GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY
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VOLUME SEVEN, NUMBER FOUR
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During the 1980s the gifted field provided increased services to intellectually advanced students. However, it has been one of the few areas (maybe the only one) of public education where its successes have backfired: instead of producing increases in the level of funding and educational resources, its accomplishments have now been followed by large reductions and the loss of support for future gifted programs. Is there a causal relationship between the high achievements of gifted education programs during the 1980s and the low payback in the 1990s from school boards and leaders of educational reform? Is this situation due to envy and unproven claims of elitism? Have its successes made the rampant failures too obvious? Whatever the reason(s) for the current attitudes toward gifted programs, the resulting outcomes show the dysfunctional condition of public education.
Instead of using gifted education programs as models for improving general education, they are castigated for effectively serving the "best and the brightest." This Orwellian situation leads to the following contradiction between what the critics say and do: they support a more rigorous curriculum through their plans for "world class education," but the children who can benefit most from this curriculum are ignored or intentionally DE-GIFTEDlZED! Because of this negative atmosphere and outright hostility to educating the gifted in America's public schools, why should we continue to struggle to provide differential education programs? The development of HUMAN POTENTIAL is an important underlying idea that should motivate many individuals to persist in these efforts. As developers of HUMAN POTENTIAL, we should strive to expand the performance of high ability children far beyond what is possible in the general education classroom.
During the last several years, the articles in this Quarterly have discussed techniques for improving gifted children’s performance and creativity such as: (1) use of computer technology to unleash their reasoning abilities; (2) design of a differentiated curriculum stressing interdisciplinary education; (3) study of great minds from literature and science; (4) development of a humanities curriculum that emphasizes instruction in literature (e.g., Shakespeare), philosophy, ethics, history and languages; (5) study of learning tools such as General-Semantics and the Scientific Method; (6) use of media events such as Jurassic Park to motivate gifted children to learn about different fields of knowledge; and (7) study of their SENSIBILITY as the key to their interests and abilities.
The authors appearing in this issue are dedicated fighters for the future of gifted education. Joan Smutny, who writes about advocacy for the gifted, is a model of this dedication through her outstanding efforts to provide differentiated programs for 2,000 children in the Chicago area (summer of 1993). Ms. Smutny is Director of the Center for Gifted at National-Louis University in Evanston, Illinois, Editor of the Illinois Council for the Gifted JOURNAL, and the coauthor of three books on educating the gifted. Susan and Bruce Kodish of Baltimore, Maryland (where they have private practices in psychology and physical therapy) are dedicated to advancing the understanding of words such as "gifted" and "creative" through applying principles of General-Semantics. Certified as General-Semantics teachers by the Institute of General Semantics, they frequently teach General-Semantics at Institute seminars and in other settings. Their book, Drive Yourself Sane! Using the Uncommon Sense of General-Semantics, serves as an introduction to this discipline.
Michael Walters of New York City continues to enlighten teachers, parents and gifted students about the great minds of American literature by discussing the life and accomplishments of Willa Cather. Jonathan Plucker, a graduate student at the University of Virginia, describes how Jurassic Park can provide exciting didactic experiences for gifted children. Mr. Plucker is an experienced science educator and gifted program coordinator in the West Point, New York Post Schools, the United States Military Academy.
As developers of HUMAN POTENTIAL, authors and educators such as these can produce a more balanced perspective in the public schools. It takes guts to do this type of work in today's public education climate, but their persistence shows what needs to be done in these trying times -- exhibit "grace under pressure."
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Ph.D. Gifted Education Press
ADVOCACY FOR GIFTED STUDENTS : PROGRESS THROUGH UNDERSTANDING
BY JOAN FRANKLIN SMUTNY, DIRECTOR
THE CENTER FOR GIFTED
NATIONAL-LOUIS UNIVERSITY EVANSTON, IL
These might seem to be dark days in gifted education. Everyday we hear of schools eliminating programs for gifted and talented students. Some blame budgets. Others boast of doing away with a perceived "elitism" associated with special programming for advanced students. Whatever the impetus, the result is the same: gifted students and their parents increasingly face inconsistency, uncertainty, and sometimes outright hostility in their efforts to secure appropriate educational instruction and materials in their schools. Nothing on the political or economic horizon suggests improvement in the educational landscape for gifted students.
Rather than see this as a dark time, however, there is good reason to view it instead as an opportunity for progress through informed advocacy. The times demand that we move beyond traditional responses to the needs of gifted students and look for innovative ways to help parents and teachers to be responsive. Let us not defend positions or programs we may well be outgrowing. Rather than view this time as a void and a vacuum, we can see it as a time to look more selectively at what we've got and what we could be doing to motivate, challenge, advance and enhance education for gifted children. Substantial research continues to shed new light on the nature and complexities of giftedness in children and how they fare in different educational settings (Gardner, 1993). This growing body of research and experience holds the potential for many creative responses.
The role of advocate belongs to everyone who touches the life of a gifted child, no matter how remotely. All of us parents, teachers, administrators and community leaders must ask:
1. How do we define commitment to challenging bright children who may or may not have been in appropriate programs no longer in existence?
