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VOLUME FIVE, NUMBER THREE
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It is with great pleasure that we have included the article by Dr. A. Harry Passow on the development of a high school for science, mathematics and the arts in Israel. He has been an important and courageous figure in the design of training programs for educators of the gifted, and his work on developing effective differentiated curricula has influenced many educators across the nation. Dr. Passow is retiring from his position at Teachers College, Columbia University in June 1991. We wish him much success in his retirement activities and hope to hear from him many times in the future regarding the education of gifted children. During Operation Desert Storm, he and his wife were visiting Israel, and they wore gas masks during the Scud missile attacks while waiting for the "all clear" message in their hotel's sealed room. Dr. Passow's description (based upon a paper given at the 1990 National Association for Gifted Children meeting in Little Rock) of the development and implementation of this high school for the gifted represents the culmination of a career marked by integrity and dedication to his students and to the field of gifted education. He describes an educational program for gifted Israeli students which was developed in an extreme environment marked by the reliance upon highly gifted individuals for its survival. The lessons we can learn from reading and studying this essay are closely related to our nation's survival as a major economic and political force in the world. It is not too late (although time is clearly short) for American politicians and educators to learn that our most important educational resource is its gifted students. They must be properly nurtured and educated for their own good and for the good of America. Another important lesson which the establishment of this outstanding high school for the gifted in the land of Israel teaches us is that adverse conditions can stimulate human beings to produce their greatest accomplishments. Since gifted education programs have been under siege and deadly attacks in such states as Kansas, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina and California during the last two years, this is a particularly apropos lesson for the survival of this field in the United States. We must meet these attacks head-on with renewed, united efforts and much stronger programs for our most important constituents, the gifted children who are identified in every school district in this nation.
The article by Jay Johnson discusses what he believes students at all grade levels should learn about computers. In his opinion, most so-called computer literacy programs are useless for educating them about the internal workings and functions of computers. Obviously, the type of computer knowledge and training Johnson advocates will also become more crucial to our nation's survival as we enter the 21st century. This is why he has written a wonderful, richly illustrated book entitled, What's Inside the Magic Box? Using Personal Computers in the 21st Century, which will be published by Gifted Education Press during the summer of 1991. Jay is a senior software engineer/computer scientist and a free lance writer. He has been working on software development for approximately ten years, and lives in Redmond, Washington with his wife and three daughters.
Mike Walters presents an interesting discussion of the Israeli writer, Amos Oz. It is important for gifted students to read modern writers from other countries to learn about the problems they have in common with us and the different problems they experience as a result of their unique political, economic and social environments. The writings of Amos Oz are an excellent starting point for this type of learning because this author exemplifies many of the human qualities which underlie giftedness -- high sensibility, creative imagination and deep insight into important problems.
Maurice D. Fisher, Ph.D. Publisher
DESIGNING THE CURRICULUM FOR A RESIDENTIAL HIGH SCHOOL FOR STUDENTS GIFTED IN ARTS OR SCIENCES
By A. Harry Passow, Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
On September 2, 1990, the Israel Arts and Sciences Academy, a three-year national residential high school located in West Jerusalem, opened its doors to 121 students -- 23 in music, 11 in art and 87 in science, nine of whom are double majors in music. The students include 10th and 11th grade boys and girls, Jews and Arabs, orthodox and non-orthodox Jews -- from 60 communities from all parts of their country.
The criteria for acceptance in the program were extremely rigorous. Teenagers were sought who excel in arts or sciences; have above-average academic ability; are diligent, dedicated and socially sensitive; and have the character and personality to strive for excellence. More than 700 students inquired about the school and 500 participated in the selection process. Following a nation-wide search which included a written examination, personal interviews and exhibits of their work and performance, 157 youth took part in a one-week workshop which was the final phase of screening and selection. The purpose of the workshop was to give these young people an opportunity to experience the kind of life they would lead in the school and for the school staff to see how the students interact with one another.
