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During the last three months, I have been reading and observing  mailing lists and newsgroups on the Internet.  The participants have been mainly teachers, parents and graduate students.  For anyone concerned with the future of gifted children in the United States, these discussion groups present a fascinating picture of their ideas on such topics as the pros and cons of acceleration, discussions of mathematics and science curricula for the gifted, statements from parents about their young gifted children's future in the public schools, disapproval of the use of a single test score to identify gifted children, opposition to abolishing Javits legislation for research on gifted education, and criticisms of heterogeneous grouping.  The variety and volume of discussions are amazing and sometimes frustrating and outrageous. However, they generally indicate strong interest among parents, teachers, librarians and school administrators in providing the gifted with the best possible and most challenging education.

It is difficult to summarize discussions of these topics.  But it appears that most of the discussants who address matters related to classroom organization believe that hetero-geneous grouping-inclusion-cooperative learning (HG-I-CL) are detrimental to gifted children.  Regarding curriculum, they are searching for rigorous subject matter materials to help teachers present a differentiated curriculum.  These Interneters are not going “the way the wind is blowing” by supporting the HG-I-CL classroom.  

Participate in the Internet mailing lists and newsgroups (GIFTEDNET-L, TAGFAM, TAG-L and K12.ED.TAG) to learn about different viewpoints expressed by parents and teachers.  These viewpoints are not evident in articles published in the national journals such as the Gifted Child Quarterly and Roeper Review.  In many ways, the Internet groups are more supportive of differential education for  the gifted than is apparent in the academic community.  

The Internet is like a very open, democratic, chaotic, Wild-West environment.  Everyone is equal; they can usually say what they want -- and they do! Anyone can receive resounding support or get “shot-down” very quickly.  It provides a healthy means for openly discussing issues of great importance to our nation’s gifted children.  In  a  free society such as ours, this is obviously how it should be.  How these sometimes raucous discussions can translate into immediate positive action for gifted education is not clear.  In subsequent issues of GEPQ, I will discuss the benefits of other areas of the Internet such as the World Wide Web.

This issue introduces four new authors associated with Gifted Education Press.  Ross Butchart has been a teacher and administrator in the Vancouver, British Columbia school system for over twenty-five years. He has taught grades 4 through 7 in both open area and closed classrooms, and developed one of the first grade 7 literature based programs in his district. While teaching in an elementary-middle school program for gifted students, he conceived of using quotations to create enriching classroom activities -- an idea that led to writing his book, Quotations for Creative Insights and Inspiration: A Quotations Based Humanities Curriculum for Gifted Students and Their Teachers in Middle and High School (1995). Butchar's article includes the rationale for using great quotations to teach the gifted about the great ideas of Western civilization. In this regard, Gifted Education Press has published nine books that emphasize a humanities curriculum for the gifted.  Hundreds of school districts have used these books in their differential education programs.

The authors of the second article are Patricia A. Gabriel, Ann M. De Young and Sandra K. Bajema of Jenison and Grandville Public Schools in Michigan. They have completed a book entitled, Outcomes for Gifted Learners (1995) that will be published by Gifted Education Press in the Fall of 1995.  GEPQ also published a detailed article by them in the Summer 1994 issue that discussed how specific axioms from Dr. Virgil S. Ward’s Differential Education for the Gifted (DEG) theory can be applied to designing an Outcomes Based Curriculum.  The current article is excepted from their forthcoming book, and summarizes the key ideas contained in their OBE model of gifted education.  Their imagination and creativity are demonstrated in their choice of a “swimming metaphor” to show how Ward’s theory can be applied to the classroom.

Michael E. Walters examines multicultural education and the gifted child.  He shows how the sculptor Constantin Brancusi, the composer Igor Stravinsky and the writer Ernest Hemingway were all dyed-in-the-wool multi-culturalists.

                                                                        Maurice D. Fisher, Ph.D., Publisher      Gifted Education Press





How much do you really know?  Let's try a short quiz.  Quickly identify the authors of the following quotations.  I have even organized space for you to complete the correct answers:

1.  "The pen is mightier than the sword."


2.  "Wonders will never cease."


3.  "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."


Admit it!  Even though these are well known quotations you probably had difficulty identifying the author of even one of the three.  Yet why should this be so?   Have quotations today diminished in value to become nothing more than challenges in a game of Trivial Pursuit?

I trust not.  For I believe they are very much more than a source of entertainment.  Quotations are succinct expressions which capture man's ten thousand years of recorded history while a citizen of this earth.  Those that survive from the past have done so because they best embody the distinguishing qualities of human character, the good as well as the bad -  all hopes and ambitions, all despairs and anguishes, all virtues and excellencies, all vicissitudes and tribulations, even all hatreds and bigotries. Quotations are, in essence, the very voice of history expressed through the words of those who lived a finite period within its span.  And as Clifton Fadiman reminds, "We are all citizens of history."

I first became aware of the power of quotations as a unique learning resource when I was asked to teach a multi-grade class (grades 4-7) of gifted students four years ago.  Like many when confronted with a new challenge about which they have partial knowledge, I first wanted to know what literature existed in the field of my ignorance that could offer insight and suggest a direction I might pursue.  But while my investigation was ambitious, I soon became overwhelmed by the absence of helpful information.