2. What are more effective ways for us as parents to meet the needs of the gifted child?
3. What are more effective ways of identifying and developing strategies at home and in school for gifted students?
4. What are optimal ways of reaching these students in terms of the cognitive, the affective, the creative, the valuing components of teaching, thinking and learning?
5. How can we as parents and teachers work together to achieve maximum opportunity for gifted?
6. With outreach to the community as one of the goals of school reform, how can a bridge be provided between teachers and those involved with gifted children?
7. Even if the school no longer wishes to identify gifted or to differentiate curriculum, what can I do specifically as an individual parent or a group of individuals for these children?
In schools across the country, budget constraints are wiping out staffing and funds for many valuable programs, from music to advanced mathematics. Programs specifically for the gifted and talented often are the first to go in these cutbacks, often with little public discussion and even less public outcry. Typically, the elimination of gifted programs is accompanied by assurances from school boards and administrators that the gifted children's needs can be met effectively by the classroom teacher. Certainly, the classroom teacher historically has been vital to the creation of an intellectually vibrant and challenging program for all students. But the demands and responsibilities assigned the classroom teacher have continued to grow, and in reality, a teacher may be ill-equipped or otherwise unable to respond effectively to the needs of gifted students.
As advocates for gifted students then, we press for recognition of the need to provide teachers with appropriate undergraduate, as well as graduate training in gifted education. Along with teachers themselves, we must articulate the need for continuing education opportunities, inservice programs and other gifted education resources for all school faculty.
With classroom teachers better prepared to respond to the needs of gifted students, certain general trends in curriculum provide a natural context for effective gifted education. Where could education for excellence, the new federal initiative, have a better base more firmly grounded than in gifted education?
When we read about inclusion, why should that not include the bright and talented and gifted? A teacher who has been asked to take a point of view of advancing education on a cognitive level would naturally be aware that some of her students are ready and able to take hold of academic content, curriculum and materials more quickly and perceptively than others. Why not utilize the talents of these students?
What could be the most natural approach for teaching and asking excellence of all students than utilizing critical and creative thinking as a frame of reference inherent in this excellence? All of us in gifted education have subscribed to critical thinking and creativity. In order for teachers to see the new possibilities for cognitive development they would just naturally have to include teaching for thinking as a normal purpose and function of their work. No one would benefit more from that orientation than the bright and gifted child. Teachers and parents can utilize the critical and creative thinking approach far more effectively and specifically. Even though there is a trend to eliminate programs, no one can eliminate a thinking approach to learning.
We also must avoid the mistake of thinking we have to make a choice between ability grouping and providing appropriate learning opportunities for gifted students. Research validates the benefits of keeping gifted students together (Rogers, 1991). The challenge is to find a way to provide this important opportunity to gifted students in the absence of a formal gifted program. One expression of advocacy would be clustering to allow gifted students to work with students of similar abilities in their areas of strength (Winebrenner, 1992; Winebrenner & Devlin, 1993).
Diversified creative strategies will enable teachers to become advocates for their gifted students. By showing it can be done, this kind of teacher advocacy would resonate throughout the larger community of schools, supporting others who seek to provide a responsive learning environment for gifted students.
Administration and school boards can offer inservice training to teachers on integration of thinking skills into the curriculum. They should also provide consulting support for regular teachers in the classroom by enabling teachers of gifted to share strategies, activities, curriculum and instructional materials. These teachers can enable "regular teachers" to define goals and outcomes for gifted students based on their interests and talents.
Curriculum should be strengthened through inclusion of inquiry and problem-solving techniques, decision-making, and involved citizenship; strategies that will enable the gifted student to prosper individually by furnishing latitude for all students. Ongoing evaluation could be outcome and product based.
Challenges facing divergent target populations are legion, and will be augmented even more forcibly as inclusion increases. Gifted girls will need sensitive teachers to foster with continuity their talents in mathematics and science. Gifted minority students will need role models expressive of perceptive leadership and contribution to society. Bilingual gifted will need teachers knowledgeable of global education. Teachers who understand differences and commonalities among cultures will be able to differentiate curriculum and lead the child into cognizance of self, family and community with appreciation of culture.
Preschool children who are replete with talent, often undetected, need teachers willing to identify it early, through portfolios and anecdotes, to include inquiry-based curriculum and activities and to integrate topics by themes and interests. Action-oriented curriculum, community outreach, career education and student internships will be inherent in this optimum approach for middle school and high school, which offers large possibilities for advocates for the gifted.
Parents have a large part to play in promoting informed advocacy. We know that for a child through the age of seven, parents are the most accurate judges of giftedness. Substantial research underscores the reliability of parent identification of gifted children. In a recent study of children in a summer program in Eugene, Oregon, the researcher concluded that the "Parents did not appear to exaggerate their children's abilities and, in some cases, probably underestimated them." (Gelbrich, 1990)
Especially in the preprimary and primary years, parents must be prepared to initiate discussion with teachers and principals regarding their gifted child's abilities and needs. We must, as parents, be willing to look at the adults in our world ─ at school and elsewhere in the community ─ and say, "Who among these people is willing to be supportive of my child?"
Within the family structure, we must provide emotional support, challenge and responsibility. It is the child we help shape at home that goes into a school setting better or less prepared to thrive. In so many ways, the standard classroom and school setting gives the gifted child a skewed sense of self and achievement. This child needs a sense of conscious worth, and the most likely place to build that is home.
