GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY
10201 YUMA COURT
P.O. BOX 1586
MANASSAS, VA 20108
VOLUME SIXTEEN, NUMBER ONE
LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION: $22.00
MEMBERS OF NATIONAL ADVISORY PANEL
Dr. James Delisle -- Professor and Co-Director of SENG, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
Dr. Jerry Flack --Univ. Of Colorado-Colorado Springs
Dr. Howard Gardner -- Professor, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Ms. Margaret Gosfield -- Editor, Gifted Education Communicator, Santa Barbara, Caifornia
Ms. Diane D. Grybek -- Supervisor of Secondary Gifted Programs (Retired), Hillsborough County Schools, Tampa, Florida
Ms. Dorothy Knopper -- Publisher, Open Space Communications, Boulder, Colorado
Mr. James LoGiudice -- Director, Program and Staff Development, Bucks County, Pennsylvania Intermediate Unit No. 22 and Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education
Dr. Mary Meeker -- President of SOI Systems, Vida, Oregon
Dr. Adrienne O'Neill - President, Stark Education Partnership, Canton, Ohio
Dr. Stephen Schroeder-Davis -- Coordinator of Gifted Programs, Elk River, Minnesota Schools and Past President of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented
Dr. Bruce Shore -- Professor and Director, Giftedness Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Ms. Joan Smutny -- Professor and Director, Center for Gifted, National-Louis University, Evanston, Illinois
Dr. Virgil S. Ward -- Emeritus Professor of Gifted Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia
Dr. Colleen Willard-Holt - Associate Professor, Penn State University, Harrisburg
Ms. Susan Winebrenner -- Consultant, Brooklyn, Michigan
Dr. Ellen Winner - Professor, Boston College
I want to express my deepest sympathy to the families and friends of those who were killed or injured in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. As the most
generous nation in history, we must rid the world of the fanatical groups and individuals who planned and implemented this tragedy. I was
very impressed with educators and psychologists in the Northern Virginia area who worked with children and families directly affected
through the loss of relatives and friends in the Pentagon. The unity and determination of our people will overcome this assault on the
United States and Western civilization.
Congratulations to members of our advisory panel who have recently published the following books: Stand Up for Your Gifted Child: How to Make the Most of Kids' Strengths at School and at Home (2001, Free Spirit Publishing, Inc.) by Joan Smutny. This book provides parents with useful information about all aspects of the gifted education field including chapters on understanding giftedness, gifted education and taking a stand. Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet (2001, Basic Books) by Howard Gardner (and coauthors Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and William Damon). They discuss how individuals in genetics and journalism can simultaneously maintain high levels of creativity and ethical standards; the implication of this study is that good work and ethical behavior can be developed by individuals who choose these and other knowledge-based fields.
Welcome to the newest member of our advisory panel, Margaret Gosfield. She is editor of the Gifted Education Communicator - a national journal published by the California Association for the Gifted that contains excellent research articles, literature reviews and columns written by Joan Smutny and Carol Tomlinson. I wish Ms. Gosfield much success with her new publication, and highly recommend it to GEPQ readers.
This issue contains an intriguing article by James Webb, publisher of Great Potential Press, on some of the affective factors associated with giftedness. I asked Dr. Webb to relate his essay to the events of September 11, 2001. His discussion highlights some of the charac-teristics teachers and parents should nurture to encourage the development of positive giftedness. The second article by Beth Wright, a home schooling parent, illustrates the problems her gifted child has encountered in obtaining early admission to university courses. Dr. Michael Walters completes this issue with an essay on Ovid's poem, Metamorphoses - stories of transformations in the ancient world that are relevant to current problems.
Maurice D. Fisher, Ph.D., Publisher
Click below to locate the article you want to read first:
1. CULTIVATING COURAGE, CREATIVITY AND CARING BY JAMES WEBB
2. IS COLLEGE AN APPROPRIATE ENVIRONMENT FOR THE PROFOUNDLY GIFTED CHILD? BY BETH WRIGHT
3. READING THE POET OF TRANSFORMATION: OVID BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
CULTIVATING COURAGE, CREATIVITY AND CARING
BY JAMES T. WEBB, Ph.D.
Terrorist attacks have changed our way of living. We no longer take for granted our physical safety or personal freedoms. We are confronted with the fact that we live in a global community where it is essential that we understand persons from other cultures, and that we help them understand us as well. The events remind us that very bright persons can engage in horrendously hurtful acts. The implications, to my mind, are that we -- as educators and as parents -- must not try only to develop the intellect of the children in our care, but also must consider values as well.
Some years ago, Professor Joseph Renzulli (1981) gave us a very helpful triad model for identifying and understanding key components of giftedness. Renzulli found that gifted adults consistently showed three characteristics--above average ability, creativity, and high task commitment. In his triad, Renzulli presents three overlapping circles, each representing one component. According to this model, only when all three characteristics are present in substantial quantities at the same time is a person labeled as gifted.
Renzulli's triad has focused needed attention on important qualities needed by gifted students if they are to function successfully in our culture. Even so, Renzulli's triad is incomplete, and we need to consider other critical dimensions, particularly in the social and emotional functioning of gifted children and adults. Two key dimensions need to be added, for without these additional two dimensions a very bright person will be limited, handicapped, or even dangerous.
The two ingredients to be added are "courage" and "caring," both of which have a major impact when added to "motivation," "high ability" and "creativity." Further, it is important to note that "courage" and "caring" can be cultivated, along with creativity, motivation and intelligence, and that we as parents and teachers of our gifted children, have an obligation to them to guide and support them in these areas.