A spate of resource manuals and other writings abounded, of that there was no doubt.  But most seemed published to address issues and complexities surrounding identification of the gifted or to explain the many curriculum models in existence, areas of interest more for the bureaucratic mandarins of the educational system or the gurus of educational theory, rather than to offer useful guidance for the classroom teacher.

Frustrated by this emphasis on process over product, I was reminded of the wisdom of John W. Gardner (Self-Renewal: The Individual and The Innovative Society. Harper & Row, 1963, p. 58):

“But goals are achieved by some means, and sooner or later even the most impulsive man of action will discover that some ways of achieving the goal are more effective than others.  A concern for how to do it is the root impulse in all great craftsmanship, and accounts for all of the style in human performance.  Without it we would never know the peaks of human achievement.

“Yet, ironically, this concern for 'how it is done' is also one of the diseases of which societies die.  Little by little, preoccupation with method, technique and procedure gains a subtle dominance over the whole process of goal seeking. How it is done becomes more important than whether it is done.  Means triumph over ends.  Form triumphs over spirit.  Method is enthroned. Men become prisoners of their procedures, and organizations that were designed to achieve some goal become obstacles in the path to that goal.

“A concern for 'how to do it' is healthy and necessary.  The fact that it often leads to an empty worship of method is just one of the dangers with which we have to live.”

This is not to say I did not find the readings interesting and informative.  But limited as most were to outlining specific management processes or extolling the accomplishments of the likes of Bloom, Taylor, Williams, Krathwohl, and Renzulli - "preoccupation with method" at best - they offered few, if any, practical solutions to my immediate  problem.   

I was teaching in a seventy-year-old building.  My classroom possessed a heating system which, at random, turned this setting either into a freezer or a sauna, and a total of two electrical outlets, neither of which allowed two devices to be used simultaneously without tripping the breaker panel.  I had a variety of subject textbooks for the grades I was teaching, a small collection of novels, and one archaic computer complete with tractor printer - but no software for its use.  With these I was to achieve wonders.

Furthermore, I was a firm believer - and still am - in the principle of Stephen R. Covey, "Begin with the end in mind."  This I felt was the way to prevent myself from becoming a prisoner of procedures and adopting 'an empty worship of method.' Yes, I had a definite vision of the qualities I hoped to inculcate in my students and understood the methods by which I hoped to accomplish my goals.   But a unique curriculum comprising a content that would stimulate the interests and challenge the intellects of my young charges was a very necessary component of the total scheme.  Yet content, for all intents and purposes, was regarded as little more than an open-ended consideration of minor significance.  

Finally, I looked to areas where I might create my own curriculum.  Eventually I decided to test the possibilities of two relatively common but overlooked resources: articles selected from the local newspapers, and quotations selected from the annals of recorded thought.  For several days I put in considerable time selecting appropriate materials and creating activities to adapt them for use in the classroom.

It was not long, however, before I realized the truth in what Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) had stated so eloquently in the last century, "The wisdom of the wise and the experience of the ages are perpetuated by quotations."  They were truly a remarkable teaching resource that held considerable benefit, but had remained virtually untapped, their potential ignored, for no other reason than their merits had never been investigated. This was an oversight that clearly warranted correction.


Quotations are an introduction to the great thinkers of history.                     

Unfortunately, many students regard great ideas as exclusive products of the modern era, even of their own lifetime.  Such a notion imposes limitations which only distort historical reality and narrow the perspective of its believer.  For such as these George Santayana's statement that, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  might better read, "Those who do not recognize the past are condemned to ignorance of its lessons."  And one as great as Lao Tzu (c. 604-531 B.C.) certainly knew of its many lessons:

"Hold fast to the way of antiquity In order to keep in control the realm of today."

As did Thomas Moore:

"Our Renaissance and Romantic ancestors, as well as Freud, Jung, and Hillman and their colleagues, all turn to the past for a renewal of their imaginations."

The lessons of history are indeed many in number.

Consider how most recall that Abraham Lincoln once stated, "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.  This expresses my idea of democracy."  Yet some 1500 years earlier Aristotle observed, "Democracy arose from men's thinking that if they are equal in any respect, they are equal absolutely."  We can be certain, though, that if anyone was influenced by the other, it was Lincoln who was influenced by the writings of Aristotle - not the reverse.  

Gifted students are definitely not beyond an awareness that much wisdom resides in the depths of history.  They can fully appreciate how great people of the modern era were moved by the words of those from previous generations.  This realization has educational potential in that it allows them the challenge of discovering and studying the lives of great thinkers from the past whose ideals influenced those in more modern times.  Thus, the inspirational teacher is able to structure assignments through which his students understand and value the continuity of history.

Quotations are an introduction to the context in which historical events unfold.

History does not occur in a vacuum.  When Marie Antoinette declared, "Then let them eat cake." she did so in the context of political, religious, social, and economic conditions that existed at the onset of the French Revolution.  Her quotation invites gifted students not only to investigate these conditions, but to expand their findings beyond basic research to include questions such as:

- Did similar conditions exist during revolutionary periods in other countries (e.g. The American Revolution, The Russian Revolution)?  

