Excerpts from Gifted Education Press Quarterly   Fall 1999   Volume 13, No. 4

Poems by Rita Dove from Her Latest Book

From On The Bus With Rosa Parks (1999, W.W. Norton & Co., Inc.)

(Reprinted by permission of the author.)

The First Book

Open it.


Go ahead, it won't bite.

Well . . . maybe a little.


More a nip, like. A tingle.

It's pleasurable, really.


You see, it keeps on opening.

You may fall in.


Sure, it's hard to get started;

remember learning to use


knife and fork? Dig in:

You'll never reach bottom.


It's not like it's the end of the world—

just the world as you think


you know it.


For Sophie, Who'll Be

in First Grade in the Year 2000

No bright toy

this world we've left you.

Even the wrapping

is torn, the ribbons

grease-flecked and askew.

Still, it's all we have.


Wait a moment before

you pick it up. Study

its scratches, how it

shines in places. Now

love what you touch,

and you will touch wisely.


May the world, in your hands,

brighten with use. May you

sleep in sweet breath and

rise always in wonder

to mountain and forest,

green gaze and silk cheek—


dear Sophie,

littlest phoenix.


Freedom: Bird’s-Eye View

The sun flies over the madrigals,

outsmarting the magisterial

wits, sad ducks

who imagine they matter.

What a parade! Wind tucks

a Dixie cup up its

sleeve, absconds

with a kid̓s bright chatter

while above, hawks

wheel as the magistrates circle

below, clutching their hats.


I̓m not buying. To watch

the tops of 10,000

heads floating by on sticks

and not care if one of them

sees me (though it

would be a kick!)

—now, that's

what I'd call


and justice,

and ice cream for all.


Book Reviews from April-May 1999 Issue of Gifted Education News-Page

Days of Grace: A Memoir (1993, Ballantine Books) by Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersad – Following the premature death in 1993 of the world champion tennis player, Arthur Ashe, from AIDS (transmitted by a blood transfusion administered during heart surgery), his hometown supporters in Richmond, Virginia wanted to place his statue along this city's famous Monument Avenue -- a street lined with huge warlike statues of famous Confederate generals such as Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart and Stonewall Jackson.  Of course, this location was strongly opposed by the old Confederate sympathizers who are still prominent as the last holdouts of the "Old South."  Fortunately, their cause lost again because today one can view the serene likeness of Ashe prominently displayed along this long and wide street near the once segregated tennis courts where he learned the game and developed his world class skills.  This book is about a man of high athletic and intellectual abilities whose final struggles with heart disease and AIDS made him an even greater hero than he attained through sports.  

During his brilliant tennis career, he played on the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1963-70, 1975 and 1977-78.  He was captain of this team from 1981-85. In 1975, he became the first black to win the Wimbledon singles and the World Championship singles. He received worldwide attention in 1970 when the government of South Africa banned him from playing in that country's open tournament because of his outspoken views on apartheid. During his final years, he was involved in setting up an AIDS education and support foundation -- the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS.

Throughout the book, he demonstrates his humility and intellectual strength.  When discussing his father's influence on his life and values, he said, ". . .it is crucial to me that people think of me as honest and principled. In turn, to ensure that they do, I must always act in an honest and principled fashion, no matter the cost." (p. 3).  His sensibility to art reveals a man whose interests transcended winning the next tennis game: "Of the old masters, the work of Rembrandt moves me more than any other. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on Fifth Avenue in New York City, I have several times studied his celebrated Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer. . .In other museums in other cities around the world, taking time off from the tennis tournaments that usually had brought me there, I used to seek out his quiet, brooding self-portraits, or his wonderful group paintings, or his more modest but accomplished etchings. . . ."  (p. 39).  Later in his discussion of Rembrandt, he says, ". . .But although his last years were unhappy, most critics agree that Rembrandt's art in this period was not only technically superior to that of his happier years but also much richer in spiritual and psychological insight. I wasn't surprised to read this judgment, because I have always been a firm believer in the therapeutic value of adversity. Of all people, athletes must reach an accommodation with losing, and learn to make the best of it." (p. 40). For the athletically and intellectually gifted student, there are few role models who are better than Arthur Ashe.

Sports in America (1976, Fawcett Crest) by James A. Michener – During the fall of 1960, the author, a group of movie stars and a famous sports figure flew into eleven states to provide support for John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.  The powerful attraction that athletes have for American citizens was clearly demonstrated when the plane landed one dark and windy evening at a small Nebraska airport.  After introducing various Hollywood celebrities and Ethel Kennedy to the crowd with little effect, "a low rumble rose from the crowd. . .and one man shouted, 'It's Stan the Man' [the baseball great, Stan Musial, of the St. Louis Cardinals]. And a great cry rose from the night, and Musial walked into the glare, a tall, straight man in his late thirties, an authentic American hero, and the men fell back to let him pass." (p. 300).  Michener's book analyzes the reasons why Americans have such a passion for athletes in baseball, football, basketball and other major sports, and by doing so, he  helps educators to understand what they must do to cause more interest and support for education programs for the gifted.  Although this book was published over twenty years ago, it is still relevant today in providing information about the relationship between high athletic performance and high intellectual achievement.  The thirteen chapters plus the epilogue provide a comprehensive assessment of the culture of sports in American society; these chapters discuss such current issues as the relationship between sports and health, children and sports, women and sports, the role of sports in higher education, the aging athlete, what happens to athletes after they retire from sports, and the impact of aggression and violence upon athletes and fans.  Educators of the gifted should review Michener's analysis from the perspective of learning how to increase interest and funding for their programs by adapting some of the concepts and applications that have made sports in America so successful. Michener was both an avid fan of various sports and an athlete.  His life demonstrated that great intellectual achievements can go hand in hand with a love for the sporting life.

The Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey and the Making of an American Dance Company (1996, The University of Chicago Press) by Sasha Anawalt is about an individual who had an extraordinary ability to express his feelings and understanding of the world through dance and choreography.  Although the area of dance has been traditionally ignored by the public schools as a form of giftedness, the author shows that it involves a type of intelligence which is distinct from the areas measured on standardized tests of intelligence.  Gardner's Multiple Intelligences theory (1983) would place dance in the area of Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence.  Bobby Joffrey (1928-88) demonstrated his extraordinary ability at a young age:  "Bobby seemed unstoppable. Years later, when asked, 'How long have you wanted a ballet company?' Bobby responded, 'Since I was nine years old.'  Everywhere he went, he danced. One afternoon in fifth grade at Summit Elementary, after weeks of rain, when the physical education teacher had run out of ideas for indoor sports activities, Bobby offered to teach them all how to polka.  'I taught the boys and girls and we polkaed around the room,' he said. 'I was always planning.  In school I would do little plays and direct them and make people do things and decorate. . . .' "   (From The Joffrey Ballet [1996, p. 26] by Sasha Anawalt). Dance was considered by his peers to be for "sissies." But Joffrey's parents, family and the performing arts community of Seattle, Washington, strongly supported his efforts to develop into a world class performer.  After studying in Seattle and New York under some of the greatest dance teachers, he formed the Joffrey Ballet Company which became world renowned for its classical and modern dance interpretations. For all youth interested in a career in dance and their teachers, the author tells a fascinating story about how this type of intelligence can be nurtured and fulfilled.


Understanding Our Present Century Through Reading the Works of Goethe

by Michael E. Walters   Center for the Study of the Humanities in the Schools

This New Year’s Eve will be a celebration of two milestones, the coming of a new millennium and century. It is more productive to access a century than a millennium. A millennium encompasses too much data to intellectually focus upon. However, a century can give us insight into our mistakes and achievements so that we can seek lessons for future behavior. This final year of the twentieth century is the 250th anniversary of the German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). Although he lived more than 150 years ago, his life and concerns are relevant to the problems of our century.

Among the major issues of this century, and especially the present, are those of totalitarianism, nationalism and fanaticism. Goethe’s masterpiece was an epic poem called Faust (1797-1801). It is about how a frustrated scholar makes a pact with the devil in order to obtain unlimited power and success. A century after Goethe’s death, there came to power in Germany a Faustian individual. This person was Adolph Hitler, who sought to be the Führer, the maximum leader to whom all citizens of the nation had to give blind allegiance. The movement that Hitler led, National Socialism (Nazism), was also Faustian. It attempted to dominate the world and create an empire based on racial attributes – the superiority of the so-called Aryan race. Goethe was able to capture this yearning of the individual to have complete success in politics and one’s personal life. Totalitarian regimes are able through mass propaganda to make this yearning a collective desire. By studying Faust, gifted students can obtain insights into the major mania of the twentieth century – the glorification of the leader and the nation. It was not just Nazi Germany that has represented this phenomenon, but also communist Russia, Mao’s cultural revolution in China, Pol Pot in Cambodian, Milosevic in Serbia, and the entire worldwide stew of political tyranny and mass murder. The struggle between Faust for his redemption and the devil (Mephistopheles) is a metaphor for this struggle.

Goethe’s Faust can be contrasted for gifted students with works by two twentieth-century German writers: Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving (1956) and Martin Buber’s I and Thou (1923). Both Fromm and Buber lived through the horrendous period of Nazi Germany (1933-45). One of Faust’s chief yearnings is the power to seduce women. However, he learns that love must not be a game for personal manipulation. What Faust originally sought was a reflection of his own self, egotistical pleasure and power over another human being. Fromm in The Art of Loving describes how love must be mutual and grounded in the development of one’s personality. It is a process of self-growth, not a mere power game. Buber in I and Thou sees a dual universal interaction between the I-It where one uses other people as objects. In contrast, the I-Thou is built upon dialogues between individuals. For Buber and Fromm, love is expressed in one’s relationship with other human beings, nature, animals and art.

Goethe also represents another difficulty for individuals in the twentieth century – how to be a participant in one’s own culture and be universal (multi-cultural) in one’s outlook. He was self-consciously German and European. By European, he meant to be cosmopolitan – an interest in all nations and cultures of Europe. Goethe spent his middle age in Italy, absorbing the culture of classic Rome and the Renaissance. In his older years, he studied the writers of Persia, India and China. He spoke out against the provincialism expressed by nationalism and pleaded for personal tolerance.