Though all five characteristics --above average ability, creativity, task commitment, courage, and caring -- are important, I think we need to focus particularly on cultivating courage, caring and creativity. Certainly, intellect and motivation are important, and much has been written about ways to enhance and encourage motivation as well as to develop intelligence. But our ability to influence intellectual ability is probably less than our ability to influence the other four areas. Even though high intellectual abilities are fundamental to any notion of giftedness, I am convinced that we can have only a modest influence on native intelligence for children beyond age eight (Bloom, 1964; Sattler, 2001). Certainly we know many things that might dramatically lower intelligence--for example lead poisoning, child abuse, brain injury, etc. But in contrast, few things can dramatically raise intellectual potential in any intellectual area, and even the long-term impact of infant and pre-school stimulation is limited (Berrueta-Clement, Schweinhart, Barnett, Epstein and Weikart, 1984).
Of course, courage and caring are not limited to persons of higher intellectual or creative abilities. But there is a particular need to develop and cultivate courage and caring within our bright children, if for no other reason than because the prevailing myth in our society is that these children do not need any special help, and can make it on their own (Webb, Meckstroth & Tolan, 1982). Caring and courage are not going to come automatically to our children just because they are gifted. Gifted children, particularly those not yet identified as such, may be even less likely to acquire courage and caring precisely because of our neglect and lack of understanding of them.
In fact, there are particular issues concerning courage and caring that arise because one is gifted. For example, it is widely recognized that gifted and creative children are intense and often excessive, that being creative implies being non-conformist, and that the interests of these children often differ from their age peers. So often they are faced with trying to figure out "Where do I, in the upper 3%, fit in a school system with a lock-step curriculum that is primarily designed for the other 97%, and in a system where conformity and mediocrity are valued more than intellectual curiosity and creativity" (Webb, Meckstroth & Tolan, 1982). Gifted children also often must learn to control their impatience, and learn to feel less like an alien (Hollingworth, 1975). And their asynchronous development -- particularly of profoundly gifted children -- can leave them puzzled about themselves.
Before considering the interaction of courage, creativity and caring, however, it is helpful to look at each of these individually. For over a century, creativity has been considered a legitimate field of study, if a puzzling one (Tannenbaum, 1983). Investigators seem to recognize creativity only after it has occurred, but have difficulty defining it or predicting who will demonstrate it. In early studies, creativity often was treated as synonymous with intelligence. More recently, creativity has been considered a separate, but related, area of study. During the past 30 years research has shown that when IQs are in the gifted or higher range, intelligence and creative ability are generally independent of one another, and that neither can be measured adequately by the same test (Sattler, 2001; Piirto, 1998; Tannenbaum, 1983). Few persons disagree, though, that usually a person must have at least above average intelligence in order to be thought of as creative (Amabile, 1983; Piirto, 1998).
That does not imply that persons who are less bright are never innovative or creative. Certainly they are. But their creativity is occasional, rather than frequent or constant, and their mental leaps to make creative connections are typically much more modest. Like the concept of intelligence, creativity is defined in relative terms. That is, no one is without intelligence. Similarly, most people have at least some creativity, although some people clearly have more than others.
Intelligence and creativity both involve the ability to profit from past experiences. However, intelligence (at least as measured by our current intelligence and achievement tests) rests more heavily on memory as well as on convergent and culturally typical thinking, whereas creativity implies divergent and unusual thinking and the ability to develop knowledge, patterns or relations new to the culture or the situation (Sattler, 2001).
Disagreement exists as to whether new creative knowledge must be socially useful. For example, Frank Barron (1969), a psychologist pioneer in creativity research, stated that the achievements in creativity not only must be original, but also must make a meaningful contribution to the culture. I believe we must consider creative behaviors as separate from the social benefit aspects of creativity. We must think of the creative process as a potential, that may--or may not--become manifest in socially beneficial behavior, but which can be creative nonetheless. For example, the creativity shown by elementary school children seldom is socially beneficial (some even would call it detrimental), but it can be creative nonetheless. We should not confuse the product with the process. If we focus on the process, we can contemplate ways to cultivate creativity so that long-term beneficial products might result, rather than passively hoping that creative products might develop au natural.
What is courage? Creativity? Caring? All are personal qualities that are as difficult to quantify as the concepts of intelligence and motivation, although we all share some common idea of these concepts. As simple working definitions, let me say that creativity is basically that quality necessary to produce original ideas in any field. It leaves us discontented with the status quo. Courage is that quality of mind which meets opposition or danger with calmness and firmness. It allows us to act even when we are unsure or afraid. Caring is having compassion, concern or interest in someone or something outside of ourselves.
I do not believe that these qualities are simply innate, even though people may be born with certain predispositions toward more or less of each. Instead, like most other human behaviors, they are primarily learned. And because they develop over time, they must be nurtured in the beginning stages of development and receive opportunities to be practiced.
But how much of each is needed? Is there a perfect balance? How do you balance courage, creativity and caring within yourself?
Probably there is not a perfect balance, although certainly we need at least some of all three. However, depending on the amount of our courage, the depth of our caring, or the facileness of our creativity, our lives will be quite different. It is also likely that the balance and proportion of these three within each of us will shift at different times in our lives, depending on the opportunities we have to develop these traits, the preparation we receive to allow further growth, and the life situations we face. And perhaps it is predictable that we will shift the balance at different times in our lives as we mature and gather perspective from life experiences. For example, I suspect that courage and caring for most of us has increased as we get older, though I am unsure about creativity. In some ways we may become less creative and more rigid in our thinking as we get older.
What happens if there is an imbalance? What happens when a bright, intense, motivated person is below average in courage, or in creativity, or in caring? In my experience, the most obvious imbalances are those involving courage and caring. A lack of creativity creates fewer difficulties for people, as compared to a lack of courage or caring. Also, creativity is often carried out privately, and thus has fewer apparent risks than to be courageous or caring.
What happens when a bright, intense, motivated person is below average in caring, or in courage, or in creativity?
High Courage and Creativity, but Low Caring
Novel games and creative fantasies can be invented in a moral or ethical vacuum without regard for the impact on others. Sometimes these persons become "Trivial Pursuers." I have mixed feelings about Trivial Pursuers. On the one hand they give us pleasant pastimes that help us keep our sense of humor and perspective, and we badly need a sense of humor -- particularly in our often absurd and tragic world. On the other hand some trivial pursuers become "Self-absorbed Narcissists" who simply escape from others by playing non-productively with their ideas with little regard for any effects their behaviors might have on personal or environmental resources.