- Did similar conditions exist at other times but not result in revolutionary activities (e.g. The Great Depression)?

- What significance does Marie Antoinette's quotation have that has allowed it to remain a part of historical account to this day?

- Are there other quotations that reveal how political leadership was woefully ignorant of reality (e.g. "I believe it is peace for our time."  - Neville Chamberlain, September 30, 1938)?

Through such comparisons and explorations students are subtly taught to seek the context of meaning in which events occur. Thus, they learn that events themselves are frequently only the symptom of a greater malaise.

One characteristic of the creative person is his ability to perceive a realistic impression of history.  For when someone disassociates himself from present time and forms new imaginative connections with the way things were during a previous era he is forced to invoke many of the dominant characteristics of this trait.   James C. Coleman elaborates on the benefits: "Human progress has always depended most on those . . . whose minds are endlessly receptive and flexible and active."    

Here again quotations are valuable in that they supply a solid plank in a curriculum framework that allows the gifted student to expand his creativity.  For how else to gain an accurate perception of history but to explore the insights of those who lived it?

Quotations allow students to confront contradiction.

Consider the following quotations:

"The great creative individual is capable of more wisdom and virtue than collective man ever can be." - John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

"No member of a crew is praised for the rugged individuality of his rowing." - Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Both authors lived during the same time period.  Both are renowned as men of scholarly repute. Yet obviously both cannot be correct. So whom do we believe?

A conundrum such as the above poses a stimulating intellectual challenge for the gifted student.  It also satisfies the theorists in that its demands on the student fall within the parameters of many curriculum models.  For example, in terms of Bloom's Taxonomy it fits well within the Evaluation dimension - the domain requiring the highest level of cognitive skill.  Given the problem of determining whether the individual or the group is capable of greater accomplishment the student must formulate viable criteria which support a reasonable solution.  What should these criteria be?  What measures should be established as tests of their validity?

In terms of William's model for implementing cognitive and affective behaviors it promotes a Tolerance for Ambiguity - a key strategy of teaching within its three-dimensional framework.  The two quotations, taken together as a contradictory riddle, provide a situation intended to puzzle thinking within an open-ended challenge.  While valuable as an intellectual activity alone, this also opens avenues to different modes of teaching - a challenge for the student to design an experiment that will produce an acceptable solution, a search for further quotations that substantiate the student's position, a journal in which the student, through sensitivity to intuition, records his awareness of inner 'hunches' over a period of time - these to name but a few.

Quotations allow students to assess literary merit.

Two great thinkers address the same theme:

   "Little strokes fell great oaks." - Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

   "Slow and steady wins the race." - Aesop (c. 6th century B.C.)

- Who expresses the theme better?  Why? What criteria of superiority should apply?

- Should the time period in which both authors lived affect your judgment?

- Should the fact that one quotation is a translation from its original language have any bearing upon your decision?

- Can you rewrite the theme using another literary technique?

- Why do you think these two quotations have survived to this day?

Questions such as these related to 'simple' quotations stimulate the gifted student to explore different modes of literary expression as well as those techniques which render them most persuasive.  A reasonable expansion would then be for him to undertake an assignment similar to the following:

Each of the following quotations relies on metaphor to make its impact:

   "TV - chewing gum for the eyes." - Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959)

   "Books, the children of the brain." - Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

- Which of the two is the more effective?  Why?

- Restate the theme of either quotation using a different figure of speech.

Quotations are a source of moral guidance.

To read the daily newspaper, to watch the nightly news on TV - such activities frequently reinforce the perception that the world is a rudderless vessel devoid of moral direction.  Through the media, violence, greed, abuse, betrayal of trust, selfishness - all are endlessly depicted as the conduct of the times.  Therapists of every philosophy and approach who are interviewed testify to the impact.  Daily they encounter the same emotional complaints in their practices: depression, disillusionment, spiritual emptiness, loss of meaningful values, lack of personal fulfilment.

Gifted students are not oblivious to the pervasive nature of the symptoms.  Nor are they impervious to the dilemmas that accompany a time characterized by the absence of worthy values.  But it is within a moral void that substantive values are often most ardently sought.  Quotations in the curriculum offer a source of comfort and foster individual responsibility.  When chosen wisely, they embody enduring principles of virtue, ethics, morality, and integrity admired by all cultures throughout the continuum of time.

   "Test for yourself your capacity for the good man's life; the life of one content with his allotted part in the universe, who seeks only to be just in his doings and charitable in his ways."  - Marcus Aurelius (121-180)

  "And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"  - The Bible (Micah 6:8)

   "Morality is not properly the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness"  - Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

   "Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being."  - Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

   "Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good."  - Mohandas Gandi

   "Six essential qualities that are the key to success: Sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom, charity."  - Dr. William Menninger

   "The so-called new morality is too often the old immorality condoned."  - Lord Shawcross

   "Righteousness exalteth a nation."  - The Bible (Proverbs 14:34)

   "Civilizations do not give out, they give in. In a society where anything goes, eventually, everything will."  - John Underwood

Regardless of the style of writing, when written, by whom, whether intended for the individual or the many; each conveys a didactic message that is either thought-provoking, a signpost for its reader, or both.   The wise teacher can use these judiciously to suggest direction without losing credibility with his students by appearing to moralize.