The workshop "classes" were varied and exciting with titles such as "Time and Anti-Time," "Boundaries" (a biology course in which the boundaries of science were examined) and "Periscope," in which the task is to arrange the mirrors inside a black box to form a periscope using computers. (Incidentally, the students found errors in the program which the Weizmann Institute had prepared.) The week was full of classes, sports, intellectual games, culture and sociability. During the afternoon, the youngsters demonstrated to their fellow students and teachers, something they had done during the week. At the close of the workshop, the staff had an evaluation session and selected those who would be invited to be in the first group of Academy students.
The quiet opening ceremony -- a simple ribbon cutting -- was the culmination of five years of planning. It is not very often that it is possible to design a school for the gifted "from scratch" and it is the process that will be described here.
In 1985, the Music Foundation, a Chicago-based foundation which had established and supported a summer music program for outstanding young musicians in Israel, and the Israeli Ministry of Education and Culture, decided to create a residential high school for 300 to 400 students excelling in the arts or sciences. Originally, the school was to be a four-year high school but, because the Ministry's policy was to establish three-year high schools, the planning focussed on a school encompassing grades 10-12. In order to accommodate gifted and talented youngsters from the entire nation and to create a total educational-social-cultural environment which would promote excellence, a residential setting was considered to be essential. Underlying the concept was the belief that the minds and talents of young people constitute the nation's most precious natural resource which needed to be nurtured if Israel were to survive.
Raphi Amram, the Israeli who directed and coordinated the Music Foundation's summer music program in Israel, became the Director of the Society for Excellence through Education, the organization created to design the school. The Henrietta Szold Institute (Israel's National Center for Research in the Behavioral Sciences), headed by Itzhak Friedman, was contracted to undertake a survey of Israel's provisions and programs for the gifted and to design and pilot test an identification system. A. Harry Passow and Abraham J. Tannenbaum were invited to serve as consultants. A Steering Committee was appointed with representatives from the Ministry of Education and the Foundation. An Advisory Committee consisted of representatives of all of Israel's universities and higher education institutions. An International Guidance Panel was appointed, consisting primarily of American scientists, mathematicians, artists, musicians and educators.
Elements of the Program Design
There are other secondary schools and other programs and provisions for the gifted in Israel. The Israel Academy needed dimensions and resources not otherwise available. We began by conceptualizing what a residential school program could bring to the education of the gifted. Obviously, a residential school makes possible a degree of intensity and a total learning environment not available in a regular school day. Moreover, the mix of youngsters gifted in the arts or mathematics and sciences in a residential setting makes possible certain kinds of experiences which could not otherwise be provided.
The aims proposed for the school emerged from the deliberations of the Steering Committee and were based in large part on the objectives proposed in the 57th Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education Yearbook entitled, Education for the Gifted (Passow, 1958, p. 194). They included the following:
●Developing and nurturing in the Arts and Sciences systematically to the highest degree possible from cognitive, social and affective perspectives.
●Fostering critical thinking methodically in various fields of study.
●Encouraging self-direction, independence, self-set goals and a love of learning.
●Promoting the desire to create and experiment with ideas and objects.
●Enhancing the ability to integrate and synthesize knowledge from different content areas in order to achieve extraordinary performance in a field of specialization.
●Fostering academic and social cooperation among students.
●Promoting interdisciplinary sensitivity and broadmindedness among students specializing in different aspects of the arts and sciences.
●Nurturing an understanding and appreciation of the cultural heritage bequeathed by societies, in general, and by the Jewish culture, in particular, through the ages.
●Helping students and parents to deal competently with themselves, and their world as human beings, citizens and parents.
●Providing students with self-understanding, inner consistency and ethical standards to see their own uniqueness in terms of responsibility to the community and to the country, thus developing a "social conscience."
●Creating an open system sensitive to students' needs with built-in mechanisms for self-improvement via formative and summative evaluation of the school program.
