But in another sense there was a happy ending — one that we might usefully contemplate. In recent years, the gap in educational attainments of rich and poor Americans has grown wider, largely because of the enormous resources those of us who can do so now pour into our children. Success, we have come to believe, depends on excellent schools, carefully organized leisure and, above all, on high-concentration, high-focus parenting.
The orphans of Pahiatua did not have any of these things. On the contrary, they had witnessed the deaths of parents and siblings, experienced terrible deprivation and lost years of education before finding themselves in an alien country on the far side of the world. And yet they learned the language, they assimilated, they became doctors, lawyers, farmers, factory workers, teachers, business owners.