We must be willing to search out programs and experiences outside of school. These can include museum or other formal community education programs. Or they may be self-selected topics of interest, in which the parent encourages or facilitates the child's exploration through researching, interviewing knowledgeable sources and interacting with the material in some way.
So often ignorance underlies the resistance to gifted education and gifted children. There is a need for consciousness-raising in terms of knowledge in every corner of our communities ─ neighborhoods and schools ─ and within higher education as well. This will demand of us to be far more articulate advocates than we may have been in the past. This kind of advocacy requires an "attitude," to borrow a current slang phrase. In this instance the "attitude" requires that, as parents and teachers, we recognize these children's special needs and help others do so, too, consistently and in a positive way.
It is now time to find comfort and inspiration in the fact that there are so many gifted children, and so many potential advocates like ourselves to speak on their behalf. It is time to step forward, each one of us, on behalf of these children as individuals and as a population of students at risk. We are not on the outside looking in, we are not on the defensive hoping to be on the offensive; we are not speaking out from an insular position.
We are speaking out for excellence in education, and by that we mean the concept of enabling students to think and be involved in problem-solving and decision-making. When this becomes a priority ─ in a community, in a school, in the curriculum and in the classroom ─ then responsible teaching strategies will respond to the gifted child.
It is important that we speak out now, serving as catalysts for each other in the larger picture, working for a larger cause, making use of the power and advantage of networking. We must bring our message to school boards and to the media in our communities and beyond. We have never really made a large enough statement.
Just as many parents feel discouraged after repeated attempts to improve their gifted child's lot in school, it is easy for all of us to be lured into premature defeat. In a tired moment we think: "This is going to be a fight and we are going to lose." But we need to take a more objective look. We need to say: "What is the nature of this fight, and how do I win?" Here are some ways to start:
●Advocate continued identification of gifted children. Encourage a newer expression of giftedness, one that includes the diversity of giftedness as it appears in children.
● Advocate the identification of practices, curriculum and educational materials that respond to gifted children.
● Advocate continued inservice training for teach-ers.
● Begin more active networking among parents and teachers.
● Remain a consistent, informed and rational activist.
Bridging the gap among parents, teachers and administrators should benefit all gifted students. Advocacy means persistent communication and dissemination of knowledge among all these groups. Community support of gifted will be the result of all populations concerned with children working together intelligently to recognize the need for diversified talents to be understood and developed. The steps already taken to identify these bright children may be modified but cannot be deleted nor neglected. Active advocacy for gifted will benefit all children and all who work with them.»»»»»»
Gardner, Howard. (1993). Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. NYC: Basic Books.
(2) Gelbrich, Judith. (1990). "Parent Identification: Fact or Fantasy." Journal of the Illinois Council for the Gifted, Vol. 9, 22-24.
(3) Rogers, Karen B. (1991) The Relationship of Grouping Practices to the Education of the Gifted and Talented Learner. Storrs, CT: The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.
(4) Winebrenner, Susan. (1992) Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing.
(5) Winebrenner, Susan and Devlin, Barbara. (1993). "The Practice of Cluster Grouping: Providing Full-Time Educational Services for Gifted Students." Gifted Education Press Quarterly, Vol. 7 (2), 2-9.
HOW TO DEVELOP HUMAN GENIUS :
GENERAL-SEMANTICS AND EDUCATION FOR THE GIFTED
BY SUSAN PRESBY KODISH AND BRUCE I. KODISH
Recent issues of Gifted Education Press Quarterly have highlighted the following questions, among others, in gifted education. How can closed and dogmatic thinking be avoided? How and when can questions best be asked? How can the art of observing be developed? How can facts be conveyed as part of a holistic pattern? How can an ability to see the smallest detail in relationship to the whole be fostered? How can sensitivity to the quality of life be encouraged? How can we learn to think in an interdisciplinary manner? How can children be helped to work like young scientists to solve problems? How can children best learn how to apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate information?
BACKGROUND OF GENERAL SEMANTICS
Alfred Korzybski, a Polish engineer, teacher and scholar, pondered these kinds of questions and sought to help create a world where such concerns regularly would be addressed in education. In the course of his pondering, he developed a system, called general-semantics, for encouraging such a world. In this article, we present some background and theory about this system, how it can be important in gifted education, and sources for learning how to use it.
Korzybski volunteered for service in the Second Russian Army in WWI, and served as a cavalry and artillery expert and in military intelligence. Suffering several war injuries, he also deeply felt the suffering of others. War assignments brought him to Canada and the United States, where he chose to stay.
At the end of the war, he embarked on a course of pondering and study in order to examine and find ways to alleviate the kinds of suffering he witnessed. He noted that we had progressed much more in technical areas than in human relationships: structures such as buildings and bridges tend to stand up; when they don't we can fairly readily figure out what happened and remedy the problem. Social structures, in contrast, tend to collapse repeatedly and our "solutions" don't provide lasting remedies.
