GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY
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VOLUME SIX, NUMBER ONE
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HOLIDAY GREETINGS! We would like to thank our many friends, supporters and subscribers for their continued loyalty during the last several years. We are particularly thankful for the opportunity to work with the talented authors who have written many insightful articles. During the summer and fall of 1991, we received a great deal of information from state associations about their efforts to save gifted programs. Members of these associations have been staving off the enemies of gifted education who assume many forms, the most frequent of which are those who support cooperative education for the gifted, and the bureaucratic budget-slashers in school districts and state departments of education who are always ready to cut gifted programs. Defenders of gifted education appear to be having some success, but renewed vigilance is necessary for the battles to occur this winter and spring of 1992. "Whatever your sex or position, life is a battle in which you are to show your pluck, and woe be to the coward....Despair and postponement are cowardice and defeat. Men are born to succeed, not to fail." Henry David Thoreau
This issue of our newsletter concentrates upon the importance of both the humanities and science in educating the gifted. Stephen Schroeder-Davis' article is based upon his current dissertation research at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Dr. Karen Rogers is his dissertation advisor.) Mr. Davis demonstrates the importance of modern fiction (written for children and adolescents) in providing bibliotherapy to gifted students. As a result of his extensive search of hundreds of books, he has identified a unique set of fictional works concerned with the lives of gifted youngsters. By reading these books, gifted students can identify with characters who experience similar problems with their peers, teachers, school bureaucrats and parents. Mr. Davis' approach to using contemporary literature with the gifted can also be applied to classical works of fiction and non-fiction such as Charles Dickens' and Mark Twain's books, the writings of great philosophers, and biographies of great people.
Davis wrote a related article for the March/April 1991 issue of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented (MCGT) Newsletter. He is currently Coordinator of Gifted Education in the Elk River, Minnesota School District and Information Coordinator for MCGT. His greatest desire is "to live to see intelligence and academics on a plane equal to that currently reserved for athletics."
Scott Ready has previously written two articles for this newsletter. In this issue he concentrates on the need for gifted students in the science and technology areas to know more about the humanities. He is very much concerned with the crucial interrelationship between these areas of human thought and practice. Ready is a writer and researcher in mathematics and physics. He is currently working on ways to introduce gifted students to the wealth of ideas in quantum physics. Since 1979 he has lived near the small alpine village of Grand Lake, Colorado, and is presently raising with wide-eyed wonder his two year old son and 6 month old daughter. His early training in the humanities comes from actually living in foreign cultures: Cairo, Egypt from 1964-66 and Cali, Columbia from 1966-68.
Michael Walters emphasizes in his essay that the study of a great philosopher of ethics and religion, Martin Buber, can help gifted students to more clearly understand the importance of great cultural and artistic events -- in this case, Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio. We congratulate Dr. Walters on the re-publication of an article he originally wrote for us. This article on Thomas Wolfe was recently reprinted in the Black Mountain Review (Fall 1991).
Maurice Fisher, Ph.D., Publisher
BIBLIOTHERAPY: AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO TEACHING THE HUMANITIES
BY STEPHEN SCHROEDER-DAVIS, COORDINATOR
PROGRAMS FOR THE GIFTED ELK RIVER PUBLIC SCHOOLS
ELK RIVER, MINNESOTA
As the English half of a humanities team, I have been involved in interdisciplinary teaching for eighteen years. When our social studies and English departments initiated our humanities course, I volunteered to parallel the American history chronology (roughly the American Revolution through World War II) with novels tied to selected major wars in the hope that the study of great literature such as April Morning by Howard Fast (Bantam, 1961) and All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque (Fawcett Crest, 1928) would provide an affective component to the largely cognitive study of American history.
This proved quite successful and became the inspiration for my dissertation, which is the focus of this article. I wanted to use both my English and gifted education backgrounds while writing my thesis and found what I felt would be the perfect solution: I would examine the depiction of giftedness in contemporary realistic adolescent fiction and compare the portrayals of gifted protagonists to research literature in the gifted field and my own experience. I would then attempt to determine the degree of authenticity present in selected novels. If the novels proved to be both worthwhile as literature as well as authentic relative to giftedness, they would be the perfect vehicle for a bibliotherapeutic approach to the humanities. This time however, there would be just one discipline (literature) with two components: cognitive (examining the elements of literature in books), and affective (responding to the portrayals as a means of bibliotherapy).