The Szold Institute's Interim Report commented on the outlines of the program design as follows:
"The exploration of the arts and sciences will be accomplished formally, via the school curriculum, and informally, via extracurricular enrichment, social and leisure-time activities and community service. By providing a comprehensive cultural environment, it is hoped that the program will be able to integrate cognitive aims with the usually somewhat neglected social and emotional aims. Thus, the program will meet the needs of gifted students in a more holistic and effective manner.
"Because of the intensive nature of the program and the emphasis on out-of-school enrichment, the school will be actively associated with top institutions, specializing in the arts and sciences (e.g., universities, research institutes, orchestras, etc.). The strong professional link to these institutions will enable students to utilize the most advanced facilities available (e.g., research laboratories). It is hoped that such institutions will offer their top professionals as mentors to guide the students' real- life enrichment experiences.
"...Schools that attempt to design programs for students of the arts and students of the sciences usually teach these groups separately by providing only limited opportunities to share learning experiences. The school we are planning aims at providing a program that will enhance the sensitivity of science and art students and lead to greater understanding and appreciation of each other's world. This understanding may be important in promoting the special ability to integrate and synthesize knowledge from different fields of the arts and sciences in order to produce creative ideas in the students' areas of specialization.
"Three kinds of innovative interdisciplinary studies are planned for the program:
a) Themes that cut across several fields of study in the arts and sciences, such as the industrial revolution and its implications for the arts and sciences.
b) Topics in one field of study that contribute to the understanding of other fields, such as the topic of probability and its applications for research in the social sciences, genetics, philosophy and modern art in the age of uncertainty.
c) Interdisciplinary subjects, such as ecology and architecture."
Various existing models and programs were reviewed and a variety of issues were explored. Tannenbaum proposed that curriculum content be based on a four-concentric ring design:
The innermost ring consists of the provision of first class training in specific fields of specialization. This training aims at nurturing extremely talented producers of ideas in their chosen field of specialization.
The second ring consists of general core studies and of interdisciplinary studies. This training aims at widening the cultural perspectives of the students and enhancing mutual sensitivity and appreciation between science students and art students by providing ample opportunities for cross fertilization across these disciplines.
The third ring pertains to the relationship of the school and community at large. The program will provide various opportunities for students to serve the community thereby enhancing a sense of responsibility and commitment to the community. Conversely, it is expected that the community will serve as a laboratory for out-of-school enrichment.
The fourth and outermost ring embraces the area of values, emphasizing a general humanistic orientation and promoting attachment and commitment to the country and to its people.
The concentric structure of the...rings does not imply that these contents are separate from one another. For instance, the humanistic value orientation will guide the community program and permeate general studies, interdisciplinary studies and the specialization studies. The relationship with the community may well serve to enhance the students' performance in their studies, as well as strengthen their service orientation. Aspects of the general and interdisciplinary studies may be integrated within the specialization studies, encouraging an increased richness of perspective.
It was decided that the initial areas of program specialization should focus on: (a) the exact sciences of mathematics and physics; (b) the life sciences of chemistry, biology and related sciences; (c) music; and (d) the visual/graphic arts. Dance and theater, for example, may be added at a later date. Our planning, then, focused on the general aims and content in each of the discipline areas, appropriate instructional strategies, interdisciplinary themes, community service and studies, values education, and mentoring. We gave attention to designing instructional settings and modes geared to promote self-directed and self-initiated learning. We have thought about problems of curriculum balance and maximal-minimal allocations for specialization studies, general studies, interdisciplinary subjects, service to the community, extracurricular and social activities. We have explored issues of balance and proportion between individual and group study. We have reflected on ways of ensuring that all students be eligible for university admission at the highest level within minimal time allocations. We have given attention to community service and involvement. We have explored strategies for evaluating the achievements of the students through their products and their performance.
We have attempted to define the role of teachers, administrators, guidance/counseling personnel and other role models in an educational setting of this kind. Our notion of "teachers" encompasses a variety of individuals who can instruct, counsel, provide role models, and create settings for learning in and out of school.