Quotations are a powerful focus for self-directed learning which permit students to produce a variety of products.  Three of these - research reports, experiments, and journals - I referred to earlier.   However, given their potential, these and others warrant further discussion.

Reconsider Jonathan Swift's quotation, "Books, the children of the brain.",  not in the context of its literary value alone, but in terms of its expanded uses.  For example,  as a topic for a research paper it offers possibilities such as:

- What role(s) did books play in society during Swift's lifetime?  Were they as pervasive as TV is in our society today?

- Research and report how the publishing process has changed over the centuries.

Or, as straight exposition it allows students to address such a question as: Will books survive in the future?   Even as a scientific study it can encourage an assignment similar to the following: Design a questionnaire to determine what types of books, based on the gender and age of the reader, are most frequently read by students in your school.

Quotations, as we have also seen already, often suggest a topic that can be validated through experimentation.  Mill's and Emerson's previously-stated observations about whether the individual or the group is capable of greater accomplishment is one such example that I have witnessed students put to the test --

The class first discussed the problem, then  formulated individual hypotheses.  As a group, they decided to use the survival game, Lost on the Moon, to test their assumptions.  They determined that the class would be divided at random into two groups: one-third were to confront the problem individually, while the remaining two-thirds were further divided into groups of three and  expected to arrive at a solution through consensus.

But once the tasks were begun, unforseen problems quickly surfaced. Since the individuals were completing the problem in considerably less time than the groups, should a time limit be imposed?  Or should speed as well as accuracy be a separable variable to be taken into account?  How was efficiency to be measured?  And how best to document it given that seven groups of three and seven individuals had participated?

Following lively discussion, solutions to these questions were eventually agreed upon.  But of greater importance, in my mind, were the overall skills - encouraged by the expanded application of two quotations - that this assignment demanded of the students:

- how to hypothesize

- how to create an experimental design

- how to make random selections

- how to define variables

- how best to document data (the class decided to use both the times taken for completion and accuracy as criteria - accuracy was determined as the number of correct answers obtained from all individual and group scores expressed separately as a percentage of the total number of correct answers possible - the averages for the collective group and individual scores were also determined - all results were graphed)

- how to compute percentage, and how to complete a bar graph were taught to the younger students - their practical application was reinforced for the older students

- how to determine what constitutes a 'statistically significant' finding

Quotations are a powerful resource through which to suggest topics for debate.  For example, Albert Einstein once stated, "Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited, while imagination embraces the entire world."  In the hands of an inspirational teacher, this quotation can be turned into a challenge for his students by simply rewording it as a resolution for debate:  Resolved: Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Other examples using the same idea might include:

    "Genius must be born, and never can be  taught." - John Dryden (1631-1700)  Resolved: Genius can never be taught. (one expression in the debate of nature versus nurture)

   "Of all those arts in which the wise excel, Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well." - John Sheffield  Resolved: Writing is the highest form of artistic expression.

   "The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance." - Socrates (470?-399 B.C.)  Resolved: Ignorance is the only evil.

   "There is nothing permanent except change." - Heraclitus (540-475? B.C.)  Resolved: The only constant in our lives is change.

    "The ability to accept responsibility is the measure of the man." - Roy L. Smith  Resolved: Responsibility is the measure of the man.

    "The more I see of man, the more I like dogs." - Mme. de Stael (1766-1817)  Resolved: Animals make better friends than people.

Quotations give students the opportunity to formulate their own provocative questions.  One of the teaching strategies within Frank E. William's model, this technique invites open-ended inquiry as a means for discovering new knowledge.  For example, given the anonymous quotation, "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.", what questions can the gifted student create to expand his own knowledge?  

Some quotations even pose their own provocative question.  Centuries ago Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.) considered the following: "What is the use of being kind to a poor man?"  But has the question lost its relevance today?  Indeed, what intrinsic values are revealed by how it is answered?  What would this teach the gifted student about himself?

What fresh insights might a gifted student find in Robert Browning's classic quotation, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp - or what's a heaven for?"  What would he make of Al Boliska's humor, "Do you realize if it weren't for Edison we'd be watching TV by candlelight?"  What would he gain from William Lyon Phelps' words, "Those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good plays, good company, good conversation - what are they?"  The opportunities for introspection and revelation are virtually endless.

Paired quotations on a common theme offer a further avenue for gifted students to create provocative questions for personal inquiry.  One such example, related to the theme of work, might be:

   "People tend to look busiest when they don't know what they are trying to accomplish." - Michael LeBoeuf

   "The key to working smarter is knowing the difference between motion and direction." - Anonymous

Quotations offer scope for artistic expression.  One favourite with students is from Rudyard Kipling's poem The law of the Jungle:

   "When Pack meets with Pack in the jungle,

        and neither will go from the trail,

    Lie down till the leaders have spoken-it

       may be fair words shall prevail."