My research, which is still ongoing and quite extensive, involves identifying novels that contain a gifted protagonist (a feat in itself) and then performing a content analysis to determine their potential as a bibliotherapeutic tool.
THE SEARCH FOR APPROPRIATE BOOKS: CRITERIA
To begin with, readers should be aware that terms such as giftedness, prodigy, genius and intellectual are almost never used to describe these books. For example, Among Friends by Caroline Cooney (Bantam, 1987), a breathtaking explication of peer hostility toward achievement and arguably the best of the secondary level novels I have examined, has this as its summary: "Six high school juniors discover surprising, often painful, things about themselves and their relationships with the people around them in the diaries they're asked to keep as a three month English assignment." Its subject listings are self-perception, friendship, interpersonal relations, high schools, and schools.
Yet this book deals directly with giftedness, creativity, and coercive egalitarianism as alluded to on the cover by reviewing author Richard Peck who commends the book as, "A timely tale about how the high school peer group punishes the pursuit of excellence." In order to discover titles to create a substantive study, I was forced to infer possibilities from often vague references in many of the annotations.
I began with almost 100 titles, ultimately reducing these to about 50 which meet the following specific criteria: (1) contemporary, having been published within the last 25 years, to allow for correspondence with each author; (2) realistic, to allow for correlation with field research; (3) contains a gifted protagonist of school age (5-18 years old) to facilitate reader identification with major characters; (4) stands alone as worthwhile literature independent of its treatment of giftedness because the book must first be read and enjoyed if it is to be beneficial to gifted students. The "final 50" were then re-evaluated according to theme setting, conflict, plot, and characterization to determine their potential value for specific gifted audiences and their overall literary value.
The characters and story plots became increasingly authentic as the books' copyrights became more current. Within this general trend, there were distinct categories of stories. The first, which I have labeled "disembodied intelligence," features negligible character development and heavy emphasis on action and narrative hooks. The characters do not grow or mature and the plots are essentially "trait driven," meaning that it is Tom Swift's or the Hardy Boys' or Encyclopedia Brown's pure intelligence around which the story is centered. This is not say the books are worthless or unenjoyable but rather that as depictions of giftedness, they tend to be one-dimensional and therefore limited. Most of these are series books which originated in the 1940s or 1950s. Their major value is that they clearly revere intelligence, deduction and creativity.
The next category, entitled "tangential portrayals," consists of books with gifted characters whose gifts are usually peripheral rather than central to the story. Examples of such books include The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger (Dell, 1974) and Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (Harper & Row, 1980), both of which feature bright, creative protagonists but focus on injustice and sibling rivalry, respectively. It should be noted that these books are very well written and are as worthwhile as those with more authentic portrayals. They are simply not as useful for the audience I intend to reach.
The final category, "authentic portrayals," consists of books of recent copyright that are so realistic, I erroneously assumed they were based upon research in the gifted field. Correspondence with some of the authors, however, indicates this is generally not so. Rather, the authors were writing from their own experiences and observations.
SELECTED BOOKS FOR BIBLIOTHERAPY
The following books constitute a "best of" selection of contemporary novels for bibliotherapy. A more extensive examination of this topic will follow in a future article. For the time being, bibliotherapy will be defined as "helping with books," and is for use by teachers, parents and counselors, i.e., anyone who is an advocate for the gifted. I have included a plot summary, the age of the protagonist(s), the area of talent, and the major conflict related to giftedness as these seem most relevant to young readers.
Recommended for Grades 7 through 12
Brooks, Bruce. Midnight Hour Encores. Harper & Row, 1986. 263 pages. This is one of the very few examinations of a prodigy in adolescent fiction. Sibilance T. Spooner, a world class cellist at sixteen, is engaged in three quests: (1) a desire to meet her mother whom she has never seen; (2) a scholarship at a prestigious musical academy; and (3) a passionate desire to find a brilliant Russian cellist she knows only by ear. This is a fine examination of the conflicts, sacrifices, and rewards inherent in the pursuit of an all-consuming passion, as well as an affirmation of single-parenting.