Answering the question, "How can we develop human genius?" became Korzybski's life work. He approached this first by considering, "What makes humans human?," which resulted in the publication of Manhood of Humanity in 1921. Then he developed an orientation and set of methods to help us make the most of our human potentials, which resulted in the publication of Science and Sanity in 1933. He called this approach "general-semantics," a non-Aristotelian system which incorporates the findings and methods of modern science and mathematics, so that we can learn how to run our individual and collective lives in more effective ways than was possible for people living in the past. In the pre-scientific era, 23 centuries ago, Aristotle brilliantly formulated his observations into an orientation for living then. General-semantics gives us a systematic way to evaluate appropriately for the 20th and 21st centuries.
Let's consider what we intend when we refer to general-semantics. People often confuse this discipline, historically written as "general semantics," with semantics. In order to reduce such confusion, the General Semantics Bulletin has recently adopted a policy of hyphenating general-semantics, except in quotes and titles where it is not hyphenated in the original. We follow this policy.
As you probably know, semantics involves the study of language use -- words and what they refer to. General-semantics includes such language concerns, but also involves much broader issues. Using general-semantics, we're concerned with the totality of human behavior: understanding how we evaluate the inner life of each individual, how each of us experiences and makes sense of our experiences, how we use language and how language may 'use' us.
What 'meanings' emerge for people in terms of their assumptions, beliefs and experiences? How do they gather information so that they can, and do, develop their genius? How aware of these and other processes are they? How do they talk about them?
In other words, general-semantics can be considered a study of human evaluating, focusing on the relations among four structures: the non-verbal world, that is, what we infer is going on around and in us; our human nervous systems, that is, how we abstract information from that world; language and other symbol systems, that is, how we talk about and create theories about what we abstract; and our behavior -- what we do.
Let's return to the question of what makes humans human. Korzybski developed the notion of three classes of life.
Plants transform energy from the sun chemically, storing it and using it to grow. Hence, in general-semantics, we call plants chemistry-binders.
Animals can use plant energy as food, and thus they incorporate chemistry-binding. They also transform energy into movement through space. They mark and defend their space or territory from other animals in various ways. Consequently, we call animals space-binders.
Humans also use plant energy and move and therefore function as chemistry-binders and space-binders. But, as we've noted, we also have the ability to create symbols about our experiences, in the form of pictures, numbers and words. We can write books, produce computers and computer programs, and store these products in libraries. We can create systems for distributing this information. Through the use of language, we can pass on information (and misinformation) from one person to another and from one time to another.
We do this within ourselves, as we learn from our experiences and develop our lives. We do this among ourselves as we communicate. We do this across generations so that each generation of humans has the potential to start off where the previous generation ended. We utilize the experiences of the past as we develop the present and future. Accordingly, we call humans time-binders.
Our higher-brain functions involved in time-binding enable us to take the long-term view, to foster positive time-binding; to ask the questions: What kind of future do we want to project? How can we behave to encourage that future?" How can we improve the quality of our collective and individual lives? How can we develop human genius?
In seeking answers to these questions, Korzybski studied what he considered as the best and worst of human evaluating: the work of scientists and mathematicians when they're doing science and mathematics (not necessarily in their personal lives) contrasted with people confined in mental institutions. From these studies he formulated the methods of general-semantics.
Let's return in more detail to how we study human evaluating. In developing an understanding of the human experiencing process, we focus on levels of acquiring and talking about information; how we abstract.
Modern science leads us to infer a swirl of submicroscopic processes occurring in the non-verbal world. This fundamental level, which we call the process level, constitutes the "stuff" of life.
We don't experience these processes directly. Rather, our nervous systems abstract what we experience as 'objects.' These 'objects' first are experienced non-verbally, at what we call the silent, object level.
Our abstracting processes are limited. For example, our hearing and seeing are limited to certain ranges of light and sound waves. Our assumptions, beliefs, prior experiences, etc., limit our perceiving. How we represent things at the silent level is not how they are at the process level.
So, to foster human genius, we do best to recognize that we can never step outside of our nervous systems, everything we know is a joint phenomenon of what's outside and what's inside ourselves: we can never have 'it'; we can always be wrong; we can never know it all. This encourages us to avoid dogmatism, keeping ourselves open to new information, to possible alternatives, etc.
Modern science also indicates that we function as organisms-as-a-whole-in-environments. For sake of analysis we can make differentiations -- we can talk about so-called 'feelings' and 'thoughts,' 'intellectual' and 'emotional,' individuals apart from their environments. But if we forget that these elements are not separate, apart from our talking about them that way, we are misevaluating. Do thoughts exist disembodied? Have you ever seen a person not in an environment?
And what about our human environment? As we've noted, what differentiates us is our ability to use language and other symbols. In general-semantics, we consider language as an important environmental influence. We speak of our neuro-linguistic, neuro-semantic environments (neuro because we want to remind ourselves that we can know nothing apart from our nervous systems).
As far as we know, Korzybski originated the term neuro-linguistic. General-semantics should not be confused with Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), although its originators acknowledge Korzybski in their early work.
Embedded in language from birth, we drink up the assumptions suggested by how words are used, how sentences are phrased. We reinforce these assumptions by how we talk to ourselves and others.
This brings us to verbal levels of experience. We can talk, and talk about our talking, and then talk about that, theoretically unendingly. We do this within ourselves and with others. What we say at verbal levels is not what we experience non-verbally.