A simple open-ended assignment to convey the message contained in these lines in a creative and artistic way often produces wonders.  I have seen interpretations presented a number of different ways: dioramas, mobiles, collages, cartoons, bumper stickers, paintings, puppets, film strips - to name the most popular.

But the symbolic nature of a quotation such as this also allows gifted students to look beyond the literal and search for 'deeper' understandings.  The message to allow the wise to negotiate before engaging in confrontation, even though expressed by Kipling around the turn of the century, has a very direct meaning for students today given the impact of strike and lockout action in both professional baseball and hockey.  The skilful teacher can capitalize on this capacity for quotations to motivate artistic creation  combined with symbolic meaning by searching out those that are effective for this purpose.  Some examples might include:

   "A wise man does not trust all his eggs to one basket." - Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)

   "A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way." - Mark Twain (1835-1910)

   "Our concern is not how to worship in the catacombs but how to remain human in the skyscrapers." - Abraham Joshua Heschel

   "Education will become recognized as civil defense against media fallout." - Marshall McLuhan

   "Life is rather like a tin of sardines, we're all of us looking for the key." - Alan Bennett

Quotations make effective 'thought-for-the-day’ ideas.  Displaying a 'simple' one-line expression stimulates private thought as well as makes a valuable suggestion for activities such as bookmarks and posters.  In this regard some ideas might include:

   "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." - Victor Borge

   "A friend is a gift you give yourself." - Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

   "To be loved, be lovable." - Ovid (43 B.C.-18? A.D.)

   "Wonder is the beginning of wisdom." - Anonymous (Greek Proverb)

   "Fortune favors the brave." - Terence (190-159 B.C.)

Quotations are a viable focus for creative writing.  Shakespeare's famous quotation from Hamlet:

   "This above all: to thine own self be true,

    And it must follow, as the night the day,

    Thou canst not then be false to any man."

is a valuable lesson in itself.  But it also allows expanded possibilities in that gifted students can be encouraged to discover Polonius' complete speech to Laertes and rewrite it using a modern form of communication.  Rap music, newspaper-style editorials, radio spot commercials are but some examples of students' ideas I have seen that were both very unique and very effective.

The skilful teacher can take this notion one step further and create assignments which demand students include a didactic component governing appropriate conduct in their writing.  For example, Hamlet's soliloquy, "To be, or not to be: that is the question. . ." can easily become the focus for a revised essay beginning with the words, "To smoke, or not to smoke: that is the choice. . ."  Likewise, Mark Antony's soliloquy from Julius Caesar, "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. . ." contains a similar, but admittedly more difficult, potential.  


Quotations in the curriculum, particularly a self-directed curriculum, can be used effectively to encourage a number of possible products as the outcomes of learning.  In the foregoing section I have outlined some of these products while suggesting  the type of assignment that can give rise to their creation.  In short, I believe the skilful teacher can use quotations to foster such enterprises as:

- research assignments

- expository writing assignments

- creative writing assignments

- journal entries to validate or refute intuitions

- experiments

- debates

- creation of provocative questions

- artistic expressions

- 'thought-for-the-day' ideas

I do not pretend for one minute, however, that these constitute the end of possibilities.  Indeed, it would be presumptuous of me to imply that my colleagues in the teaching profession were incapable of formulating assignments far superior to any I may suggest.  My sole intent is only to 'open the door' to the potential a quotations-based curriculum presents.


Today it often seems the trend is to restructure society so its many aspects become paragons of some vague egalitarian ideal. The meaning of democracy has been redefined such that in education the core of equality has come to be regarded not as equal access to opportunity, but as equal outcome in accomplishment -- a utopia believed attainable, but only when a bland consistency among all participants in the educational process has been achieved.

But not to offend the sensitivities of anyone has necessitated the predictable - standards of expectation have degen-erated to the lowest common denominator of mediocrity.   And the symptoms of this malaise are pervasive.  Successful schools are now measured not by the quality of student they turn out, but by the quantity of students they keep in. Teachers eschew excellence and teach to the capacity for achievement that will retain the greatest number of students by guaranteeing most a passing grade. Superior students are either neglected or made to feel apologetic for achievements that set a standard prohibitive to those less able.

Ironically, attitudes which sustain these effects persist even though contradicted by words of the wise from all time segments of recorded thought:

   "The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal." - Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)

   "For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away." - The Bible (Matthew 25:29)

   "Understand the truth that although we as individuals are not born with equal physical and mental attributes, we are born with equal rights to feel the excitement and joy in believing that we deserve the very best in life." - Denis Waitley

As a teacher I see my role as the educational leader at the classroom level.  Furthermore, to execute this role requires I be granted the authority to define the results I expect from my students.  But this right does not exist in isolation; it demands reciprocal responsibilities.  For I clearly abuse my authority, cheat my students, and denigrate my professional integrity if I accept mediocrity as the criterion of acceptable achievement.

In my search to inspire excellence I incorporated quotations as part of a curriculum I created for gifted students.  I make no pretense, however, that a quotations-based curriculum is the be-all and end-all of educational reform that will reverse the trend toward mediocrity.  It is not.