The curriculum and program have been developed over a period of years, working on several levels. Among the many activities focused on designing the curriculum were the following:
●A group of specialists from the Weizmann Institute has created a mathematics, science and computer curriculum for this population.
●A three-day symposium of some twenty-four members of the International Guidance Panel explored the kind of experiences and the overall climate and environment that needed to be developed to achieve the Academy's goals. Questions discussed included: What are the emerging trends with respect to interdisciplinary studies that we are to provide for these students? How should we link the arts and sciences and to what extent could this program involve cross-fertilization? How do we develop these students into caring people with a broad, humane outlook and develop them, as well, into leading producers and performers in their own fields? Why study arts and sciences together? As a consequence of the discussions, we felt we were on the right track in terms of identifying students, ideas about the overall curriculum, ideas about the 16-hour day and ideas concerning the outreach program, as well as ideas about the curriculum and the program serving as a model to upgrade Israeli education generally in the areas of curriculum, teacher training, and community development. The symposium also explored ideas concerning the identification, location, and education of the teaching staff and their continuing development.
●A four-day workshop hosted by Professor Isaiah Berlin was held in Oxford, England, to discuss the humanities curriculum for the Academy with 11 participants from Israel, England and the USA. World literature, general history, philosophy, current affairs, Hebrew literature and Jewish studies were reviewed under the rubric of the Humanities Curriculum. Using the "Great Books" model, the discussion concentrated on the criteria for selecting particular texts and how they should be taught within the context of the total program at school.
●A three-day symposium was held in cooperation with Indiana University on "Developing a Comprehensive Program for Teaching Visual Arts to Highly Able Teenage Students." Sixteen artists, art educators and general educators discussed the structure of an overall framework for the visual arts curriculum to be used at the Academy. In addition, participants discussed general aspects of teaching art to the gifted as well as aspects of screening and identification of students for the program.
●A three-day symposium was held in Chicago on "Interdisciplinary Studies and Mentorships for Gifted and Talented Secondary School Students." The discussions of the 20 members of the International Guidance Panel who participated aimed at providing guidance to the Academy staff as they developed curriculum for an interdisciplinary studies program and structured a mentorship program. The participants explored the purpose and structure of integrated studies.
●All of these activities and efforts, as well as others, were aimed at providing guidance and direction to the principal and the teachers as they engage in the development and implementation of the curriculum, the creation of the environment, and the designing of the outreach experiences for the school. As was underscored over and over at the various symposia, it is the teachers and the staff who will have to breathe life into the program. Staff selection is of course critical, but it is axiomatic that the development and implementation of a program of this kind requires continuing staff and program development. This has been recognized and the plan is to provide for continuing seminars, planning groups, and various other activities involving the staff with resource persons from different institutions and from the community. The principal, the department chairs, the teachers, and other staff members have all been appointed with the understanding that they will engage in extensive planning and development activities as they implement the program and fine-tune the curriculum and related learning experiences.
There were approximately 200 applications for the teaching positions -- including nine persons with doctorates in history, physics, biology, geology, mathematics, music and art. Many of the rest have master's degrees or will be earning them in the near future. There are a total of 42 teachers on the staff. Only the department chairpersons and a few others are full-time; the rest are part-time -- some teaching as few as three hours per week. This arrangement makes it possible to have a teaching staff with the depth and breath of experience needed to provide instruction as is appropriate. It is a relatively young group whose average age is 35. Among the courses which are being taught this year (1990-91) are history and philosophy of science, speech, literature, history, the Bible and related Jewish studies, English, French, Arabic, music, and the visual arts including painting, drawing and sculpture. The program aims at helping students learn how to learn.