Other such creative persons become "Indifferent Investigators." They create just to see what will happen. Often their results are benign, or sometimes accidentally helpful. Still others, as history shows, indulge their creativity with no regard for others. It amazes me that so many researchers still adhere to the dictum of creating knowledge for knowledge's sake, with little regard whether their efforts are trivial or even hazardous.
Fortunately, most gifted individuals at some point in their lives find such narcissistic creativity in a moral vacuum begins to feel very hollow. They realize that anything not worth doing is not worth doing well. Their creativity often lacks value if it was developed without values that have much meaning for existence.
It is indeed fortunate for our world that gifted children generally move quickly toward the upper levels of moral development described by the ethicist, Kohlberg (1964). That is, most gifted persons reach a point of being personally concerned with universal principles, morality, consistency and principles of conscience. Although only about 10% of our general population reaches such an advanced level of concerns, and then typically in middle age, the intellect of most gifted individuals stimulates them to reach that point, and at a much younger age.
However, some creative persons do not reach these upper levels of moral development, or are delayed in development. These gifted persons have developed courage but little, if any, caring, and are of even greater concern. I could call this pattern either the "Brave Machiavellian" or the "Gifted Terrorist." Bright, courageous, intense -- this Brave Machiavellian has much creativity, but little compassion or empathy. The end justifies the means. He wants what he wants when he wants it, and his creativity is directed primarily at new and better ways to get what he wants or to control others. People are objects to be managed or manipulated.
Parents, particularly of gifted teenagers, may feel I am speaking about their children. Fortunately, I am not, even though most teenagers do go through a protracted period of narcissistic self-absorption, and I do see an incredible number of youngsters these days with little empathy. Actually, I have in mind adults who never developed caring and empathy, or who lost the caring they once had through cynicism and anger. Remember, most of our totalitarian and repressive dictators have been bright, motivated, highly creative and even courageous--but they were out of balance on caring. On a local level we see this pattern in our gifted juvenile delinquents or our adult criminals, and even in the creative schemes of some of our political and societal leaders. The inventions conceived by such persons are neutral at best, harmful at worst, but innovative and powerful!
I would like to say that this pattern is a rare one. I am not sure that I can honestly say that. For example, in the United States we have a higher proportion of our population in prisons than virtually any other major country. Some leaders in gifted education (e.g., Harvey & Seeley, 1984) have estimated that well beyond five percent of our juvenile delinquents could be defined as gifted and creative.
We are a violent world, and a self-centered one. The recent terrorist attacks highlight this, and give reality to Tannenbaum's (2001) statement that "talents are sometimes turned into destructive forces…" and "…gifted villains can…use their combination of brains and hate-filled overexcitabilites to threaten the quality, and even the existence, of life on our planet." (p. 101)
Even within the United States the popular press has noted that we are more likely to personally experience violent crime today than if we had lived on the Wild West Frontier, that time in our history that we have come to believe was so fiercely dangerous. When we look at what we have done to our environment -- this spaceship earth -- and how our culture so often treats objects and people as disposable, we see much ingenuity and often courageous entrepreneurship, but little caring.
Perhaps the term Gifted Terrorist is too strong for most persons who have courage and creativity, but not caring. Perhaps it would be more accurate to consider them as "Unguided Missiles," particularly our younger gifted individuals. These are the gifted "hackers" who break into computer systems, or who in other creative ways courageously pinch the noses of authorities around them. Their beliefs and values that may later culminate in caring are still in flux and have not yet crystallized. They still can be influenced by us -- as we were by those around us -- to become more caring and compassionate. Indeed, it is our responsibility to cultivate these traits.
High Creativity and Caring, but Low Courage.
A second kind of imbalance occurs when courage is underdeveloped. These creative persons care deeply about others and about their impact on the world, and long to have a meaningful place in it. However, creative action is restricted or blocked because of shyness, fear or anxiety, or because of a depressing and paralyzing awareness of how limited one person's impact on the world typically is.
Perhaps we can call this type the "Appeaser" or "Avoider," or the "Overwhelmed Withdrawer." Because their beliefs and values have not yet coalesced into a firm enough base, or because self-confidence is lacking, the Avoider cannot come to act even though contemplating a creative or caring action. Many bright persons particularly find it difficult to develop such courage exactly because they care so greatly and want to be fair to all concerned, because they are bright enough to see the implications of the problems, and because they intensely desire to be thorough in considering all of the issues at hand. There is a saying that "A person who can see all sides of an issue is unable to act."
It is difficult and painful to be frozen in inactivity when one cares so deeply, and even more so if the area of one's creative endeavors happens to be socially unpopular at that time. Since creativity typically involves challenging traditions, popularity can be at risk. Indeed, others often become uncomfortable when traditions are challenged (Webb, Meckstroth & Tolan, 1982). One often must choose between one's beliefs and being popular.
Sometimes these bright people feel particularly isolated and alone because they lack the courage to disclose themselves to others. It is like the title of the popular book, Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am (Powell, 1969). They fear that their ideas and concerns might not be viewed by others as important. Because they can see so many alternatives, they are filled with self-doubt. And to the extent they are perfectionists, they set high standards for themselves, and expect others to do the same. They are reluctant to reveal themselves until they feel that they have met their own incredibly high standards, for to do otherwise would be hypocritical. Their fertile minds uncover every flaw in their own thinking and action, and every reason why their creative solutions would not work, or would not be sufficiently helpful, or are unimportant. They are self-critical, even perfectionistic, and run the risk of a burnt-out depression. They lack a firm base of assuredness and solid self-concept that is necessary to act courageously and to feel comfortable with oneself afterwards.