Cooney, Caroline. Among Friends. Bantam Books, 1987. 169 pages. This novel is required in our sophomore honors class because it is the best examination of the horrors of peer pressure I have ever encountered. Jennie Quint (high school junior), an astonishingly talented student, composer, writer, and musician finds herself more isolated with each success. This book is a highly focused microcosm of the anti-intellectual, coercive egalitarian nonsense that occurs too often in too many schools with incalculable harm to our very brightest students. Highly recommended.
Cooney, Caroline. Twenty Pageants Later. Bantam Books, 1991. 186 pages. This story contrasts the accolades and acclaim given sixteen year old Dane McKane, a "professional beauty contestant" to the meager recognition afforded her 8th grade sister (the story's narrator), Scottie-Anne, who is merely the youngest student in the state to be accepted into Yale's Russian language program. A surprisingly engaging and even-handed examination of beauty pageants and the tension between the superficial and the substantive.
Peck, Richard. Remembering the Good Times. Dell, 1985. 181 pages. Peck wrote this book in response to his high school tours, where far too many students seemed willing to consider suicide as a means of dealing with mental pain. The choice of a gifted protagonist was deliberate and arose out of his research for the novel. This superb story is told as a flashback by sophomore Buck Mendenhall and details his last four years with Kate Lucas and gifted Trav Kirby. Trav is a perfectionist trapped between parents with high expectations and a school without the faintest idea of how to meet his needs. Advocates should be aware that the book is dramatic and powerful in part because Trav does commit suicide. An additional warning -- the suicide is related to Trav's perfectionism and intellect. This of course makes it a particularly appropriate choice but one which must be approached with caution and preparation. It's one of the best books in my study.
Snyder, Zilpha Keatley. Libby on Wednesday. Delacorte Press, 1990. 196 pages. Libby is an 8th grader attending public school for the first time after years of intense home schooling. She is shocked to discover that her knowledge, abilities and enthusiasm are reviled, rather than revered as they were at home. She rebels, of course, but does not really begin to fit in until she wins a writing contest, and therefore an opportunity to meet every
Wednesday with four of the school's other best writers with the task of writing a book together. It is only with this group that she feels really free to reveal herself, including her love for writing as well as her other passions.
Williams-Garcia, Rita. Fast Talk on a Slow Track. Lodestar Books, 1991. 182 pages. Class valedictorian Danzel Watson has never been seriously challenged or humiliated until his Freshman orientation at Princeton. His denial and defensiveness almost cost him his collegiate career and the respect of his family. The author wrote this book expressly for "...bright young men who are suddenly caught off guard by failure."
Recommended for Elementary Level
Hermes, Patricia. I Hate Being Gifted. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1990. 122 pages. Sixth grader K.T. has been accepted for the "Learning Enrichment Activities Program" (L.E.A.P.), a fact which delights her parents. K.T. however, is less than pleased and extremely reluctant to participate because she fears her friends will consider her a "Leap Creep."
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Dear Dad, Love Laura. Scholastic, Inc., 1989. 120 pages. Laurie is a 6th grader who feels victimized twice: her parents have recently divorced and she has been overlooked for her school's gifted and talented program. She relates her feelings in letters to her father which gradually reveal her adjustment to the divorce as well as her steadfast refusal to be excluded from the GT program. Ultimately, it is her persistence and creativity that gain her acceptance.
Tolan, Stephanie. A Time To Fly Free. Fawcett Juniper, 1983. 165 pages. Tolan, a coauthor of Guiding the Gifted Child (Ohio Psychology Publishing, 1982), has written a book that beautifully chronicles the frustrations and injustices that can accompany giftedness if the school and peer group are indifferent, not to say hostile. Fifth grader Josh Taylor is passionate about learning, specifically science, and has a transcendent love of nature, all of which are lost on his classmates and the school officials, both of whom punish him for his abilities and sensitivity. The title has multiple meanings but refers most directly to Josh's decision, supported by Josh's stepfather and mother, to drop out of school to find a more challenging, humane education. He is fortunate to find a mentor with similar attitudes and sensibilities, and thus begins the best time of Josh's life. This book should be required reading for elementary teachers and is a fine examination of the power mentoring can have for a young child.