The teaching methodology has been shifted from a direct frontal mode of lecture to splitting the class between lecture and individual or small group work. There is free time to do advanced extra studies on a highly individualized basis. Beginning some months ago, there have been workshops, seminars, and training sessions for staff members. In August 1990, for example, all department heads and teachers met for four days to orient the staff to the philosophy of the school, to discuss the prior planning which has occurred, and to explore the curriculum. Staff development continued through the school year. The task as the planners see it is to build the program properly and to empower the students and the staff along the axis of very humanistic, liberal ideas of education.
The core-required subjects and the subjects in the first two of Tannenbaum's concentric rings are accelerated, enriched, and individualized as is appropriate. The students' programs enable them to meet the Ministry's and the universities' requirements, but they also go far beyond.
An integral part of every student's schedule is devoted to what is called the "Community Action Leadership Program" (CALP). The purpose of this aspect of the program is to reinforce the student's knowledge of Israel's natural sites, civic institutions and people; to enhance a sense of responsibility and commitment toward his/her community and society; and to deepen the commitment to professional and political trends in Israel. CALP is implemented through three kinds of activities:
Field Trips. Two and three days every month are spent in field trips around the country. These trips cover natural landscape, industry, social institutions, local and national government and agency offices. The principal aim of these field trips is to learn, firsthand, what makes Israel such a unique country.
Community Work. Every student is required to undertake voluntary work in areas such as social services, health providing institutions, youth centers, family services, minority rights, education, ecology, senior citizens, neighborhood development or immigrant absorption. The school works closely with many existing organizations in evaluating the impact of the experience on the student and the recipient of his or her services.
Mentorships. The purpose of the mentorship is to allow students to become familiar with the professional community to which he or she may belong in the future. A further goal is to pair the student with a mentor who is a role model for success in his field of interest within Israel.
The school is designed as an open system, receiving feedback from various sources and adapting itself in response to students' and parents' needs. Preliminary plans have been formulated for both formative and summative evaluation of the program as an integral part of the curriculum. By December 1990, evaluation began regarding Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) and Actual Learning Outcomes (ALOs). Moreover, there will be ongoing, continuous study of individual students' cognitive and affective development and socialization, as well as the adjustment of groups.
The Discovery Program and Exploration Camp
Two interesting programs very closely related to the Academy are an outreach project called the Discovery Program and a summer Exploration Camp. Recognizing that young people in the so-called "peripheral areas" of Israel (i.e., disadvantaged neighborhoods in cities and developing towns) undoubtedly have a wide range of talents equal to their fellow students living in more advantaged locations, the Discovery Program and the Exploration Camp identify youngsters in these communities who display potential but may not have had the type of education or experiences needed to develop their real abilities. The goal of these programs is to help youngsters from disadvantaged communities to recognize and develop their potential so that they will be able to compete fairly for places at the Academy with youngsters who come form other, more advantaged communities. In short, we are trying "to level the playing field" for admission whereby every youngster will be selected on the basis of having met the rigorous requirements, and demonstrated potential talents.
The Discovery Program begins working with these students in the seventh grade, providing educational and culturally enriching activities outside of their regular school hours. The groups meet on a weekly basis in their home towns under the leadership of local teachers who are specially trained and guided by master teachers provided by the Society for Excellence through Education. The Discovery Program focuses on four areas: Mathematics, science, music and the plastic or visual arts. In addition, the groups are taken on field trips to museums, concerts and other culturally broadening events in the large cities.
The Discovery Program began at four sites, has expanded to nine sites, and will continue to expand in the future as the Ministry of Education and Culture adopts the concept. It is clear that this program is having an exciting impact on each of the communities in which it operates. Teachers working in the program have become leaders in the quest for excellence in all educational settings. The youngsters in the Discovery Program have shown significant improvement in their academic studies and the development of their personal talents. And most important, during the screening process for the first classes, a number of these boys and girls qualified for admission to the Israel Arts and Science Academy -- which was a major purpose of the Discovery Program.