The early U.S. President, John Quincy Adams, as chronicled in Kennedy's Profiles in Courage (1964), suffered such agonies even though he evidently mustered courage on numerous occasions. At age 45, after having already served as U.S. Senator, Harvard professor, and American minister to several major European powers, he wrote "Two-thirds of a long life have passed, and I have done nothing to distinguish it by usefulness to my country and to mankind..." At age 70, having distinguished himself as Secretary of State, as an eloquent member of Congress, and as a courageous and independent President, he stated that his "...whole life has been a succession of disappointments. I can scarcely recall a single instance of success in anything I undertook..."
In the same way that gifted persons can see what they might be, they equally keenly can see how they are falling short of how they might be. How important it is for bright persons to learn how to care themselves! Truly creative persons who become eminent and make a mark have an almost burdensome sense of destiny and responsibility as a human being, and almost inevitably a measure of egotism. Their creative drive is a force that will not let them be still, and is a drive that cannot be denied, only managed. Their self-caring, if they are to be successful, includes a degree of resoluteness, and the courage to believe in the worth and validity of their creative efforts. Almost all highly effective, creative individuals suffer intense periods of frustration and depression and self-doubt -- the "positive disintegration" the Dabrowski Theory describes (Piechowski, 1991; Silverman, 1993). But highly effective gifted persons learn ways to override these moods and concerns through a pervasive caring and a passionate, courageous commitment to their creative pursuit.
High Courage and Caring, but Low Creativity.
And finally, what if creativity is lacking? These caring, courageous souls typically implement the plans of others. They are our "Consolidators." Intellectually bright in their convergent thinking, they often consolidate the giant strides taken by other more creative, but less organized, companions. In one sense they are fortunate, for they do not seem to struggle so keenly with the paradox of forsaking the organization of current knowledge for the chaos involved in creating new knowledge. To the degree that you and I use rigid categories, we allow ourselves to organize our knowledge and experiences in systematic ways that give apparent meaning to our existence. But on the other hand, we limit our options for new knowledge if we do not creatively upset our current traditions. As psychologist George Kelley (1955) noted, we are constrained to experience events in the way we anticipate them. Thus, persons who are less creative are somewhat protected from the uncertainties that accompany lack of structure, and often are appreciated because they are competent synthesizers or consolidators. These Consolidators nonetheless may encounter two particular difficulties. They may find themselves undervalued as compared with their flashier, more creative counterparts (and they may underplay their own value, which is substantial), and they continually must be careful to avoid being manipulated by others who would take advantage of them.
The ideal, of course, is to possess all three -- courage, creativity and caring -- and in relatively large amounts. Some gifted persons who have achieved this are familiar to us: Ghandi, Albert Schweitzer, Dag Hammarksjold, Helen Keller, George Washington Carver, Madame Curie, Martin Luther King, Jr. It is from these persons that we can learn much. Not a single one, however, offers a simple picture of the motivations, abilities and accomplishments that would allow a clear formula. Each shows complexities, inconsistencies, self-doubts, and continuing struggles at self-management in the areas of courage and caring.
Born in 1869 in India and transplanted to South Africa where he first openly challenged traditional social class roles, Ghandi for years creatively inspected his own learning, his religion, his social relationships, and the traditions of those around him. Though a devout Hindu, he was not orthodox. In his forties, he creatively challenged entire social systems, and confronted the greatest existing military power -- the British Empire -- using a force that had nothing to do with guns or bombs. The very creativity of opposing force with non-force. By using love and truth, he led three hundred and fifty million Indians in a non-violent revolution that combined courage and caring with creativity. In 1925, at age 56, his sense of destiny was demonstrated by his writing of an autobiography entitled The Story of My Experiments With Truth.
Martin Luther King, Jr. did the same thing. Faced with traditions of servitude, liberally laced with violent oppression if the traditions were challenged, King allowed himself to "have a dream" of caring, unity and equality, and courageously set about to make that dream a reality. I was in the Deep South during that time, and witnessed the repeated creativity with which non-violent civil disobedience was used to oppose immoral laws of segregation and discrimination. Like Ghandi, King recognized that always there is a price to be paid when one challenges traditions, since that sort of creativity -- like many other creative ventures -- causes discomfort and anxiety in those nearby because the comfortable status quo is disrupted and predictability is no longer guaranteed. Courageously and caringly aware of the discomfort he created in the status quo, Dr. King carefully and systematically implemented his non-violent creativity, and made major gains until cut down by an assassin's bullet.
Maya Angelou found her creativity in writing, an act that took great personal courage and caring. Raised in Stamps, Arkansas, exposed to a limited and stifling education as a Black in the Deep South, sexually molested at age eight by her mother's boyfriend, she retreated into a world of silence, refusing to speak. She was afraid that by speaking she might cause harm to happen to others since she personally felt partly responsible for being molested. She cared keenly, though not wisely, at that age. Thanks to a mentor, she was given the acceptance and love that enabled her to find the courage to express her creative and caring perceptions of the world around her through writing books such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969).
Dag Hammarskjold, a remarkably gifted man who spoke six languages and rose to Secretary-General of the United Nations, chronicled in his diary, Markings (1964), his continuing internal struggle to maintain courage and caring along with his creativity. His caring often was almost overwhelming, at the expense of his own well-being. Trying to promote world understanding and harmony, he found himself working twenty hours per day, and yet experienced bouts of inadequacy and depression because he could see so much that still needed to be done, and felt he was doing so little to accomplish the tasks. As is true with many such people, virtually none of his friends knew how driven and struggling he felt until they read Markings after his death.
Paul Tillich, the noted theologian who wrote The Courage To Be (1952), courageously encountered the challenges thrown at him by existential philosophers who held that life was arbitrary and absurd. Tillich pointed out that caring inherently assumes that life and the present have meaning, and that we must have belief in the meaningfulness of our values, including the courage to take a leap of faith to embrace those values. Writers such as he have helped greatly those people struggling with existential depression -- a depression centering on issues of life's meaning, and which is limited almost exclusively to people of high intellect and creativity.