Wolff, Virginia Euwer. The Mozart Season. Henry Holt and Company, 1991. 249 pages. This beautiful novel details the 6th grade summer of twelve year old Allegra Shapiro who is the youngest violinist in a state-wide competition to be held on Labor day. There are many reasons to recommend the book but I will highlight two. The Mozart Season is the only title in memory that deals extensively with giftedness, yet features a protagonist with almost no conflicts regarding her talents. Allegra is almost always affirmed by parents and peers. Rather than finding this unrealistic, I found it refreshing and enjoyable. Further, a major theme involves "losing" with grace and courage, a message worth hearing for many (gifted) children.
Bibliotherapy is an emerging discipline now most commonly employed in schools and libraries. Generally involving imaginative or fictional material with a variety of audiences, this type of developmental bibliotherapy is almost always guided by an adult, who by definition functions as a "bibliotherapist," although few cast in this role are actually certified as such. A suitable operational definition for those intending to use the books suggested in this article is offered by Cornett and Cornett (Bibliotherapy: The Right Book at the Right Time. Phi Delta Kappa, 1980): bibliotherapy is a "process of dynamic interaction between the personality of the reader and literature; interaction which may be utilized for personality assessment, adjustment, and growth."
There are several other definitions but all involve the same general process of guiding a reader through material with the goals of preventing or minimizing difficulties and promoting self-actualization. My specific purpose in creating a bibliography is to have the protagonists serve as "interim mentors," experiencing and resolving conflicts, dilemmas, joys, and sorrows common and unique among gifted children.
The bibliotherapeutic process is intended to work in three stages: (1) identification -- the reader identifies with a character in a book; (2) catharsis -- as a result of this identification, the reader experiences a release of emotion and tension; and (3) insight -- because of this catharsis, new coping behaviors become possible. (Derived from Moses, Zaccaria and Hollowell. Bibliotherapy in Rehabilitation Educational and Mental Health Settings: Theory, Research and Practice. Stipes Publishing Co., 1978.)
This process holds the key to my selection of books with gifted protagonists, as these seem most likely to promote identification and subsequent catharsis and insight. Further, I consider it crucial that the books authentically represent experiences, both good and bad, that gifted children are likely to encounter, as this offers the greatest potential benefit. An example of this authenticity, Among Friends, will be the focus of the remainder of this article.
MATCHING RESEARCH LITERATURE TO FICTION: AMONG FRIENDS
Like all good literature, Caroline Cooney's book, Among Friends is not about any one topic, but rather deals with issues -- in this case, perfectionism and coercive egalitarianism in the context of a good story. The tension between Jennie's perfectionism (fueled in part by her parent's and school's stratospheric expectations) and her peer group's growing resentment of her achievements (which I have labeled coercive egalitarianism) are the book's major conflicts, although other themes are skillfully interwoven into these conflicts. Perfectionism is one of the most recognized attributes among the gifted, and readers of this article are most likely familiar with this phenomenon. I have on my desk four books that address the issue and another dozen that make reference to it.* Perfectionism is one of the dominant themes to emerge from the fiction I have examined. For example, here are some relevant statements from Jennie's diary:
"I like to be good.
I like to be terrific.
I have to be terrific.
And that's wrong. I can feel that I am going to pay. Some awful price is waiting for me, like a monster in the dark.
"But I keep producing. I keep working, I keep doing my best. I love doing my best. It makes me feel shiny inside, and breathless."
Coercive egalitarianism is also widely acknowledged, although not often by that title. As early as 1962, Abraham Tannenbaum focused on this topic in a pilot study entitled, Adolescent Attitudes Toward Academic Brilliance, (Columbia University, Teacher's College, Bureau of Publications, 1962). In addition, Richard Hofstadter examined various aspects of this phenomenon in his Pulitzer prize-winning book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (Vintage Books, 1964). During this same period, E. Paul Torrance published, "Peer Sanctions Against Highly Creative Children" (in Education and Creative Potential, University of Minnesota Press, 1963) which could function as a blue print for much of what Jennie encounters and for how she responds in Among Friends.
As recently as 1987-88, the National Center for Effective Secondary Schools in a study of 8,000 students found: "...outstanding achievement caused problems for students who didn't do something to draw attention away from intelligence."