The Exploration Camp for Music and Science is cosponsored by the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Society for Excellence through Education. Students who are 12 through 14 years, half selected for their special talent in music and the other half for their proven giftedness in mathematics, spend 10 days at the Institute studying and exploring various facets of music and science, and how they relate to one another. During the morning, the focus is on music or science, depending on the child's interests and strengths. The afternoon workshops integrate science and music students for activities of mutual interest, oriented to a common study theme. These students are potential candidates for the Academy as well.
It is clear that involvement in designing the Israel Academy of Arts and Science is a very exciting experience. It provides an unusual set of challenges: What if you could design an ideal program for the identification and nurturing of an exceptionally able group of youngsters -- intellectually able and unusually talented? What would you do? What do you think constitutes a total learning environment -- a 24-hour environment -- for such a group of youngsters? What can one acquire from such a program about learning processes, curriculum, teaching, and the nurturing of excellence that is applicable to other schools and other programs?
The dream was expressed in the early promotion brochure: If Israel is to survive, she must encourage her youth to shine and nurture her most gifted people, who will become the country's future leaders. But to reach their potential, these students need a place to grow where their special talents will be nourished. That place is the Israel Arts and Science Academy.
We believe that leadership does not refer to a privileged elite but rather to individuals fulfilling their potential for outstanding performance in a socially valuable area. If any nation or society is to survive, it must encourage the identification of talent potential and its nurture. The Academy provides us with an opportunity to play out our ideas concerning the attainment of excellence. Participating in the planning and designing of such a school is a continuous and continuing learning experience. And, once again, among the important lessons learned is that as we provide adequate and appropriate experiences for the most able students, we come to understand how we can upgrade the quality of learning for all youngsters.>>
Passow, A. H. (1958) "Enrichment of education for the gifted," in Henry, N. A., ed. Education for the Gifted. 57th Yearbook, Part II, National Society for the Study of Education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
DEVELOPING COMPUTER KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
By Jay Johnson
I am not a professional educator of gifted children, but I think the perspective I offer as a computing professional will be valuable to those who are. I write as a computer scientist, parent, and youth leader who has taught many young people about computing. Additionally, I have interviewed many engineers and scientists to discover which youthful experiences were crucial in the development of their love for science, mathematics, and computing. I have also studied the works of Seymour Papert (the inventor of the LOGO computing language) and the works of other experts in computer science education. To these experiences, I add ten years in the field of computer science.
Recently, in a well-respected periodical, I saw an advertisement which frightened me a little even though I had often seen and heard such things. The description said the elementary school-age girl in the picture was not playing the latest video game but was "mastering a powerful computer." Further reading revealed she was actually using a menu-driven computer program to learn Spanish and spelling. Instead of a computer being mastered by a child, it was being used to program useful information into a child's mind.
True computer mastery consists of knowing how computers work and how to focus the power of a computer in different ways to accomplish a variety of useful tasks. The keys to having this capability lie in understanding how computer hardware works, how to use software tools, and knowing some computer programming.
After reading the January 1991 issue of Teacher Magazine, my fear is that not only has the mass media misunderstood what mastering computing means, but that this dangerous misconception has permeated education as well. If parents and teachers have an incorrect understanding of what it means to learn computing, they cannot teach it and the future success of their students is in jeopardy.
Why Computer Mastery?
From the predictions of most experts, we can be assured that the power, importance, and pervasiveness of computers in the next century can hardly be overestimated. Forward-thinking educators in some industrialized countries are preparing young gifted students to truly understand computing technology. In the United States, we have hardly begun. We have placed computers in a few of our elementary and secondary schools, and some students use these computers for word processing, drawing, and drill in core subject areas. But this does little for the role computers should play in their futures.
There is no endeavor involving the human intellect which will not require some proficiency with one or more computer software programs. The more capable a user is, the greater advantage he or she will have. But the greatest advantage one could have is the knowledge of what computing is all about. Software programs to perform specific tasks will come into and out of vogue as time passes. Knowing what makes computers tick from the inside out will always prepare one to select the right computing configuration, including processing, memory, operating systems, application software, networking, peripheral hardware, etc., and to customize it as necessary. Those who do not have this knowledge will always be slaves to the technology, not its master, and will become the servants of those who have it.