These names are famous. Yet most of us are surrounded by gifted and creative people not yet so well known or eminent, but who are struggling to obtain, balance, and interlock these three rings of courage, creativity and caring. Indeed, all five ingredients--courage, caring, creativity, task commitment, and intellect--must be intertwined. As parents, teachers, or other professionals, we can help these bright youngsters, even while we, ourselves, may be struggling with the same issues. I think we can cultivate these ingredients, and that indeed we must cultivate them.
If we plan to cultivate creativity, inspire motivation, and promote intelligence, we also have the responsibility to cultivate courage and caring. Currently, we teach courage and caring sparingly, if at all, at home or at school. Only a few relevant books, such as Teaching Values (Davis, 1996a) and Values are Forever (Davis, 1996b) are reaching mainstream education despite our lip service toward "character education." Despite Steve Allen's (2001) crusade to raise the standards of popular culture, our society seems more interested in marketing TV programs which demonstrate incompetence, air-headed lack of consideration, intolerance, or even violence and betrayal, rather than in providing reasonable models of how men, women and children might meaningfully, caringly and courageously relate to each other.
Where do we begin in such cultivation? First, we must allow creative persons to be. This sounds simple, but often is not. Paul Torrance -- a grand leader of creativity -- has on several occasions noted that society is actually savage toward creative thinkers, especially when they are young. Yet, the creative person, in a sense, does something for all of us simply by being. We must remember that seldom do we need to make major modifications in the other person to make him be creative like we think he should be creative.
Even if changes are needed to direct a child's growth, the changes need not be accomplished immediately. It is better to bend the twig a little each day than to push the branch suddenly. Through such gentle shaping we help ourselves also to become gentler with our own creativity. As we suggest in Guiding the Gifted Child (1982), "Flowing with, rather than fighting against" is generally best.
If you and I are to cultivate creativity, we must provide our creative young minds with a refuge -- at home, in our resource rooms, in our libraries, museums and classes. In doing so, we can model courage as we advocate for our gifted children, rather than avoiding confrontation with others who feel that gifted children need no special help.
Also, we must help our creative children learn to care for themselves. It is not possible, I believe, to truly care for your creations or to care about others until you learn to care for yourself. Only then can you feel an importance about what you do, and that you are a person of value and meaning. If you are to trust your own judgment, you must see your values and judgment as worth trusting -- a stance that demands courage as well as caring. If you are in a minority -- as gifted children are, self-trust becomes even more important, for the temptation can be great to adopt the beliefs of the majority.
Particularly is courage and self-caring needed if one is to become a leader of a creative cause. Yet, how seldom do we teach our children to nurture themselves, to believe in themselves, and to praise themselves for courageous attempts. More typically, I believe, we expose them, to sarcasm and ridicule for their eccentric ideas and their foolish, non-traditional behaviors. We must exude caring and respect to them if we expect them to be caring toward themselves and others.
Bright, creative persons must be more inner-directed in motivation than if they were part of the mainstream. Why do I feel so strongly about the inner-directedness of self-concept? Let me mention some names, along with related events perhaps not known as widely. Ludwig Beethoven's music teacher once said of him, "As a composer, he is hopeless." Thomas Edison's teachers told him he was too stupid to learn anything. A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had "no good ideas." F.W. Woolworth at age 21 worked in a dry goods store, but his bosses would not let him wait on customers because he "didn't have any sense." Enrico Caruso's music teacher told him, "You can't sing; you have no voice at all." Werner Von Braun failed ninth grade algebra; Louis Pasteur was rated as "mediocre" in chemistry in college. And Louisa May Alcott (the author of Little Women) was told by an editor that she could never write anything that had popular appeal.
What if these creative individuals had believed the evaluations of those knowledgeable adults around them? What if they had listened to the negative, and had not pursued their dreams courageously?
To help creative children learn to care for themselves, we must help them understand their styles of thinking -- so often divergent -- and the implications of that style. We must convey that unusual interests and thinking patterns are not simply nerdy, or weird, or indications of mental illness. We must teach them that divergent thinking can be valuable, and that paradoxes come along with creativity. And we must teach them the courage necessary to pursue those paradoxes. Barbara Kerr, in her book Smart Boys (2001), has pointed out that this can be a particular challenge for bright boys in today's culture.
If we are to have fully functioning gifted children and adults, we must cultivate the characteristics of courage, creativity and caring by modeling them ourselves, and by exposing our children to others who can serve as models. If you and I are to make a difference in the world we live in, we must use ourselves, our own experiences, and our own consciousness to teach our children. But such teaching goes far beyond simply imparting information.
We must try our best to give our children seven important gifts. They need the:
knowledge to know the questions
freedom to ask the questions
caring to want to pursue the answers
flexibility to create new answers when the old ones no longer work
stamina to pursue the answers
humanness to care about the outcome
courage to act with integrity.
What I am proposing is idealistic, but I think that parents and educators of gifted children must be idealistic. We must be concerned with the interactions of creativity, courage and caring -- along with motivation and ability. In this way we will be able to model idealism for our youth.
Recently, I heard a minister describe how often she heard people saying, "How could God allow this to happen?" She mused that perhaps God was up there saying to us, "How could you allow this to happen?"
As we contemplate our roles in today's world, I encourage you to remember a saying attributed to Bishop Flavian:
"And what is as important as knowledge?" asked the Mind.
"Caring, and seeing with the heart," answered the soul.
May we cultivate the courage to care and to seek creative solutions to help our gifted youth.
Allen, S. (2001). Vulgarians at the gate. New York: Prometheus.
Amabile, T. M. (1983). The social psychology of creativity. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Angelou, M. (1969). I know why the caged bird sings. New York: Random House.