The following quotes are from classmates as they reveal increasing jealousy toward Jennie in their diaries:
"And now we hear from the Drama/Music Department that the Christmas production is an original pageant, music, costumes, and choreography by Miss Jennie Dunstan Quint.
I can't stand it. And the worst of it all is, her complexion is always perfect."
"The whole school is against Jennie.
It's that Jennie works so hard. We don't mind brains if you just let brains sit around. But when you fling yourself into it, when you have ten times the energy of everybody around you, we get mad at you. You're showing us up."
Cooney clearly is on solid ground in advancing these two issues as conflicts for her protagonist. Thus far my limited experience in assigning this novel to gifted students has been positive, since they tell me they have encountered similar conflicts and then go on to discuss Jennie's and her classmates' actions toward one another. Most find the discussion of a fictional character less threatening than discussing the same issues relative to themselves, and so they are better able to experience positive bibliotherapeutic effects.
My next step will be to create a series of study guides fusing the literary elements with the affective issues shown in Among Friends and the other exemplary novels I have examined. A prototype, Among Friends, with suggested uses will appear in a future issue of this newsletter.
*For younger children, I recommend Mistakes are Great by Dan Zadra and Bob Moawad (Creative Education, Inc., 1986), Tales for the Perfect Child by Florence P. Heide (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1985) and Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days by Stephen Manes (Bantam Books, 1982). For middle grade and junior ages, Perfectionism: What's Bad About Being Too Good? by Miriam Adderholdt-Elloitt (Free Spirit Publishing, 1987) might be helpful.
SCIENCE FOR THE HUMANITIES & VICE VERSA
BY SCOTT READY
GRAND LAKE, COLORADO
Ingenious experiments and elegant theories are the hallmarks of science. They have redefined our universe and our place in it. Their significance and impact on the human psyche can be explored with the benefit of a strong background in the humanities. Gifted students should be aware of the intellectual and emotional stir that followed Galileo's experiments, Newton's classical physics, and Darwin's new biology.
With enough money we can engineer almost anything; we can pump water from Alaska to California, send a landing party to Mars, or prolong the "life" of an organ. The reasons for pursuing or not doing such endeavors lie not in the sciences, but in the humanities. These programs have social impacts which are beyond the scope of the physical sciences. An in-depth analysis of the social-economic consequences of projects is regularly performed in the environmental sciences.
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 dictates (in Sec. 102 A) that an environmental impact statement (EIS) "shall utilize a systematic, interdisciplinary approach which will insure the integrated use of the natural and social sciences...." In 1973, The United States Water Resources Council published a 167 page guide on how to write an EIS. It demands that a spectrum of alternative plans be proposed and that each plan's social-economic effects be analyzed by "including the effects of a plan on...income... life, health and safety; effects of the plan on educational, cultural, and recreational opportunities; effects of the plan on reserve capacities...and protection against interruption of the flow of essential goods and services at times of national disaster or critical needs; and effects of a plan on other relevant social factors."
Our best science students have been trained to deal with the space race (and arms race), not EIS's. Writing a proper environmental impact statement calls into play all of one's higher thinking skills and requires a solid education in the sciences and humanities. The government should have raised the level of judgment called for in preparing an EIS by requiring that each EIS also be brief and succinct.
Gifted students can discuss writing an imaginary EIS for the voyages of Columbus, or a trip to Mars, or for a project being considered in their community. The same interdisciplinary talents can be used at a higher level to explore the impact of a breakthrough in science, or even the impact of a literary novel. Preeminent ideas carry an emotional and psychic effect. The poet William Blake, for example, was profoundly disturbed and excited by Isaac Newton. Blake abhorred the dead matter of celestial mechanics and yet was enthralled by Newton's remarkable quest for truth.
In English and humanities courses, the social impact of major creative works is often discussed. In science or mathematics courses, scant attention is given to the reaction of lay people or even experts to critical breakthroughs. Their impact is treated anecdotally and not fleshed out as it would be in an English class. The humanities are ignored; the technical material is brought out cold and hard.
