GIFTED EDUCATION NEWS-PAGE
VOLUME 17, NUMBER 4
This is the 100th issue of GE News-Page since we started publishing it in July 1991. I must express a special appreciation to Dr. Michael Walters for his strong support and many insightful essays over these past 17 years. He has consistently emphasized rigor, substance and subject matter content in educating gifted students as compared to popular "tricky dog" (personal communication) approaches - i.e., thoughtless PowerPoint bullets and flow charts used to train teachers of the gifted and their students. Here are some excerpts from his writings on literature and other humanities topics that are particularly relevant to his approach to teaching the gifted.
AND THE HUMANITIES! - The concept of giftedness being related to sensibility is best represented by role models such as the British writer, Anthony Burgess. He is a modern exemplar of the Renaissance Man, but more than a polymath. He perceives all aspects of human knowledge as being interconnected and holistic. Mr. Burgess' productivity helps to explain his sensibility. He is a novelist, essayist, movie and television script writer, social critic and journalist. The range of his interest portrays the linkage between his giftedness and sensibility: world religion, linguistics, Shakespeare, James Joyce, music, science, technology, cinema, and popular culture. His purview is the world of knowledge as it unfolds with the human condition. Two books that exemplify his giftedness are: (1) Do Blonds Prefer Gentlemen? Homage To QWERT YUIOP and Other Writinetyipgs. McGraw-Hill, 1986; (2) The Devil's Mode Stories. Washington Square, 1989. February 1992
A STUDY IN THE HUMANITIES: TRIBUTE TO GEORGE ELIOT - It is especially necessary for gifted students to have role models because these models not only serve as intellectual exemplars, but are also guides for their affective life. The 19th century English female writer, George Eliot (1819-1880), is one of these role models. George Eliot is a pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans who was considered in her lifetime a major writer and social commentator. Her reputation was remarkable for her time and place on two levels: (1) women were not well accepted by the literary establishment of this age; and (2) she did not attend either of the elite English institutions of higher learning, Oxford or Cambridge. George Eliot's literary works combine the poetry of natural settings and humanistic insights with the foibles and travails of the human condition. She deliberately sought to expose English readers (through her writings) to social groups they would not normally encounter. These were urban workers, agricultural workers and craftspeople, and ethnic and religious minorities. She also focused on women's lives. Eliot was a true multiculturalist. April 1992
DISCUSSION OF A GREAT CLASSIC BY JAMES FENIMORE COOPER - ". . . .He draws his metaphors from the clouds, the seasons, the birds, the beasts, and the vegetable world."
This description of how Native Americans derive their language from nature is part of the Introduction by James Fenimore Cooper to his masterpiece, The Last of the Mohicans (1826). The recent release of the new movie version enables us to again appreciate the author. There is much in this novel that will appeal to the gifted child. Besides being an exciting epic tale, it encompasses several areas of the academic curriculum. The first is the history of North America which enables the reader to understand that this Continent in 1757 included the French Canadian and Indian cultures as well as the Anglo-Saxon culture. Gifted students like to view history from different vantage points. Cooper presents us with a living history, and confronts us with the historical perspective of all these cultures. . . . October-November 1992
THE ETERNAL APPEAL OF SHERLOCK HOLMES TO THE GIFTED SENSIBILITY - Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson represent the sensibility of giftedness, both the rational and intuitive aspects. Doyle depicted Holmes as constantly engaging in the scientific use of his imagination. Facts gain meaning as only a part of the holistic context. The phrase, "interesting but elementary," illustrates how Sherlock Holmes needs to perceive the Gestalt rather than obvious and disconnected facts. Holmes replies to Watson's remark that a certain fact was obvious with this retort: "The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes...." (The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1902). Doyle was a genius at creating emotional tones from his descriptions of the environment. In fact, the fogs of London and the bogs of Dartmoor in The Hound of the Baskervilles were essential to the main plot of this and all of his stories: the power of evil and irrational behavior are a part of modern society. Sherlock Holmes' appeal to the gifted sensibility is eternal! April-May 1994
RAY BRADBURY (1920- ): MENTORING AND SENSIBILITY - Ray Bradbury is one of the world's master writers in the areas of science fiction, essays, poetry, novels, and television drama. He has written intriguing short stories (e.g., "The Dwarf" from The October Country, 1955) and screen plays (e.g., the movie version of Moby- Dick, 1956). However, due to his popularity and subject matter, most literary critics fail to take him seriously. His book, Fahrenheit 451 (1953), is one of the most significant novels of our time that deals with book burning and totalitarianism. The French film director, Franēois Truffaut, brought this cinematic classic to the screen. Bradbury, along with Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, is considered a master of science fiction. The Martian Chronicles (1950) is a great work in this field. In describing the exploration of Mars, Bradbury comments on such topics as pollution, racism, militarism, and science and technology. . . .This master of story telling only went through high school. However, he had exceptional mentors that included his high school English teacher, librarians, and Robert Heinlein whom he met as a teenager. His literary mentors were Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe. Bradbury is a similar mentor to gifted students through a wonderful book, Zen in the Art of Writing (1994), which I have used in my staff development program in the NYC Public Schools. By studying his works, teachers and parents will acquire a better understanding of the connection between the gifted child's sensibility and mentoring. June-July 1994
WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS: A ST. PATRICK'S DAY GIFT FOR THE GIFTED - "Glory is like a circle in the water/ Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself/ Till by broad spreading it disperse to naught." William Shakespeare. Henry VI, Part I, Act I, Scene II.
