.
Clarity to this debate has come from recent intensive collecting of the Permian and Triassic fossils in South China. Sampling from numerous locations has revealed the fate of marine life in shallow seas to deep basins. Much of the hard work was undertaken by Song Haijun, who together with his Wuhan colleagues Yin Hongfu and Tong Jinnan (two giants of the Permo-Triassic research scene in China) and me, documented the fates of 537 marine species belonging to 17 major groups during the crisis. The results reveal that the mixed fauna is actually much more diverse than previously appreciated. It represents a survival phase sandwiched between two mass extinction events, one at the end of the Permian, which eliminated 57% of species, and one at the start of the Triassic, which resulted in 71% species extinction. Barely 40 marine species remained after the double-punch crisis. Thanks to much recent effort in dating volcanic ash bands in the South China sections, we also now know that the interval between the extinctions lasted about 200,000 years.
So the Permo-Triassic mass extinction as now resolved consists of two abrupt mass extinctions separated by an interval of partial recovery. If I were to play devil’s advocate and argue against our own conclusions, it could be said that the extinction was in fact just one continuous phase of extinction losses spread over 200,000 years with a final coup de grace in the Early Triassic. Declining diversity, however, does not mark the interval with the mixed fauna, called the epilogue episode by Yin Hongfu; rather, it is a time of stable diversity marked by the appearance of new species and the loss of others. In South China the epilogue episode has a stable diversity level of around 150 species. The appearance of many new species (especially among brachiopods, bivalves, conodonts, ammonoids, and ostracods) suggests that benign conditions at this time favored the appearance of these new forms. These observations clearly indicate that the 200,000-year epilogue episode was not one of continued stress but rather a respite between two storms.
Passage 1 is adapted from Caroline H. DaII, The College, the Morket, and the Court; or, Woman’s Relation to Education, Labor, and Law. Originally published in 1867. Passage 2 is adapted from Sarah Cooper, “Woman Suffrage—Cui Bono?” Originally published in 1872.
[W]e don’t care about abstract rights: what we want is our own share of the tangible acknowledged right which human governments confer. If in England this right depends on a property qualification, then we claim that there the property qualification shall endow woman as well as man with the right of suffrage. If in America it depends upon an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then we demand that our government recognize woman as so endowed, and receive her vote.
To the reviewer we say also, If the grounds of suffrage are vague and undetermined in theory, they may remain so, so far as our interference is concerned. What we ask to share is the steady right to vote, which has been actually granted, and never disputed, since our government was founded; and sufficiently pressed, we might add, that, if there is ever any chance of limiting the right of suffrage, we shall do all we can to secure its dependence on a certain amount of education, in preference to a certain amount of wealth….
We intend to claim, in words, the right of suffrage; and why?
. . . [W]e claim the right of suffrage, because only through its possession can Women protect themselves; only through its exercise can both sexes have equality of right and power before the law. Whenever this happened, character would get its legitimate influence; and it is just possible that men might become rational and virtuous in private, if association with women compelled them to seem so in public….
The laws already existing prove conclusively to woman herself, that she has never had a real representative. What she seeks is to utter her own convictions, so that they shall redeem and save, not merely her own sex but the race.
That the right of suffrage would be a protection to women, we see from this fact, that it would at once put an end to three classes of laws:—
I. Those that protect her from violence.
II. Those made to protect her from fraud.
III. Those that protect society from the passions of both sexes.
The moment woman began to exercise this right, I think we should see moral significance streaming from every statute.
The fact that a large majority of women manifest so little interest in the question of suffrage, and are so palpably indifferent in regard to securing the privilege, is evidence of the absence of any very extended dissatisfaction with their present position. Female suffragists find their most formidable opponents among their own sex; and is not the instinct or inclination of this latter class as worthy of consideration as are the wishes and opinions of those who maintain the opposite view? Are they any less sincere? Should they be deemed illiberal, pusillanimous, apathetic, or imbecile, because they fail to discover in the ballot the Utopian glories of a redeemed womanhood?