For most students, it appears that the path to computing power is blocked. Unless a student comes from a home in which computers are well used and understood, he or she probably has little chance of learning the computer mastery needed for success in science, engineering, or many other professions. Where will the engineers and scientists needed to power the American economy come from in the next century? It seems we are not doing enough in our schools to produce them.
Teachers complain that most of their students are either frightened of, or apathetic about science. It is a tragedy that this is the case, but why can't we at least find those gifted students who hear and understand the call of science technology? They won't usually come up and volunteer, but must be enticed by demonstrated technology and given a clear path to computing knowledge.
The crisis in American science and mathematics education is well documented. Children are too often either bored or frightened by these subjects. Even students who have many learning advantages are often "mathophobic," or feel that math and science will not be important in their careers. Students in our country score lower on math and science tests than students in any other industrialized nation because they are weak in analytical and critical reasoning. It is difficult to apply hard thinking to any problem, so many of our students choose not to do so. Most students will only master difficult material if they can find enjoyment in discovering and applying it to real life. Computers can provide the opportunities for both learning and applying science and math concepts. However, before they can truly learn through computing, they must first develop computing mastery.
By this, I do not mean that students should just know how to use a computer. The phrase, "knowing how to use a computer," is like the phrase, "knowing how to use a piano." While almost anyone can strike a few keys and get a response, only a few are concert pianists. Between these extremes, are tens of thousands of pianists who have mastered their instruments. The goal of gifted students and educators must be to become masters of the computer.
Computer knowledge is not merely something which should be on the list of things every truly educated person must know, as are the works of Shakespeare and the poems of Robert Frost. Our knowledge of computer science will, in large measure, determine the very survival of our economy and perhaps the future of the world.
Models for Learning
Computers themselves are not a panacea for the problems of education. However, a good computing curriculum applied diligently can help to pull American education out of the math/science crisis.
In his book, Mindstorms (1980), Seymour Papert explains that children must have concrete models on which to build an understanding of abstract ideas. He explains that as a child, he became fascinated by the interactions of rotating gears; visualizing and building them until they became vehicles for understanding mathematical concepts. My childhood models were jet aircraft, submarines, and rockets. I was driven to eventually learn the physics and calculus which make these marvels work. On the way to gaining this knowledge, however, I fell in love with the ultimate model; the computer.
As Dr. Papert explains, a properly programmed computer can become a model for anything a child has to learn. Very little cannot be presented graphically using a computer -- from the motions of planets to the formation of molecules. Unfortunately, most schools don't have access to computers and software sophisticated enough to provide the opportunity for children to play with a variety of scientific concepts and relationships via computer.
With this in mind, Papert proposes that children learn computer programming via drawing pictures with the LOGO computer language. This language will also help teach them the logical and analytical abilities required for success in science and math. In addition, he believes that by engaging in computing, young children can acquire computing skills in much the same way language is learned. They will have far greater proficiency in computing than those who must try to learn it as a "second language."
"First language" computing mastery serves as a magnifying glass for learning. Imagine how much more a student could learn in all other subjects if he/she could mobilize a computer to illustrate a principle, analyze data, study topics via computer- based libraries, illustrate the character interactions in a story, graph functions and formulas, or balance anything from chemical reactions to budgets.