Barron, F. (1969). Creative person and creative process. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Berruet-Clement, J. R., Schweinhart, L. J., Barnett, W. S., Epstein, A. S., & Weikart, D. P. (1984). Changed lives: The effects of the Perry preschool program on youths through age 19. Ypsilanti, Michigan: High Scope Press.
Bloom, B.S. (1964). Stability and change in human characteristics. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Davis, G. A. (1996a). Teaching values: An idea book for teachers (and parents). Cross Plains, WI: Westwood Publishing.
Davis, G. A. (1996b). Values are forever: Becoming more caring and responsible. Cross Plains, WI: Westwood Publishing.
Hammarskjold, D. (1964). Markings. New York: Knopf.
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Hollingworth, L.S. (1975). Children above 180 IQ (Stanford Binet). New York: Arno Press. (Reprint of 1943 Edition).
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IS COLLEGE AN APPROPRIATE ENVIRONMENT FOR THE PROFOUNDLY GIFTED CHILD?
BY BETH WRIGHT NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA
Last week my son and I visited the campus of a local community college. Hoping to gain dual enrollment status for Octavian, now 13 years-old, I went there bearing his California Achievement Test score that places him in the 99th percentile of rising high school juniors, the letter we receive every year from the school board that verifies our homeschool status, and a home-brewed transcript documenting all of the high school courses he has accomplished, 67 credits in all.
We were met with a polite insistence that no one under the age of 16 may attend community college in Virginia. Apparently, the college is in the practice of telling parents of underage children that a state policy precludes the admittance of anyone under the age of 18, and dual enrollment, the only exception, is allowed only for those 16 and older. I was not the first parent to be turned away this summer.
Assistants to the dean of instruction and other secretaries, offered me their opinions regarding the reason for this "policy" as I waited for them to comply with my request for a written copy of this policy. The assistant to the dean of instruction called numerous departments in search of someone who could make me a copy. No one seemed to be able to locate the elusive document. Each insisted that it existed, yet none had ever seen it. I was willing to wait while they all searched their files.
We whiled the time away chatting about my son's experiences at nearby College of William and Mary. I explained to them that he had taken Latin Literature there during the spring 2001 semester as a dual enrollment student. As I fielded questions from these kindly dean's assistants, my son waited patiently in the lobby.
So many of the ladies' questions echoed those asked by other adults-in-charge that I wondered for a moment if there was some sort of conspiracy. Or perhaps, I thought, I was absent the day they taught this segment of social studies in grade school. Universally, the adults are concerned about issues such as:
Can he understand adult social issues prevalent in college classrooms?
Can he get along with the young adults in class?
Will he be emotionally capable of being in the environment?
Will he be able to accomplish such academically challenging work?
As I listened to them insist that children do not belong in a classroom with adults, I thought about the profoundly gifted children I know. I thought about the research performed in the areas of brain function, pedagogy for the highly gifted, behavioral characteristics of the highly gifted, and other information existing since the 1920's. I thought about all the evidence that points to the fact that children like my son are not normal children at all, but unique in ways the general population does not understand.
Perhaps we are only just beginning to understand such differences. John Geake in an article entitled, The Gifted Brain, offers validation for facts parents of profoundly gifted children have always known. "Haier and Benbow (1995) conducted a PET comparison of mathematical reasoning of mathematically gifted 13-year-olds vs. college students (both scored 1100/1400 on SAT-M)…extremely mathematically gifted 13-year-olds had similar PET profiles to 20 year old math college students."
In the study, the researchers found that Positron Emission Tomography (PET), which measures increases in the brain cells' glucose metabolism using an injected radioactive tracer, demonstrated a remarkable similarity between the brain function of the profoundly gifted child and the young adult. But, then, haven't parents of the highly gifted always known they were little adults?
We lovingly call our profoundly gifted children "chronologically challenged" when describing the disparity between their bodies and their minds. The madcap implications of an adult in a child's body have tickled the fancy of Hollywood for years. But parents find little that is humorous when society denies their children's abilities, holding them to a standard any adult would find stultifying. And the parent forced to advocate for her highly gifted child may have to endure the "stage mom" stigma when she finds herself waiting in the admissions offices of colleges while they assert their right to deny her child access to their classes.
Savvy researchers and their studies in the field of gifted education become beacons of hope for parents. Yet, these beacons have existed since as early as 1926, and still I have to argue with a woman who has never even met my son over whether or not he can understand the social/moral issues that may fly around a college classroom.
Leta Hollingworth wrote in her masterly publication, Children Above 180 IQ, "A child of 170 IQ can do all the studies that are at present required of him, with top 'marks' in about ¼ the time he is compelled to spend at school." (1926, p. 287).
If normal children are expected to accomplish primary and secondary school in 13 years, and the profoundly gifted child can do so in three to five years, where does that leave him? He may be between the ages of 7 and 11, depending on such factors as the number of grade skips he is allowed or the type of acceleration he undertook.
Just such a dilemma left our son without proper educational venues at the age of 10. The community college denied my son access to their classes. While we managed to provide him with several mentors and a tutor, it was several years before we were able to actualize his goal of taking a college class.
So, what then remains for the profoundly gifted child, who is not being properly educated in the system, or out of it? Like many other parents in such a position, I believed college to be the best choice for my son. College offers individual courses, a wide variety of interesting subjects, and well-educated instructors. When taken as an a la carte educational program overseen by the careful and judicious management of a parent, college offers the young gifted child all the academic challenge he needs. Why then, is it considered an appropriate "most radical acceleration" by some and an inappropriate risk by others?
Miraca Gross, in her keynote address presented at the 3rd Biennial Australasian International Conference on the Education of Gifted Students, said: "…gifted students differ from their age-peers in many aspects of their social and emotional development…and…well planned programs of acceleration enhance these students' self-esteem, their love of learning, their acceptance of themselves and their gifts, and their capacity to form warm and supportive friendships." (Gross, 1999)
If my son has similar brain function to that of a young adult, why shouldn't he be in the same educational venue as one? If he is passionately devoted to studying about ancient military warfare or the space-time continuum, why shouldn't he attend school with people capable of discussing such matters with him?