In general-semantics we spend a considerable amount of time learning how to experience non-verbally -- getting the words out of our eyes, ears, etc. This training helps us to become better observers and to increase our sensitivity to what is going on, in and around us.
At the silent level, and by implication at the process level, we're dealing with individuals -- a particular apple, a particular person we're speaking with, a particular set of parents who have raised us, etc. At the first verbal level, we're concerned with describing our silent-level experiences, as concretely and accurately as possible. We can call what we're describing here 'facts,' recognizing that even here we don't have 'it.'
At higher levels we're dealing with inferences, what we abstract from our descriptions. "All apples are good." "I like Granny Smith apples but not Delicious apples." "Business men are crooks." Here we're moving away from the individual apple or person and generalizing, categorizing, etc. We're leaving out characteristics of the individual and 'adding' what we perceive as commonalities.
These higher-order abstractions indicate what make us human: our ability to talk about our talking; become aware of these processes; build laboratories to develop and test theories about what is going on at the process level. We want to emphasize that in general-semantics we do not suggest avoiding inferences and generalizations. Without them, we would not know what we now know about what goes on at the process level, and we wouldn't remain open to revising our knowledge as we learn more.
We do suggest maintaining awareness of these processes; what we call consciousness of abstracting. We do suggest recognizing that at each level we create a "map" of the prior level. We do suggest learning not to identify one of these levels with another; not to confuse each map with the territory it maps. We do suggest recognizing the role of what goes on verbally in how we experience at silent levels. We do suggest distinguishing 'facts' from inferences and generalizations, and learning how to integrate our understanding of these levels.
We emphasize that since we can never have 'it' directly, the value of our knowledge depends on how adequately it mirrors what is going on in the process world. Thus, the value of theories is based on how well we can predict events using them. Does the weather forecast adequately predict the severity and direction of a hurricane? Do we adequately predict the reactions of our students when we present material, so that we gear our approach to them as organism-as-a-whole-in-environments?
We consider consciousness of abstracting the basis for achieving adequate predictability. Otherwise, we can end up misevaluating, assuming that what we hear and see is what we get. To assist in teaching-learning consciousness of abstracting, we make use of a diagram called the structural differential. This visually summarizes the different levels of abstracting we have described here.
EVALUATING HUMAN EXPERIENCE
In general-semantics we use a broadened, generalized understanding and application of scientific method in our personal and social lives. We encourage people to use the following four-part procedure, as formulated by Wendell Johnson, in their everyday evaluating: (1) Ask clear answerable questions in order to direct your (2) observations, which are made in a calm, unprejudiced manner, and which are then (3) reported as accurately as possible in order to answer the questions which were asked to begin with, after which (4) any pertinent assumptions that were held before the observations were made are revised in light of steps 1, 2 and 3. Then the process begins all over again.
We focus on helping people learn how to ask clear answerable questions. We also help them consider the role of assumptions in their lives.
None of us can live free of assumptions. Many of our assumptions serve us well; our continuing to function depends on our making them. Recognizing them as assumptions, however, can help us prepare for the unexpected and find solutions to our problems.
Creative solution-finding involves what we call an extensional orientation, orienting ourselves towards 'facts.' When we check our maps against the territory, when we clarify and test our inferences and assumptions, when we distinguish among different orders of abstracting, when we use language which accurately maps what we're talking about, we behave extensionally.
By contrast, when we orient ourselves by verbal definitions, when we prefer preserving our maps to checking them out against 'facts,' when we fail to use language accurately, we behave intensionally.
We use what we call extensional devices which enable us to extensionally relate our words and statements to life-'facts.'
The extensional devices consist of the following:
(1) Indexing; (2) Dating; (3) Et cetera (etc.); (4) Quotes; and (5) Hyphens.
The use of indexing comes from mathematics, where variables are given subscripts, for example x1 , x2 , x3 , etc. Using indexing, we specify our terms, allowing us to note differences among individuals categorized as part of a group. Although useful at times, categories, which focus on similarities, can mislead, and lead to unintelligent behavior.
How will we respond to individual humans if we continually index to remind ourselves that 'teacher'1 is not 'teacher'2 , 'student'1 is not 'student'2 , etc ? Perhaps we need not only less discrimination against individuals because of the categories we put them in, but also more discrimination between individuals by noticing how they differ.
Indexes help us recognize that people and things may act differently when in different places and circumstances. Not only does student1 not behave like student2 , but student1 in one learning situation is not the same as student1 in a different learning situation. With indexing we can help ourselves and others to recognize the specific circumstances under which learning best occurs for each student, etc.
With dating, we indicate change over 'time.' Although we live in a process world of change, we can intensionally talk about it, ourselves included, as if time differences don't matter. To make our words and statements more extensional in regard to the time factor, we apply a date to the terms we use and the statements we make.
Dating helps us differentiate a particular individual at a given date from that individual at another date. It helps us to realize that no particular individual 'is' exactly the 'same' from moment to moment.
Perhaps you have noted our use of "et cetera." In general-semantics we use it as an extensional device to indicate that we could always say more, that we can never say all, about whatever we are talking about. Since a map can never cover all the territory it represents, using "etc." indicates to ourselves and others that the last word has not been said.