The origin of the heavens and earth is a mystery, yet a mystery which can be studied, probed and questioned. An odd blend of rigid Newtonian types of laws and statistical Darwinian laws illuminate an astonishing array of orders from sub-atomic to cosmic dimensions. The quest for tomorrow is to derive these laws from something which is not just another law. This quest for the origin of laws calls upon the humanities for all of the help it can get. What is under scrutiny is man's ultimate signifi-cance.
One does not have to be a philosopher-scientist to benefit from studying the laws of nature and their origin. Nature's efficient and austere examples can guide us in tempering our zeal for excessive lawmaking and bureaucracy. People in leadership positions should "lead more and manage less"; they should resist ruling over minutia which others can manage or which need no management. In nature, intricate patterns can develop without their details being rigidly specified. These natural examples are in stark contrast to our own overly legislated and convoluted systems.
We live in a rich and complex world which is best appreciated when seen from many different angles. Each area of education enlarges one's vista along certain directions. There are mathematical and physical vistas, political and economic landscapes and entirely emotional ones. Each discipline helps to bring to the forefront its characteristic insights. To achieve a more complete understanding, one integrates one's learning from many areas and gives an expanded role to the details which occur in the specialties. An interdisciplinary education broadens one's vision and makes the world seem big, bright and open. It heals the joints in our fragmented world. Although multicultural education is often taught to encourage diversity, the higher goal is integration of races and of knowledge.
There is much to learn in any given field, but is it meaningful? Yes, if it can be communicated across cultural and educational boundaries. A high level synthesis needs to be found to reconcile the world's apparent contradictions. Otherwise, one is confronted with a noisy whirlwind of discordant facts and ideas. Gifted students are quick at organizing and associating divergent topics. Each association becomes a mnemonic flag for later recalling a thought or concept. Each recall further entangles the concept with new thoughts and senses. An interdisciplinary education helps students make a great many connections and wire them up into a meaningful whole. The whirlwind of facts and ideas is tamed and the students become well-rounded far-seeing individuals.
In technical courses students are pushed through long chains of complex material and have few time-outs to reflect upon what they are learning. The strict ordering of lessons looks fine in a textbook, but in practice, it serves only a student's short term memory. The material is not associated with a significant portion of the student's knowledge base. It is cut and dried and therefore, not memorable. Its underpinnings in the real world are shorn; the students end the course with that dreaded question: "So what?"
In order to keep up with the work load in technical subjects, students are pressed to short-change their studies in the humanities. The students are raced pell-mell through a hierarchy of technical courses. They take on the side in separate buildings with separate instructors a few token courses in the humanities to satisfy their minimum graduation requirements. The relentless build up of technical lessons causes tunnel vision and hinders long term memory. A more leisurely and holistic association of the course material would make it more memorable and meaningful. The humanities and sciences can be unified by loosening the linear structuring of technical courses and by teaching the humanities and sciences under the same roof.
An improper introduction to the sciences can give the impression that they are absurdly reductionistic. As the poet Alexander Pope warned, "A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring." Physicists and chemists do not go about breaking down the world into a bunch of inanimate particles. Instead, they study systems. The components of each system are so strongly coupled that only the entire system itself has any clear meaning. The boundaries between the parts are dissolved by the interactive coupling of the parts. When a system can be disassembled, it can indeed produce a variety of parts. However, these isolated disentangled parts are in a state which is radically different from the one they formed as a system.
It takes only two particles to form a system. If they interact with each other they form an atom-like whole; this new entity is studied using holism, not reductionism. This holistic approach and emphasis on interactions parallels the study of cultures in the humanities. We know that societies are made up of individuals, but what is crucial, even in an encounter between just two people is their interaction -- their chemistry. Their meeting is like an atom; it is not the sum of its parts and it cannot be split without destroying it.
In the humanities, one learns of the broad range of human experience and is mentally transported to different times and foreign cultures. The shifts in perspective help one to understand better one's home culture -- both its special traits and its universals shared by all societies. A unique trait can be driven by geographic factors. A universal trait is transcendent of place and time, and yet is uniquely expressed by each particular setting. A cross-cultural education helps one to empathize with other people's situations and see how universal problems are handled in specific settings.
The humanities broaden one's horizons and help one to shift perspective and perceive life in its full dimensionality. They increase one's ability to imagine alternative solutions and improve one's chances of finding the most appropriate solution for a specific problem. By helping one to generate more choices, the humanities in effect enlarge one's freedom. Freedom is not meaningful without choices.