When the assistant to the dean asked me, "what about your son's socialization?" I responded, "how can my son be expected to enjoy the company of his age-peers in purely social circumstances if his interests include ancient Roman history and feudal Japan, his hobbies include inventing new "free energy" processes, his concerns are problems such as the state of our nation's military readiness, and his goals include being independently wealthy by the time he is 20 so that he may dedicate himself to full-time inventing in a home-laboratory? What will he discuss with other 13 year-olds? Perhaps they could spend some time shooting hoops and engaging in superficial discussions about school, sports, and music. But, then, my son favors classical music, fencing, and attends college. Where is the commonality?
Gross continues, "…we have, for our assistance and guidance, more than three quarters of a century of accumulated research on the academic and psychosocial benefits of accelerated progression for gifted and talented students."
Why are the educators so reluctant to endorse acceleration if the research conducted supports its use? Not only does the research show favorable results for the gifted child being accelerated one, two, even five grade levels, but also for early college entrance. In her address, Gross makes mention of the fact that early college entrance as radical acceleration, "can work, and work superbly." A fact she confidently asserts based on, "…the evidence, from very many years of longitudinal research…" (Gross, 1999).
In their article entitled, Five Years of Early Entrance: Predicting Successful Achievement in College (1990), authors Assouline, Brody, and Stanley state: "A study of students who were early entrants at colleges and universities throughout the United States found that the majority of students were extremely successful academically and socially during their freshman year in college (Brody, Lupkowski, & Stanley, 1988)."
These children were found to be successful, both socially and academically. Why then, is college considered by some to be a risky venture for the profoundly gifted child?
Perhaps the problem is one of conditioning. How many people have actually met a profoundly gifted child? How can adults such as educators, legislators, college admissions directors, and other adults-in-charge have a frame of reference for our children when their only touchstones may be characters in the movies Little Man Tate and Good Will Hunting? Relatively rare according to the statistics, children with IQ scores of over 160 appear in the population at a ratio of fewer than 1 in 10,000. (Gross, 1999) Even psychologists specializing in gifted education may never meet a profoundly gifted child, and therefore, inadvertently relegate to that population the type of textbook-familiarity family doctors have with rare diseases.
Contrary to popular belief, high IQ does not simply indicate a larger quantity of the thing that makes one smart. Highly intelligent people possess qualities and characteristics that are entirely unique.
Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, Psy.D., writes in her excellent book, The Gifted Adult (1999): "the promise of high potential and creative intelligence is accompanied by a specific set of personality traits and inner processes -- not simply more of some attribute, but an altogether different quality of thinking and experiencing."
This, "different quality of thinking and experiencing" is what makes the profoundly gifted child different. Many researchers and advocates in the field of gifted education have delineated the characteristics of the profoundly gifted. We can look to their thorough work to inform our understanding of our children and validate our children's ability to transcend the experiences of normal children.
The Davidson Institute, a non-profit organization devoted to research, support and outreach for families of profoundly gifted children, offers a cache of wonderful articles in their online resource, PG-Cybersource. The following is featured on their site:
"Barbara Clark has reviewed the research of Dahlberg, Gross, Koppel, Lovecky and Silverman, and she compiled the following list of characteristics commonly found among individuals with extremely high intelligence levels:
An extraordinary speed in processing information
A rapid and thorough comprehension of the whole idea or concept
An unusual ability to perceive essential elements and underlying structures and patterns in relationships and ideas
A need for precision in thinking and expression
An ability to relate to a broad range of ideas and synthesize commonalities among them
A high degree of ability to think abstractly that develops early
Appreciation of complexity; finding a myriad of alternative meanings in even the most simple issues or problems
An ability to learn in an integrative, intuitive, non-linear manner
An extraordinary degree of intellectual curiosity
An unusual capacity for memory
A long concentration span
A fascination with ideas and words
An extensive vocabulary
Ability to perceive many sides of an issue."
The actual list includes more attributes, but I have selected the ones that demonstrate the profoundly gifted child's tendency toward sophisticated cognitive ability. Clark's list is much-needed proof of the fact that our children are not normal children at all, but in fact, unusual individuals capable of thinking and even acting like adults in many respects.
Gross states, "In children and adolescents emotional maturity is more closely related to mental age than to chronological age…intellectually gifted children are characterized by advanced affective (as well as cognitive) development." (Gross, 1999).
IQ testing may not tell us everything there is to know about our children, but it certainly illustrates the fact that they are not normal children. The profoundly gifted 10 year-old child with an IQ of 180 is mentally 18. Those 10 year-olds sporting IQs of 200 and over (some call "severely gifted") have the emotional and cognitive abilities of 20 year-old adults according to the mental-age correlation of intelligence testing using current instruments.
Taking into consideration all the research on the efficacy of early college classes for our most gifted, their mental ages according to IQ testing, and the accepted attributes of the profoundly gifted, how can society continue to abuse this population by depriving them of an appropriate education?
I left the community college last week without a copy of the document in question. No one was able to find it. All assured me, however of its existence and I was told there was no way for my son to attend their institution. That evening I spent several hours online researching the issue. I read all of the Virginia legislative code pertaining to education and community colleges. I read the 54-page policy manual for the Virginia Community College System and printed the section that dealt with admissions policies. Neither VCCS policy nor the VA code precludes the admittance of students younger than 18 to community college in Virginia. In fact, all admissions decisions are left to the individual community colleges regarding the admittance of those not meeting the eligibility requirements for general admission. "Other persons may apply to the admissions committee of the community college for special consideration for admittance to the community college," states the policy manual.
Did this information change the minds of the admissions department at this community college? Well, it certainly wedged my foot in the door that they told me was closed to my son. I called the following day to chat with the dean of instruction. I told him of my research and my conversations with various department heads in the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). I explained that I had read the policy manual and knew what it stipulates.