We note many people who indicate quote marks for certain words when they speak. Korzybski devised the use of quotes to flag words which have false-to-'fact' implications.
If we do choose to use questionable words such as 'thinking' or 'feeling' as isolated terms, we put them in single quotes to alert ourselves to take care.
Using hyphens, we connect terms that suggest separation of what we best understand as unified processes. The hyphen can help us remember the inter-relatedness of the process world. In this way we can evaluate using more accurate terms such as space-time, psycho-biological, and organism-as-a-whole-in-environments.
We want to point out a number of other techniques that we can use to make our language and orientation more extensional and thus help ourselves act more intelligently.
Using plurals rather than singular forms, and "a," "an," or "some" rather than "the," can keep us from looking for 'the' cause and for single factors rather than causes and multiple factors. As problem-solvers, we can restrict ourselves and our alternatives when we think in terms of "'the' 'best' way" rather than "a better way" or "some better ways" to do something. Talking about "'the' solution" rather than "a solution" or "some solutions" contains a hidden assumption of absolutism or allness, that this is the only way, period!
We need to take care when we use or imply all or never. Unless we are dealing with pure mathematics, where by definition we can include all particulars that we are talking about, we can never, as far as we know, say 'all' about anything. Using phrases such as up to a point and to a degree helps nudge us away from either-or evaluating. They allow us to get beyond such questions as "Are you for me or against me?" Perhaps we can agree, to a degree, with someone whose views differ from ours.
An everyday application of the calculus involves noting how life can change in terms of indefinitely small steps. Learning can be encouraged by helping students to observe the results of small changes, which sometimes have large, non-additive effects. Avoiding the "is of identity" ("she is a teacher") helps us to avoid identifying individuals with our categories. Avoiding the "is of predication" ("the student is lazy") helps us avoid identifying individuals with qualities we ascribe to them. We can more accurately say that we classify her as a teacher, or that the student seems lazy to us. In this way we make explicit our role in making these evaluations.
APPLICATIONS TO THE GIFTED
Extensional techniques may seem simple; Korzybski referred to these devices as "baby stuff." However, while it may seem easy to pay lip service to these notions, people usually find acting on them much harder. We stress applying general-semantics in order to get better results.
So how can general-semantics be applied to advantage in gifted education?
It can provide a framework for teaching skills in analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information, and applying what's being learned. As students learn about map\territory relations and how we create our experiences, they develop critical evaluating abilities. They learn how to analyze the role of language in their lives, and how they create and can alter how they use language. For example, they can learn about how humans create categories, both to their advantage and detriment, and how to avoid pitfalls in such language use.
In fostering an awareness of processes of acquiring information, teachers can help students balance lower-order 'facts' and higher-order abstractions. They thus learn how to see details within generalizations, and how to abstract generalizations from details. They can learn how to overcome and avoid nonsense by grounding the abstract in the particular, thus improving their abilities to communicate orally and in writing.
Practice in non-verbal awareness can enhance students' abilities to observe, as well as their sensitivity to their environments. This also can augment their aesthetic appreciation.
With its focus on generalizing a scientific orientation to everyday life, general-semantics details ways in which teachers and their students can work like scientists to solve problems. Since an important part of scientific method involves how best to ask questions, general-semantics texts include much material on enhancing question-asking abilities.
By using general-semantics, we're encouraged to adopt a "Socratic dialogue" questioning technique, which helps to elicit and build on student knowledge and strengths. We frequently ask the questions, "What do you mean?" and "How do you know?" As they answer these questions, as well as learn to ask them of each other, students can develop their individual potentials.
Because general-semantics functions as a "meta-system," which is designed to question its own assumptions and conclusions, as well as those of other systems, it involves an openness to re-evaluating. In learning and using this system, students are encouraged in acquiring this important quality. They can learn how to evaluate and re-evaluate in order to account for new, ever-changing conditions.
We find that applying general-semantics provides a standard of values which encourages the best potentialities of individuals. The ethics of positive time-binding lead to cooperation, community-building and global awareness, in conjunction with individual development.
Space limits preclude details about specific classroom lessons in general-semantics. Lesson plans and classroom approaches are presented in books such as Words and What They Do To You (1971) by Catherine Minteer, Nothing Never Happens (1974) by Kenneth Johnson, Teaching General Semantics (1969) edited by Mary Morain, Thinking Creatically (1991) edited by Kenneth Johnson, and Making Sense (1974) by Robert Potter, among others.
Language in Thought and Action by S. I. Hayakawa (1990, now in its fifth edition, written with Alan Hayakawa), has served as a college English text and is based in large part on general-semantics. While we find that Hayakawa distorts general-semantics in some serious ways, (see Bruce Kodish's article, "Getting Off Of Hayakawa's Ladder"), you may find useful material in it.
The General Semantics Bulletin, published yearly by the Institute of General Semantics, frequently has articles pertaining to education. ETC. A Review of General Semantics, published quarterly by the International Society for General Semantics (P.O. Box 728, Concord, CA 94522, (510) 798-0311), includes columns on general semantics in education.
For information about research in general-semantics, including effects on students of varying ages, you can consult Graduate Research in General Semantics (1992) compiled by Kenneth Johnson.