In the social and physical sciences, the same approach is used to solve many problems. One first needs to know how to solve an array of archetypal problems. Students go to school to learn these basics. They then practice adapting new problems to those for which solutions are known. They reach into their repertoire of known solutions and pull out the one which can be most easily adapted to solve the problem at hand. It takes skill and imagination to translate a complex and seemingly foreign problem into a familiar one. It demands an abstract and fluid way of thinking which can make itself at home in a variety of situations.
There are many ways to practice shifting one's viewpoint. In mathematics the task of transforming coordinates and variables from one frame of reference to another is repeatedly performed. In fact, it is the essence of mathematics. Almost all problems in pure and applied mathematics are solved by doing transformations on coordinates, variables and functions. A strong background in mathematics can help students to be flexible yet rigorous in fields which appear to be nonmathematical.
Students should be exposed to both scientific and literary means of recasting perplexing issues in simple and illuminating settings. A strange and seemingly complex behavior may be realized as being simple and natural if it is viewed from a better angle. Strangeness is more often in the eye of the beholder than in things themselves. The humanities help us to avoid the mistake of labeling things with subjective artifacts of our vision. Be-yond this the humanities have a much higher mission.
A thorough training in the humanities can help one to realize what cryptic formulae of the mathematical sciences are trying to tell us. The internal logic of the formulae keeps one's quest for meaning on track, but the ultimate significance of the ciphers has to be sought beyond the mathematics. Physical equations cannot be fully explained or derived without confronting the mystery of our own existence. Through the humanities they can be brought to life.
A deep unifier of the sciences and the humanities is the experience of beauty which either field can deliver. A gifted student figuratively turns a corner and suddenly is awestruck and graced by a sublime power. It is a career making move. Whether he or she is thunderstruck or quietly moved by elegance, the origin of the experience is a mystery that underlies the sciences and humanities. It is an aesthetic experience which is born in part by one's education. Its frequency and quality can be raised with training. The appreciation of fine art is a talent which needs to be nurtured and refined. By helping students to develop their aesthetic senses, the humanities and sciences will both profit.
Books Recommended by the Editor on the Relationship Between the Humanities and Science
Bronowski, Jacob. The Identity of Man. Garden City, New York: The Natural History Press, 1966.
Bronowski, Jacob. The Ascent of Man. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1973.
Eiseley, Loren. The Immense Journey. New York: Vantage Books, 1956.
Eiseley, Loren. The Star Thrower. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.
Hardison, O. B., Jr. Disappearing Through The Skylight: Culture and Technology in the Twentieth Century. New York: Viking, 1989.
Hofstadter, Douglas R. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. New York: Basic Books, 1979.
Whitehead, Alfred North. The Aims of Education. New York: The Free Press, 1957.
MARTIN BUBER, PAUL McCARTNEY AND GIFTED EDUCATION
BY MICHAEL WALTERS
NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
"I must say it once again. I have no teaching. I only point to something. I point to something in reality that had not or had too little been seen. I take him who listens by my hand and lead him to the window. I open the window and point to what is outside." Martin Buber (from The Philosophy of Martin Buber. La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1967.)
"What I enjoy about writing music is that many times you find that you have put more there than you meant to." Paul McCartney (interview on PBS Television, the week of October 28, 1991)
Recently, I witnessed two events that have close relationships to gifted education and to producing important insights for educating these children. The first event was the International Conference for Martin Buber in San Diego, California which I attended. The other was the Viewing on Public Television of Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio (1991).
This remarkable Oratorio was composed by McCartney at the request of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society to commemorate its 150th anniversary. He was helped in writing and arranging the music for symphony orchestra and chorus by Carl Davis, who also conducted the performance at the Liverpool Cathedral. This music is divided into eight sections (War, School, Crypt, Father, Wedding, Work, Crises, Peace) and his fictional characters' (e.g., Shanty, Miss Inkley, Mary Dee) live in Liverpool, England.