In 1892 the Nobel Prize winning Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, published Irish Fairy and Folktales, a collection of stories from his native land. Yeats claimed he just edited this lode of Ireland's folk imagination. Besides the splendor and richness of these tales, there is evidence of his sensibility throughout them. Much of the powerful imagery, symbols and themes of Yeats' epochal poetic and dramatic writings are shown throughout this collection. Ireland's folk consciousness was a major muse for his creative productivity. These types of imagination and writing have always appealed to gifted children's sensibility. They can relate not only to the magic of these tales, but to the underlying attempts of using the folk tradition to deal with human problems. I read this book on St. Patrick's Day and was especially impressed with the unique quality of Yeats' sensibility; he wrote about horror and comedy at the same time. He describes the fairies as having both a sense of humor and a profound melancholy. In this regard, I was also reading Gore Vidal's Lincoln (1984) which shows that this dual characteristic was also a part of Lincoln's personality. He liked to tell comic folk stories and had constant battles with depression. Perhaps Lincoln was part leprechaun. April-May 1995
TRIBUTE TO DR. JONAS SALK (1914-95): GIFTEDNESS IN SCIENTIFIC ACTION - It is currently in vogue to discuss gifted education and cooperative learning as integral functions. But the life of Jonas Salk demonstrates the fallacy of using this approach to educating the gifted. Throughout Dr. Salk's life, he engaged in the true cooperative learning dynamic that involved his working independently to achieve intellectual stimulation and rewards. From his early days as an elementary school student, he was recognized as being gifted. He attended Townsend Harris High School - a special school for gifted students in New York City. He then went to the City College of New York in the 1930s which at that time was open to all students who had a certain GPA in the NYC schools. After graduating from CCNY in 1934 at the age of 16, he was awarded a scholarship to attend the Medical School of New York University. Upon receiving his medical degree in 1939, he conducted research on viruses. During World War II, he worked as a research assistant for the famous virologist, Dr. Thomas Francis, Jr. at the University of Michigan. They were trying to create a vaccine for the influenza virus. The United States government did not want a repeat of the influenza epidemic during World War I that took the lives of 44,000 U.S. soldiers. Salk developed a polio vaccine in 1952 that eventually saved thousands of lives. His former professor, Dr. Francis, designed and conducted the successful field trials of this vaccine on approximately 1.8 million children. In 1963 Dr. Salk received financial support to establish a think tank (Salk Institute for Biological Studies) in La Jolla, California that concentrated on discovering the key to such illnesses as cancer. Just before he died, he was investigating a vaccine for AIDS and establishing general knowledge on retro viruses. The collaborative work of gifted persons such as this great medical scientist unfolds in the teamwork of independent researchers, each contributing to a comprehensive solution. It is giftedness that unlocks the pearly gates of collaboration! August-September 1995
GIFTEDNESS AS REPRESENTED THROUGH AN ARRAY OF 19TH CENTURY BRITISH WOMEN WRITERS -
"In fact, the world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities." From Middlemarch by George Eliot, p. 74, Chapter 10 (Bantam Books).
The contemporary gifted field is concerned with the concept of self-esteem. However, the trait that gifted individuals seek to attain is self-actualization, not self-esteem. The major contribution of Abraham Maslow to American psychology was his emphasis on the normal or super-normal individual as the criterion of human development. Prior to Maslow, studies of abnormal psychology were used as indicators of the dynamics of human personality. The self-actualizing individual is one who is striving to perform and achieve full cognitive and creative potential. These individuals also possess to a larger extent, more holistic and personal constructs -- they function at the higher levels of the cognitive and emotive realms. In the 19th century, England produced a startling array of women who were literary self-actualizers. They included Jane Austen (1775-1817), Charlotte Brontė (1816-55), Emily Brontė (1820-49), Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61), and George Eliot (1819-80). They wrote creative masterpieces that have become a part of the literary imagination of the English speaking world. Examples of these masterpieces are: Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre (1847) by Charlotte Brontė, Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Brontė, Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Middlemarch (1872) by George Eliot. Besides the novels themselves, it is especially their style and characters that linger in our psyches. They have had a major impact on both English and world literature. They are important models for gifted students and represent how the gifted sensibility transcends the social parameters of gender and class. Their self-esteem derived from the process of self-actualization as expressed through the creative and human spirit. December 1995-January 1996
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, April-May 2008