Information about the General Semantics Bulletin and other books and materials, as well as regional, national and international meetings and seminars can be obtained from the Institute of General Semantics, 163 Engle Street, Englewood, NJ 07631, (201) 568-0551.
In looking further into general-semantics, we expect that you will find it a useful framework for individualizing educational programs and for communicating with administrators and others about the individualized needs of gifted students. Using it provides a way for teachers to teach their gifted students as organisms-as-a-whole-in-environments, with emphasis on maximizing their potentials, preparing them with critical evaluating skills, and helping them to develop their individuality within a context of cooperation and regard for their time-binding roles.
In concluding, we can say about general-semantics: perhaps seemingly simple in the telling, not easy in the doing, but in our experience well worth efforts involved in learning and applying it.
Except as otherwise noted, these books currently are published by the Institute of General Semantics, Englewood, NJ.
Hayakawa, S. I. & Alan Hayakawa. Language in Thought and Action (Fifth Edition). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1990.
Johnson, Kenneth. Nothing Never Happens. Beverly Hills, CA: Glencoe Press, 1974.
Johnson, Kenneth. Editor. Thinking Creatically. 1991.
Johnson, Kenneth. Compiler. Graduate Research in General Semantics. 1992.
Johnson, Wendell. People in Quandaries. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1946; San Francisco: International Society for General Semantics, 1989.
Kodish, Bruce. Getting Off Of Hayakawa's Ladder. General Semantics Bulletin. 1993, 57, pp. 65-76.
Korzybski, Alfred. Manhood of Humanity. 1921 (2nd Edition, 1950).
Korzybski, Alfred. Science and Sanity. 1933 (4th Edition, 1958).
Minteer, Catherine. Words and What They Do To You. 1953 (5th Printing 1971).
Morain, Mary, Editor. Teaching General Semantics. San Francisco: International Society for General Semantics, 1969.
Potter, Robert. Making Sense. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Globe Book Company, Inc., 1974.
"The crucial point to be considered in a study of language behavior is the relationship of language and reality, between words and non-words. Except as we understand this relationship, we run the risk of straining the delicate connection between words and facts, of permitting our words to go wild, and so of creating for ourselves fabrications of fantasy and delusion." WENDELL JOHNSON
"...If humanity had used writing in the same limited way we use television, we would have created for ourselves little more than tabloid newspapers and comic books." S. I. HAYAKAWA
"Man's achievements rest on the use of symbols." ALFRED KORZYBSKI
" In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read....It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds as we wish." S. I. HAYAKAWA
WILLA CATHER (1873-1947): THE "DOER" AND GIFTED WOMEN
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Some individuals in our society are called "doers," and there are others who should be called "sign carriers." The great American writer, Willa Cather, represents this first class of American writers and literary geniuses. Born in 1873 near Winchester, Virginia, she lived in this area of Jeffersonian yeoman farmers until 1874. Her family then moved near Red Cloud, Nebraska where they lived on her grandfather's sheep farm.
Her father managed this farm and Willa often followed him during his sheep tending duties. She also intermingled with Scandinavian, Russian, German and other European immigrants in the great plains of our nation. One of her neighbors was a German-Jewish couple; the wife studied 19th century French literature, and she opened her home and library to young Willa. This individual and others with similar interests in literature influenced Willa to read the great European writers. In addition, a storekeeper named William Ducker taught her Greek and Latin. She graduated from Red Cloud High School in 1890 and delivered a graduation speech entitled, "Superstition versus Investigation."
Beginning in 1891, she entered the University of Nebraska where she studied literature and journalism, and published numerous essays, poems and short stories in state and national periodicals. She became managing editor of the student literary journal, and after graduating in journalism, she worked part-time for a Lincoln, Nebraska newspaper (Courier). Then in 1896, she went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she became an editor of a monthly magazine, a newspaper reviewer of books, and a high school Latin teacher. At this time, Pittsburgh was an important center of American industrial and cultural life. Individuals such as Andrew Carnegie became major cultural figures in America through his philanthropic endeavors in founding Carnegie-Mellon University and building public libraries across the nation.
As a result of her contacts in Pittsburgh, Ms. Cather was introduced to S.S. McClure, the publisher of McClure's Magazine. She went to work for this magazine (located in New York City) as a reporter and editor in 1906. It was the champion publication of the muckrakers, the progressive reformers of their day. For example, one of McClure's writers was Upton Sinclair, the author of an expose of the meat packing industry entitled, The Jungle (1906). This position led to her living in New York City the rest of her life.
Willa Cather was a genius of two literary genres -- the short story and the novel. Her novels about Nebraska made the regional genre of this part of America appreciated by readers throughout the world. Among these famous novels were O Pioneers! (1913) and My Antonia (1918). In 1923, she won the Pulitzer Prize for the book, One of Ours. She wrote a book in 1927 about Spanish-Colonial New Mexico called, Death Comes for the Archbishop, which has been hailed by literary critics as her masterpiece.
Later, she described the landscape and people of French Canada in Shadows on the Rock (1931). Her last book, Sapphira and the Slave Girl (1940), analyzed the problems of slavery. This story had its origins among her anti-slavery relatives in Virginia. All of these novels demonstrate Ms. Cather's multi-cultural perspectives, and her deep respect for America's pioneer tradition.