Even if the foregoing is true, the question remains: Can this be accomplished? Not only can it be done, it must be done. If American children are to compete successfully in the world economy, they must not be just "computer literate" or "know how to use a computer." They must be masters of computing, just as they must master English or history. One of the primary goals of our educational system must be to teach the kind of computer proficiency that will allow gifted students to use their computers to assist in learning any subject or in applying learning.>>
AMOS OZ, AUTHOR: EXEMPLAR OF THE SENSIBILITY OF GIFTEDNESS
By Michael E. Walters
New York City Public Schools
During the last 43 years of its existence, the nation of Israel has been under a political siege where violence and death occur daily. This condition requires a cadre of gifted individuals to survive. Without these individuals, Israel with a population of 4 million would be physically overwhelmed by approximately 25 million hostile opponents. Moreover, the political act of creating Israel and the reclaiming of its arid landscape into fertile orchards requires the work of extremely gifted individuals.
The primary instrument of development for the modern state of Israel was the kibbutz. This is a collective farm, which unlike its relative in the Soviet Union, is managed in a democratic manner. The kibbutz originated as a response of the Zionist Halutzim (pioneers) to their survival in a bleak landscape which was eventually developed into a nation-state. This unique social institution was perceived by many contemporary thinkers such as the philosopher, Martin Buber, as an alternative to corporate capitalism and state socialism.
Amos Oz was a teenager when he left Jerusalem to join a kibbutz. He therefore represents the type of personality who was influenced by living on a kibbutz. He also represents the type of gifted individual necessary for Israel's creation and survival. Oz has been a school teacher, novelist, journalist, and a veteran of several wars with Israel's neighbors. He is also an advocate of the dovish position that seeks a working dialogue between Palestinians and Jews. He is one of the leading writers in not only modern Israel, but is recognized as one of the most significant writers in the world today and a potential Nobel Prize winner for literature.
Oz's books express the fascinating sensibility of Israel composed of three cultural layers. The first layer is the Biblical temperament as expressed in the religiosity of the modern Israeli and in the modern Hebrew language. This language originated from the liturgical Hebrew found in religious worship. The second layer is that of the Diaspora Jew, especially those from Europe. Oz's parents were from Eastern Europe and were representative of the ferment there prior to and just after World War I. This part of Europe was influenced by many intellectual concepts referred to as "modernity." These concepts were responsible for innovations in such fields as psychotherapy, linguistics, philosophy, sociology, economics, art and music. The third layer of culture which has influenced Amos Oz is a product of the modern Middle East and is referred to by Israelis as the "Sabra" mentality. A Sabra is an individual, who like the prickly pear cactus with the same name, is tough on the outside and tender inside. Oz's literary output reflects these three layers of Israeli and Jewish culture.
He has written novels about the crusades, and life in Europe and the Middle East. His latest book, To Know a Woman, is a about a retiree from the Israeli Mossad, the government intelligence network. The main protagonist, Yoel, discovers that the real mysteries are those of everyday life. While pondering his former job, he describes the traits necessary for working in the Mossad: "The important things were sensitivity to impressions, intuitive judgment, character assessment and patient bargaining skills." Some of these traits are obviously indicators of giftedness. Amos Oz, through his writings and expressions of the reality of modern Israel, is also an exemplar of these traits and of the sensibility underlying giftedness.>>
Selected Bibliography for Gifted Students and Their Teachers
Books by Amos Oz:
My Michael. New York: Random House, 1972.
Unto Death. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.
In the Land of Israel. New York: Random House, 1984.
Black Box. New York: Random House, 1989.
The Hill of Evil Counsel. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.
To Know a Woman. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.
Parini, Jay (1991, April 14). The Land of Oz. The New York Times Magazine, pp. 44-49.
Staff (1991, April 15). Portrait: Israel's Willful Conscience. U.S. News & World Report, pp. 62-63.
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Publisher's Message: We wish you a restful and interesting summer, and hope you read a few books that will stimulate your future work with the gifted. Besides the works of Amos Oz, we highly recommend Palace Walk (Anchor Books, 1990) by the Egyptian Nobel Laureate, Naguib Mahfouz. He has been called "the Dickens of the Middle East" and we strongly agree!
Please write us with any comments you might have on the articles which have appeared in this newsletter. We welcome your comments (positive or negative) and look forward to reading them.