But quotations do help to inform gifted students about the great ideas of the great thinkers from all cultures and time periods of history.  By thinking about, through discussing with others, by writing about these ideas, gifted students not only hone their own reasoning abilities, but are motivated to think the great thoughts that inspire great ideas.


For those still frustrated, the answers to the three quotations at the beginning of this article are:

1.  Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

2.  Sir Henry Bate Dudley

3.  Thomas Haynes Bayly

                         - Ross Butchart

                           Vancouver, Canada






If your head is swimming with concerns about gifted students, assessments, rubrics, school reform and just getting through the day while meeting the needs of all your students, put on your flippers and join us!  We have chosen a swimming metaphor to help show you how you can take the information contained in a well-defined theory and readily adapt it to classroom application.  There are some of you who will wish to dive right into the deep end of the pool and others of you who will choose to gain a deeper understanding of the pool rules as you develop your own strokes.  Whichever your style and whatever your level of experience in gifted education, we think you will find this book helpful in differentiating curriculum for gifted students.

The purpose of this book is to provide teachers, program coordinators, administrators, and other educators with a comprehensive K-12 gifted curriculum model with which to serve their students.  Through this differentiated curriculum, educators will be able to apply the essential concepts provided to develop the maximum potential of their students.  A combination of Ward's Differential Education for the Gifted theory (DEG) and practical applications for classroom teachers will serve as the focus of the book.  The methods presented are only our suggestions for implementing DEG theory.  Our hope is that readers will use ideas from this book as well as their own unique perspectives to implement DEG theory within their curriculum.  

We also hope that districts will use this book:

•  to encourage high standards of excellence for all their students

•  as a guideline to maintain rigour in academic pursuits

•  to glean concepts from each axiom for classroom instruction

•  to assess their efforts involving gifted learners

•  to aid curriculum committee work

•  to provide guidelines for individual teachers to serve their gifted students

The essential concepts and general principles necessary for curriculum differentiation are included in the Outcomes Framework.  Whichever your learning style, whatever your educational experience, we invite you to come on in, the water's fine.


Dr. Virgil Ward's DEG is a systematic approach to the differential educational experience for gifted learners.  His theory is based upon the behavioral characteristics of the gifted as a whole and upon their future roles.  These roles usually involve leadership and creativity in the forefront of the various fields.  The principles in DEG pertain to the general education of gifted learners.  They are intended to cover the elementary through college years.  In this manner, it is intended that practical programs and curricular modifications for the gifted can be made truly appropriate for their needs.  

The principles in DEG are the broad basis for a general education for gifted learners.  Ward's principles are presented through axioms and corresponding corollaries.  They focus upon quality curriculum content rather than upon administrative arrangements (i.e., grouping, acceleration).  

Dr. Ward's study began in the early fifties, as his doctoral research.  His principles were first published under the title, Educating the Gifted: An Axiomatic Approach (Charles E. Merrill, 1961).  The newer version (1980), maintains the original form but with added features.

"In his highly elaborate set of principles, Ward delineated the nature of a differentiated and appropriate curriculum for the gifted.  Such a curriculum, he argued, deals with theory and abstractions and involves gifted learners in the challenges of intellectual activity." (VanTassel-Baska, 1994).

This section presents an overview of Dr. Ward's principles of curriculum for gifted students and is divided into the following areas:

1. The Four General Principles (Axioms I-IV) of the Educational Design - These four general propositions are considered the umbrella of our framework.

2. Axioms I-XII with corresponding corollaries - The axioms are categorized in the following way:

                Axioms I-IV - General Principles

                Axioms V-IX - Principles of Intellectual and Academic Development

                Axioms X-XII - Principles of Personal, Social, and Character Development

3. Outcomes for Gifted Learners Framework -

    The framework based on Ward's Axioms addresses desired outcomes in today's educational process. Axioms V-XII are used for this purpose.  A detailed explanation of this framework is found in Section Three.

Axioms I-IV -- General Principles

The following are the four major propositions which served as the framework for this document.  The complete axioms and corollaries of Ward's DEG are listed following the Propositions.

Proposition I:

That the educational program should be based on the nature of the child and on the nature of the role he will assume in the social order of which he is a part;

Proposition II:

That the program must be conceived uniquely with respect to the capacities which characterize the gifted child;

Proposition III:

That the economy should govern the designing of the curriculum in order that an appropriate depth and breadth of learning may be acquired within a reasonable period of the individual's young life; and

Proposition IV:

That teachers of the intellectually gifted should be the most able that can be summoned to the task.


Just as a swimmer needs good techniques and stamina to get from the shallow end of the pool to the deep, a gifted learner needs intentional high level curriculum to prevent him/her from simply treading water in the "pool of school."  In Section 2, Ward's DEG was introduced, as well as our framework based on his theory.  In this section, moving from theory to practice, the focus will be on strategies and methods used to reach the high level, rigorous goals set by the learner outcomes outlined in the framework.