There are those who believe women to be their own severest critics, their own harshest judges. Feeling thus, they have no tumultuous desire to secure the privilege of being tried by a so-called jury of their peers. They believe that, as a rule, the kindest judges of woman’s strength or infirmity have been men; that in man she finds her truest and firmest champion. What women most lack, is charity and magnanimity to one another. Woman’s weakness lies in her aptitude to forgive in the wrong place…. Will the ballot in woman’s hand change all this? If so, God speed it. If men and women could only be made virtuous by Act of Congress, the prospect might be more re-assuring. The efforts hitherto made to legislate morality have not been very hopeful in their results….
… The moral power Which woman is capable of exerting might dominate the world, and in this lies her supreme potency. Man’s political sovereignty could be made to dance attendance upon the behests of an uplifted, pure, exalted, and consecrated womanhood; but just in proportion as woman affects masculine accomplishments and becomes a quasi man, will the sentiments of respect, love, and reverence diminish, until they will eventually be reckoned among the lost arts; and, in the eager pursuit of coveted rights, woman should be wisely cautious to avoid the assumption and arrogance which she so sharply reprobates in man.
This passage is adapted from Seth S. Horowitz, The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. (c) 2012 by Seth S. Horowitz.
The theory that tadpoles were basically deaf held for about forty years before anyone even tested it. The first attempt to record auditory responses from tadpoles’ brains showed that the tadpoles had the expected poor hearing sensitivity. Case closed, it would seem. However, rather than establishing a scientific fact, this study highlighted one of the problems scientists face when studying things based on expectations rather than on testing basic facts: the tadpoles they recorded from were wrapped in wet gauze on a board out of the water and had airborne sounds played to them. Imagine that a frog scientist was trying to test your hearing while your head was underwater in a bathtub. The results would indicate that you have very poor hearing, with almost no responses to low-frequency sounds (as shallow water acts like a filter for higher-frequency ones) and a complete inability to localize where sounds were coming from. To the frog scientist, you are clearly deaf.
When you want to find something out about an animal’s behavior, it is critically important to test it in a setting similar to its natural environment. Admittedly, this is very difficult—it is hard enough to carry out electrophysiology with the animal in a normal soundproof booth, and trying to keep an electrical system running with the degree of delicacy needed to record individual neural responses while keeping the animal’s head under water is almost impossible. So, of course, decades after the issue was pronounced solved, I had to try it.
I went through massive amounts of aluminum foil (for grounding a pool of water), duct tape, and Tupperware containers to make a customized underwater recording tank, and it took me quite some time to figure out how to expose the tadpole’s brain but not let the water into the opening (as well as how to be delicate enough with the surgery to make sure the tadpole could wake up and continue its development toward froghood). But when I’d done all that, I found out that about sixty years of supposition about tadpoles was wrong.
Tadpoles in fact have excellent underwater hearing. But even though they live underwater for most of their development, they are not fish and could not be tested the way you’d test fish. Early-stage tadpoles hear much in the way sharks or simple fish do, with the sound passing through the tissue on the side of their head and impinging directly on the oval window to transmit vibrations to the saccule and other developing organs in the inner ear. Later- stage tadpoles, who have both hindlimbs and forelimbs, have a functional low-frequency opercularis pathway from their sides and forelimbs to their inner ear, although the tympanic pathway doesn’t appear until about twenty-four hours after they absorb the last of their tails to become froglets. The problem is that when I was trying to record from some tadpoles, I was getting nothing. Zip.
After about ten of these trials, I was pretty sure I was not getting faulty results, so I went to my advisor. We both noticed something odd: all of these “deaf” tadpoles were from one very short period of development, just before their front legs emerged. It turns out that in this brief period, about forty-eight hours long, while the low-frequency pathway is developing, the pieces of cartilage and muscle that attach the inner ear to the shoulder girdle block the opening on the side of the inner ear, the oval window, that let sound in when they were younger. In getting ready to move to a life where they have to hear vibrations from the ground, and eventually sounds in the air, they undergo a brief “deaf period.” At the end of that forty-eight hours, their hearing suddenly returns, with a broader range of frequencies and better hearing at the low end.