He offered to discuss my son's case with their director of enrollment management and assured me that she would review my son's files. He offered to arrange for her to call me right away. Very polite and businesslike, he accommodated my desire for further dialogue on the matter of enrolling my son.
It remains to be seen whether this college will provide academic stimulation for my son. The hurdles we face are formidable and entrenched in dogma. The rhetoric I heard is stale, "Our professors are not comfortable teaching children, we are sensitive to the K-12 public school system, and do not want to be viewed as teaching students that should be getting their academics from them, our student body is more homogeneous than William and Mary -- we have older adults and the classroom/campus environment reflects that difference."
Where does that leave my son, who simply wanted to take drafting in order to execute the designs for his inventions? Since he cannot take the drafting course as a single class at the local high school, I am not sure. But, I am sure that I will keep trying,keep advocating, keep looking, keep asking hard questions and keep finding the truth in order to give him every opportunity to grow.
Assouline, S., Brody, L., and Stanley, J.(1990). Five Years of Early Entrants: Predicting Successful Achievement in College. Gifted Child Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 4.
Clark, Barbara. (July 2001). About Profoundly Gifted Young People: Characteristics. Davidson Institute PGCybersource. <http://www.davidsoninstitute.org/ditd.php?location=112>
Geake, John. (2000-01). The Gifted Brain. Paper for Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented Conference. Brisbane, Australia. July 2000; and 6th Asia-Pacific Conference on Giftedness. Beijing, China. August 2000. University of Melbourne-Gifted Development Unit. August 2001. <http://www.edfac.unimelb.edu.au/LED/GDE/brain.html>
Gross, Miraca U.M., Ph.D. (1999). From 'the saddest sound' to the D Major chord: The gift of accelerated progression. Keynote address 3rd Biennial Australasian International Conference on the Education of Gifted Students. Melbourne, Australia. 15 August 1999.
Hollingworth, Leta (1975). Children Above 180 IQ (Stanford Binet). New York: Arno Press. (Reprint of 1943 Edition).
Jacobsen, Mary-Elaine, Psy.D. (1999). The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius. New York: Ballantine Books.
Beth Wright can be reached for comment or questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website, www.smartkidathom.com
READING THE POET OF TRANSFORMATION: OVID
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF THE HUMANITIES IN THE SCHOOLS
In times of national crisis, gifted individuals can turn to the classics of literature in order to derive a perspective of the emotional and intellectual demands that occur during critical times. The word "classic" is used to describe a work of art that has timeless and enduring insights for the human condition. At a time when there is a seriousness everywhere, I found a needed perspective in the poetry of the Roman writer, Ovid (43 B.C.-17 A.D.).
Ovid's masterpiece was The Metamorphoses, a series of stories about major transformations in people and nature. In this book of poetry, Ovid commented on the human condition through his artistic interpretation of Greek and Roman mythology. However, the range of his imagery was that of the entire Mediterranean world (e.g., Egypt and Crete). Ovid described the turbulence of human desires and emotions in his Invocation (Book I). This psychological conflict is rooted in the simultaneous elements of change and continuity which are basic to the drama of being human. "Now I shall tell of things that change, new being/ Out of old: since you, O Gods, created/ Mutable arts and gifts, give me the voice/ To tell the shifting story of the world/ From its beginning to the present hour." (Book I, p. 31, Signet Classic edition, 2001).
Gifted individuals throughout the course of Western civilization have been captivated by Ovid. Among those profoundly influenced were Chaucer, Dante, Spencer and Shakespeare. The themes and characters of The Metamorphoses are constants throughout all of the artistic achievements of Western civilization, and have been expressed in paintings, sculptures and music. There is obviously something unique in Ovid's manner of writing and thinking that stimulates the gifted individual's sensibility. Shakespeare created metamorphic interpretations in his plays from characters and incidents based on the stories of writers such as Ovid. For example, in his fantasia on the theme of human desire, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare included a play within a play that was a tragedy of ill-fated lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe. These lovers lived within estates divided by a bricked wall; their first meeting was through a "chink" in the wall. The parents adamantly opposed this love affair. Somehow, the lovers were able to meet but this rendevous ended in a tragedy of misunderstanding. A lioness accidently stained Thisbe's discarded cloak, and Pyramus committed suicide because he believed this animal devoured Thisbe. However, she was alive and waiting for her lover in a dark cave. She eventually came out, found Pyramus dead and then killed herself. What causes these tragic events is the passion of the two defiant lovers. In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a similar love affair led to the suicide of these individuals. Here is Ovid's description of the tragic lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe, in 8 A.D. -- : " 'Dark over the pitiful body of one lover/ Shall soon bear shade for two; O fateful tree/ Be the memorial of our twin deaths,/ And your dark fruit the colour of our mourning.'/ Then Thisbe placed sword's point beneath her breast/ The blade still warm with blood from her love's heart,/ And leaned upon it until she sank to earth./ Her prayers had reached the God's, had moved both parents:/ The ripe fruit of the tree turned deep rose colour;/ And they who loved sleep in a single urn." (Book IV, p. 116, Signet Classic edition, 2001).
Ovid was banished by the Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar, to a province (Tomis) near the Black Sea. It was a painful experience as he was removed from his readers and the cultural environment that stimulated and nurtured him. He was so distraught by his banishment that he almost destroyed his manuscripts and committed suicide. But he was discouraged from carrying out these self-destructive acts by his family and friends. Ovid's crime was "irreverence toward the state and it's ruler." Despite the blatant non-political aspects of his writing, the humanity of his treatment of human emotions was perceived as an insult to the Roman Emperor. This conflict between the artist's freedom of expression and political ideology has been a major concern of Western civilization, and should not be taken for granted during our present crisis. The artist's sensibility has threatened all tyrants from Augustus Caesar to Hitler and Stalin, and now Osama bin Laden. It is through writers such as Ovid that gifted students can gain an appreciation of freedom of expression in a democratic society.
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