Qualitative Differences in Curriculum

Since a key component to using outcomes is to allow second chances for mastery, so too should it allow extension for the quicker student.  When a student finishes his/her regular work with quality, then he/she earns the right to proceed in a manner that uses synthesizing and evaluative skills. It is important to remember that extensions of the curriculum are not repetitions or more of the same.  Rather, the regular curriculum and extensions can be compared with completing a beginner swimming lesson class and moving on to an advanced class for those interested in participating on the swim team.  The belief that curriculum for the gifted must be different than the basic curriculum serves as the foundation of Ward's DEG theory.  Many use the phrase "qualitatively different" to describe how curriculum for the gifted differs from that of the basic standards.  Maker explains,

Modifications must be quality changes rather than quantity, and they must build upon and extend the characteristics (both present and future) that make the children different from the nongifted students. (C.J. Maker, 1982).

Enrichment and Acceleration

Just as it is acceptable to use a swimming pool for water polo as well as diving, both enrichment and acceleration are acceptable as effective extension strategies to use with high ability students.  Enrichment usually refers to making additions or modifications to the curriculum in order to make it richer and more varied.  Many times an integrated subject approach is useful for enrichment development.  Acceleration on the other hand refers to the pace in which the material is presented. Traditionally, acceleration has been especially successful in mathematics.  A combination of enrichment and acceleration is an effective way to differentiate for high ability students.

Good educational acceleration is always enriching....and solid enrichment programs always advance the student's learning of new and relevant material and are consequently accelerating. (D.P. Keating, 1979).

Differentiated Pacing

Differentiating the pacing at which the student is allowed to proceed is beneficial to the high ability student, who often brings with him/her a broader experience and/or prior knowledge of a subject.  Regular instructional activities may need to be reduced or replaced with more challenging tasks.

Lessons must be paced quickly so that students are always reaching and being challenged by new ideas.  Since gifted students can assimilate new ideas rapidly, slowly paced classes soon become classes where the students grow bored and their minds tend to wander.  (G.A. Fleming, 1982).

Curriculum compacting (Reis, Burns, Renzulli, 1992) is often an effective strategy to help the teacher make accountable decisions in adjusting curriculum require-ments.  Those students who show early mastery in a given area of the curriculum are allowed to cover basic outcomes and content in a condensed manner.  The time that is saved or earned by the curriculum compacting is used on enrichment or accelerated activities in the student's strength area.

Basic Curriculum Modifications

Unlike the excellent swimmer, who does benefit greatly from practising and perfecting the same basic techniques over and over again, the gifted student realizes his growth and potential by aspiring for the challenge of the high dive.

Significant outcomes are based upon what all students need for future success and require an underlying or supporting set of knowledge, skills, and competencies.  In order to make curriculum significant for gifted learners, it is often necessary to modify the basic curriculum.  Maker lists the following areas in which curriculum may be modified:

∙       Content --What is learned

∙       Process -- The methods used and the thinking processes students are expected to use

∙       Learning  Environment -- The psychological and physical environment in which the learning is to occur

∙       Product --The end products expected of children as a result of the processes used

Outcomes for Gifted Learners Framework

Intentional planning is important, as it helps the teacher to identify and document the modifications that will be used with the class or student.  This framework gives educators a planning tool for integrating rigorous academic modifications into their curriculum.  The strategies in this framework represent components which will help the teacher to facilitate the achievement of the stated outcomes, and as such, lend themselves to programs for gifted learners.  It is hoped, however, that the classroom teacher will find most of the suggestions helpful in implementing curriculum for all students.  These strategies, many of which are applicable across the curriculum, represent quality learning principles beneficial for the majority of the student population. Renzulli suggests, "We must think about raising the ceiling, as well as the floor."  He used the term "high-end learning" (Renzulli, 1994) to challenge and remind educators that adopting higher standards can help a wide spectrum of students to reach their highest level of potential.

The strategies used in the framework refer to general methods with some specific examples of resources based on our experiences in elementary schools.  The Strategies column is a list of ideas and suggestions, not absolute methods that must be used.  We do not claim this framework to be the definitive answer for curriculum.  There are many options for meeting the needs of high ability students.  We encourage the reader to explore the various strategies available and to use those appropriate to their particular situation.

How to Use the Framework Template

We have found that it is important not to leave the inclusion of "Outcomes for Gifted Learners" to chance.  A template was developed to assist the teacher in intentionally including Ward's Axioms and "Outcomes for Gifted Learners" in lesson plans.

For each of Ward's Axioms and its corresponding Program Outcome, there is a separate template.  This enables the teacher to use the format without having to write out the axiom and program outcome each time.  A copy of each template can be found in Section 6, ready to be duplicated and used.

The pages following the template key are examples of how teachers used the template to include "Outcomes for Gifted Learners Framework" in their unit plans.


Fleming, G.A. (1982). Mathematics. In N.E.A. Maier (Ed.). Teaching the gifted: Challenging the average. pp. 25-34.Toronto: University of Toronto Guidance Centre.

Keating, D.P. (1979). Secondary-school programs. In A.H. Passow (ed.). The gifted and the talented: Their education and development. The seventy-eighth yearbook of the national society for the study of education. pp. 186-98. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Maker, C.J. (1982).  Curriculum development for the gifted.  Rockville, MD: Aspen.