Her short stories dealt with timeless and contemporary themes. Among these themes are the conflict between human character and the environment, and the significance of the pioneer virtues of perseverance, courage, endurance, dignity and humility. Another theme of her short stories was concerned with the vision of the creative artist and the demands of industrial society. Perhaps the most important theme she wrote about was the problem of women expressing aspirations that conflicted with predestined roles. But most important, her short stories represent the conflict between the human heart and the daily demands for survival as seen in her pioneer immigrant stories. In these stories, there were no villains and no failures; there were only human beings we can feel pity and sorrow for. She shows her fellow human beings as compatriots in the search for personal meaning and individual survival. Among her famous short stories are: "The Bohemian Girl," "Flavia and Her Artists," "The Sculptor's Funeral," and "A Wagner Matinee."
Willa Cather demonstrates why there needs to be more awareness and appreciation of the gifted individual. Despite the male dominance of her age, she was given many opportunities to express her abilities because her giftedness was recognized and appreciated. First, it was recognized by her parents, neighbors and teachers. Then, when she went to the University of Nebraska, her professors encouraged her to write and develop journalistic skills. These opportunities occurred despite her obvious non-conformist behavior. In Pittsburgh, the dominant cultural and literary groups in that city responded to her giftedness by encouraging her writing and teaching abilities. This led to her long time association with S.S. McClure who was responsible for starting her literary career. Cather is definitely an example of the "doer" in American society. But individuals such as Willa Cather can only become "doers" when their giftedness is recognized, and stimulated by excellent teachers, publishers and readers.
"Surrounded as we are today by a torrent of chat -- even our news is presented as chat on television -- it is difficult for us to cull the truth from the trivia. Our task is not to pull truth from lies nearly as much as it is to find the truth amidst the trivia. We are overstimulated, overinformed, oversold, and overloaded.
"Fewer and fewer Americans work in three-dimensional reality. Few farm. Few raise stock. Few fish. Few are doctors or veterinarians compared to the millions trapped in service-industry jobs or in repetitive tasks disconnected from a sense of accomplishment." From the Introduction to The Troll Garden and Selected Stories by Willa Cather (1990, Bantam Books) written by Rita Mae Brown.
JURASSIC PARK (AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT, 1993, PG-13)
DIRECTOR: STEVEN SPIELBERG
REVIEWED BY JONATHAN PLUCKER THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
Everyone who has had contact with children knows of their fascination with dinosaurs -- they usually put our knowledge of the prehistoric creatures to shame! Although many children (of all ages) have eagerly awaited Steven Spielberg's blockbuster Jurassic Park, I faced it with added anticipation, having recently read the novel upon which it is based and completed a unit on dinosaurs with some second grade students. At a recent science education conference, I also heard Robert Bakker, the paleontologist, correct many popular misconceptions about dinosaurs (e.g., dinosaurs dragged their tails, brontosaurs lived in swamps) and suggest some controversial scientific theories. (Dinosaurs were warm-blooded, birds evolved from dinosaurs.) His views on the Dinosauria are evident throughout Jurassic Park. The movie is adapted from Michael Crichton's bestseller, which was critically acclaimed for its technically correct handling of mathematical chaos theory, dinosaurs and paleontology, and technology, including genetic engineering and computer science.
However, the book is rather detailed in its description of the savagery of the dinosaurs, and many parents wonder whether they should take their children to see the movie. Spielberg is known for creating big budget, big profit movies suitable for both children and adults, and he does not disappoint with this effort. The violence is quite limited, and the gory scenes from the book are almost completely eliminated. They were replaced with breathtaking special effects that will convince you that the dinosaurs are real by the end of the movie. However, the film can get scary, so (as with any movie) parents of children under the age of 11 should view the movie before they bring their children to see it.
The scientific realism of the movie inspires numerous activities to use with children. Although the plot of the book and movie are similar, a great deal of the novel was eliminated. Comparing and contrasting the book with the film would be a constructive exercise, especially if the film was viewed first. (I had students as young as 10 years old read the book with little difficulty.) Bakker suggests taking children to a natural history museum to compare the carnivorous dinosaur skeletons with that of a chicken or turkey. (They are very similar.) Comparative biology can be used to note similarities between eating habits of birds of prey and carnivorous dinosaurs. (I've used owl pellets to make the lesson "hands on.") Even the computer technology used to make the movie (video "morphing") can be the subject of a worthwhile investigation. Numerous other activities, involving higher-order thinking skills and many areas of science, can also be used to compliment a viewing of the film. Jurassic Park is perhaps the most educationally useful and scientifically accurate film to come our way in 20 years -- with the accompanying burst in dinosaur books, models, TV programs (PBS' Dinosaurs!), and other products, now is the time to take advantage of Jurassic Park and dinosaur-mania!
"Dinosaurs should never be taken out of their historical context! To appreciate the adaptive dexterity of the Dinosauria, they must be viewed in their place within the succession of evolutionary dynasties. One of the greatest flaws in the orthodox conception of dinosaurs is that it ignores the evolutionary patterns prior to their appearance...." R. Bakker, 1986.