Martin Buber (1878-1965) was a 20th century Jewish philosopher and educator. He was born in Vienna, Austria and became a major scholar of Hasidism while living in Europe. He resided for the last 27 years of his life in Jerusalem, Israel where he was a professor of social philosophy at Hebrew University. His books and concepts have influenced individuals in every intellectual discipline. The conference illustrated the breath and depth of Buber's influence by the variety of participants from such disciplines as education, philosophy, religious studies, psychotherapy, economics, communication arts, science, conflict resolution and even athletics.
The cornerstone of Buber's thought is the I-Thou concept which says that human meaning is derived by responding to and interacting with other people, animals, nature and ideas in a "dialogic" manner. A true dialogue occurs when the individual seeks not merely to process information from other people, but to develop insights about encounters with other people, him- or herself, and the environment. This I-Thou relationship is accomplished by committing oneself to become open to new experiences and to the lives and ideas of other people. These new experiences are to a large extent based upon the cumulative impact of previous experiences. However, it is the ability to respond in the immediate present that fuses the significance of the past with new encounters to create insight. The I-Thou dialogue is contrasted with the I-It relationship in which other people, animals, things and events are perceived as being objects to manipulate and use solely for one's own purposes.
The I-Thou dynamic is how the gifted student relates to human knowledge and personal experience. The sensibility of the gifted student is constantly stimulated by the I-Thou psychology. The Liverpool Oratorio is an exemplar of the concrete I-Thou experience gifted individuals can achieve. First, it is obvious that this concert resulted from the productivity of highly gifted individuals. Besides the giftedness of the composer and librettist, Paul McCartney (one of the four members of the famous British rock group, The Beatles, who were working-class Liverpudlians), there were the outstanding contributions of the conductor and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the talents of the lead singers such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Sally Burgess and Jerry Hadley, and the expertise of various technicians (e.g., sound, lighting and video experts).
Paul McCartney commented that he can compose music despite his inability to read and write the notes. However, his ability to relate to his composition in an I-Thou sensibility allowed his music to be transcribed and performed as a powerful oratorio. The entire concert was Buberian in nature because the performers achieved their goal of emotionally moving and pleasing the audience in an I-Thou response. We do not just know a particular musical composition in a cognitive I-It sense; instead we experience and respond to it in an I-Thou manner. Music is the confluence and integration of both the cognitive and affective realms of our being. This is how gifted students respond to the world about them; so we can understand how two seemingly different individuals, Martin Buber and Paul McCartney, by using I-Thou experiences, illustrate the personality and mind of the gifted. To be gifted is to have a dialogic perspective of human knowledge and interactions. The study of Martin Buber's work also illustrates the important educational point that gifted students need to receive instruction in philosophy beginning at the upper elementary and intermediate levels. By learning about the ideas of great thinkers such as Buber, they can develop a better understanding of the ethical dilemmas and human conflicts so pervasive in our society today. More specifically, gifted students need to be instructed in the I-Thou approach to solving these and other problems. With this dialogic approach there is no superficial dichotomy between the humanities, science and the performing arts. For example, McCartney's oratorio demonstrates the holistic nature of human experience since this performance covers the full spectrum of human knowledge, creativity and emotions including the technology of modern communication, the composer's own personal and philosophical interpretive powers, the great artistic talents displayed by the musicians and singers, and the audience's pleasure and emotional response to the music. This emphasis on the unity of knowledge, creativity and human affect is a part of the illustrious history of intellectual thought beginning with Pythagoras and Plato, continuing with Renaissance artists and thinkers such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, and ending with 19th and 20th century literary talents like Edgar Allen Poe, Johann Goethe, James Joyce and Walker Percy. All of these individuals advocated the linkage between philosophy, science, poetry, literature and music. "Life is a mystery to be lived, not a mystery to be solved." Gabriel Marcel
Buber, Martin. The Knowledge of Man. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965.
Buber, Martin. I and Thou. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1970.
Herberg, Will (editor). The Writings of Martin Buber. New York: New American Library, 1956.
Heschel, Abraham J. Who Is Man? Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1965.
LoGiudice, James and Walters, Michael. The Philosophy of Ethics Applied To Everyday Life. Manassas, VA: Gifted Education Press, 1987.
McCartney, Paul. Liverpool Oratorio. Hollywood, CA: Capitol-EMI Music, 1991. (cassett or compact disk).