Reis, S.M., Burns,D.E., and Renzulli, J.S. (1992). Curriculum Compacting: The complete guide to modifying the regular curriculum for high-ability students. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.

Renzulli, J.S. (1994). Schools for talent development: A practical plan for total school improvement. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.

VanTassel-Baska, J. (1992)  Planning effective curriculum for gifted learners.  Denver, CO: Love.

VanTassel-Baska, J. (1994).  Comprehensive curriculum for gifted learners.  Boston, MA:  Allyn and Bacon.

Ward, V.S. (1980).  Differential education for the gifted.  Ventura, CA:  Office of the Ventura County Superintendent of Education.




“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, -- that is all/Ye know on earth, all ye need to know.”  Ode on a Grecian Urn (1819) by John Keats

The term multiculturalism is one of the contemporary buzz words. It’s original meaning is two-fold.  The first is that the world is composed of various cultures that have all contributed to the advancement and enrichment of the human race.  The second is to have students appreciate this truism.  However, the term is now used as a political weapon in the arsenal of political correctness.  To be multicultural, one does not have to be antagonistic to the cultural productivity of any individual due to the ethnicity, class status or gender of that person.  The labelling of great works of art as being essentially the expression of “dead white European males” or “patriarchal” is just as misleading as any so-called cultural elitist approach based upon the innate superiority of a specific group.  

Gifted students have as one of their traits a sensibility to beauty no matter where it derives from or how they locate it.  The aesthetic is a form of art for art’s sake.  The primary motivation for the creation of any work of art is the joy of creating the work itself.  To achieve this task, the gifted individual needs to possess the tools of a particular craft.  A craft is influenced by the flux and fluidity of cultural factors that have been experienced on a personal level.  I will briefly describe three gifted individuals from the world of the creative arts as exemplars of the natural multiculturalism of the gifted artist.  They are the sculptor Constantin Brancusi, the composer Igor Stravinsky and the writer Ernest Hemingway.  These three were chosen because I have recently been involved in cultural programs that emphasized their work.

The art teacher in my school used Brancusi as an example of a great sculptor.   Some of her students also encountered his work while touring the Museum of Modern Art.  Stravinsky is the subject of this year’s Carnegie Hall Children’s Concerts (1995) .  The film of Hemingway’s  The Old Man and the Sea (1952) was recently shown on a local TV station in New York City.  Many of my students who viewed this film are now reading the book.

Brancusi left Romania for Paris in 1904.  Three years later he worked for the French sculptor, Auguste Rodin (examples of his sculpture are The Gates of Hell, The Kiss).  However, after only a month, he departed to create his own unique visions of sculpturing.  His famous reason was, “nothing grows beneath great trees.”  He lived in Paris during his remaining fifty-three years.

Brancusi synthesized his artistic vision from multicultural patterns of personal influence.  First, he was influenced by the cosmopolitan art community in Paris.  Second, he was an avid participant in the galleries and museums there.  The major influence on his art was a pre-Socratic sculpture known as Cycladic art from the Greek islands named Cyclades.  In the 1920s, the Parisian art world was stimulated by Asian and African art. Many of his early heads represent the Khmer sculptures of Cambodia while his later wooden African sculptures reflect African folk art.

Igor F. Stravinsky is considered by many critics to be either the foremost or among the greatest composers of the 20th century.  His range of cultural influences, experiences and productivity is impressive.  He was a world traveller mostly because of our century’s political turmoil, e.g., the two World Wars.  He was born and grew up in Russia but lived in Switzerland, Paris and  the United States (Hollywood).  In 1910 he wrote the music for an innovative ballet, The Firebird, based upon folk tales from his native Russia. In 1913 he composed The Rite of Spring which was greatly influenced by his anthropological readings on rites celebrating the rebirth of spring.  Throughout his life, he was affected by music from many different cultures. He was profoundly moved by Afro-American jazz and circus music.  Stravinsky also demonstrated his multicultural aesthetic by being involved with different art forms that he incorporated into his music.  He worked with two of the greatest dancers of our time, Vaslav Nijinsky and George Balanchine. In addition, world renowned artists such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were his associates.  His music was interpreted by the mediums of body movement and visual artistry.

Ernest Hemingway was born in middle America (Oak Park, Illinois), outside of Chicago.  However, he spent his life being a world traveller, living and writing in places such as Paris, Spain, Italy, Africa and Cuba.  The Old Man and the Sea (1952) was the result of a tale told to him by a Cuban Fisherman, and the book is written from the viewpoint of an elderly Cuban fisherman.  It is a blend of American, Latino and African sensibilities.  This is why the Nobel Prize for Literature (1954) was given to him.  He wrote in English but expressed universal struggles.

The sensibility of the gifted individual by reason of the creative process itself requires a multicultural perspective.  There is not one major artist, composer or writer in any field of creativity who cannot serve as a model for the true concept of multiculturalism.  When we learn to appreciate these individuals as part of the creative process, we unlock the cosmos.