BOOKNEWS AND REVIEWSDrive Yourself Sane! Using the Uncommon Sense of General Semantics by Susan Presby Kodish and Bruce I. Kodish. Institute of General Semantics, 1993. 163 Engle Street; Englewood, NJ 07631. Telephone: 201-568-0551.
How can language and other types of communication become clearer and more effective? The Kodishes have written a rigorous and highly informative general-semantics analysis of his problem. They have based their ideas on the work of Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950), a Polish immigrant and founder of general-semantics, who settled in the United States during World War I. Each chapter of this excellent book presents a clear description of specific general-semantics ideas, and many examples of how ambiguous communications arise and can be corrected. The underlying model for understanding general-semantics is Korzybski's Structural Differential, which identifies the different levels of communication and abstraction experienced by most human beings. These levels are the Event, Object Level, Descriptive Level, Inference Level, Generalization Level, and Et Cetera.
The most important parts of Drive Yourself Sane! are concerned with examining procedures that test the accuracy of one's assumptions and conclusions. They are described in great detail in the chapters entitled, "The Extensional Orientation" and "Getting Extensional." Of course, these procedures can also be applied to testing other people's statements. For example, "Indexing" is used to identify specific differences between "individuals, matters of degree, levels of abstraction, and environmental conditions." Another extensional device is "Dating" -- a way of indicating changes in the same person, object or event over time. Other helpful extensional techniques described by the authors are "Et Cetera," "Quotes" and "Hyphens," etc.
This book should be studied by gifted students in secondary level English, logic, philosophy and rhetoric courses. It represents the work of an important intellectual movement overlooked by "mainstream" educators for too long. The ideas discussed by Susan and Bruce Kodish for clarifying language and communication make too much sense to be ignored by the public schools. For too many years, educators have considered general-semantics a cult, unworthy of serious study and application. However, the Kodishes show that the use of its key principles will lead to clearer human communication, a reduction of personal and political conflicts, and a better understanding of media propaganda that currently dominates the airwaves, newspapers, news magazines, etc. This book can help to improve gifted students' lives if they carefully study and follow the procedures described in each chapter.
Talented Teenagers: The Roots of Success and Failure by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, K. Rathunde and S. Whalen. Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Traditionally, gifted education at the secondary level has received less attention than elementary and middle level gifted education. Two recent events indicate that secondary gifted education may be gaining a greater emphasis: the formation of the Journal of Secondary Gifted Education and the publication of Talented Teenagers, a book that describes an exhaustive four- year study of over 200 talented teenagers.
This study is an examination of different aspects of the teenagers' lives (e.g., family, academics, personality, social issues) and how those aspects influence their talent. Because of the voluminous amounts of information contained in the book, attempting to summarize the basic points is difficult, if not impossible. In lieu of a summary, however, I am comfortable in recommending this book to anyone interested in secondary gifted education. Nearly every aspect of gifted education is examined, some extensively (e.g., familial influences, academics, and attitudes and motivation). I found the analysis of lack of challenge in the classroom, and student reactions to the lack of challenge to be most interesting.
Csikszentmihalyi et al. accomplish what many other highly competent researchers have found extremely difficult -- a description of a complex research study that is highly readable and relatively jargon-free with a moderate dose of statistics and several illustrative case studies. Because much of the methodology is simplified, some readers may find themselves wishing for a more comprehensive description of data gathering and analysis methods. But several, more detailed articles are referenced, and easily attainable. (Reviewed by Jonathan Plucker University of Virginia).
Meeting of Minds, Volumes I-IV by Steve Allen. Prometheus Books, 1989. 59 John Glenn Drive; Buffalo, NY 14228-2197. Telephone: 716-837-2475.
These books contain the scripts from the brilliant television series of the same name. Steve Allen wrote them to stimulate viewers' understanding of the "great ideas" that have influenced Western civilization, and of the individuals who developed them. For example, Show # 1 is a dialogue among President Theodore Roosevelt, Queen Cleopatra, Father Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Paine, and Steve Allen. In the Introduction to Volume I, Mr. Allen discusses the background of Meeting of Minds and how it was rejected by the NBC Television Network as too controversial. Fortunately, PBS-TV liked it and broadcast the first national telecast on January 10, 1977. Subsequent shows were also presented on Public Television. At the beginning of Show # 2, Mr. Allen says: ". . .In the present age, when there are so many ways to communicate, we seem to be communicating less effectively than in past times. Social scientists are dismayed to find that even university students cannot read, or write, as well as they should be able to. Which means, I suspect, that they can't think as well as they ought to. It might be helpful to put ourselves into contact with important thinkers, and doers, of times past. Perhaps their experiences, their ideas, their ability to communicate, might stimulate our thought processes. That, at least, is the rationale for this series of programs." These scripts should be used by gifted students to stimulate the development of their own "great ideas" in history, philosophy, political science and English courses. It is gratifying to know that Steve Allen has placed such importance on the ideas and people included in this series.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY -- The Spring 1994 issue contains a comprehensive article entitled, "What To Do Until Gifted Programs Come Back," by Susan Winebrenner. It discusses such issues as inclusion, cooperative learning and the use of cluster-grouping with gifted students. To receive this and future issues of GEPQ, send $12.00 for a One Year Subscription or $22.00 for Two Years.
DISCOVER: THE WORLD OF SCIENCE -- The April 1994 issue of this magazine contains such articles as "The Mummies of Xinjiang," "Dining with the Snakes," and "The Sniff of Legend." For more information on the Discover Science Program and its teaching strategies newsletter, call 1-800-448-3399 or write to DSP; 105 Terry Drive; Suite 120; Newtown, PA 18940-3425.
LIVE FROM AT&T BELL LABS -- On April 27th from 10 A.M. to 7 P.M. EDT, a television science marathon will be broadcast live from AT&T Bell Labs in New Jersey. This show will cover the latest developments in science, mathematics and technology, and a panel of world class physicists and mathematicians will answer students' questions. Call 1-800-770-LABS for further information or write: "Live from AT&T Bell Labs"; Murray Hill, NJ 07974-0636.
GOOGOLPLEX -- Gifted students can use this educational manipulative system, consisting of plastic pieces, to construct 3-D shapes and patterns in geometry, chemistry, biochemistry, geology and earth sciences. They can form models of atoms and polyhedrons, simple molecular structures, and organic molecular structures. Write to: Googolplex Discover Offer; Arlington-Hews, Inc.; c/o The Fulfillment Network, Inc.; Box 2039; Elgin, IL 60121-2039. Telephone: 1-800-224-2346.
THE ETERNAL APPEAL OF SHERLOCK HOLMES TO THE GIFTED SENSIBILITY
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
" 'Really, Watson, you excel yourself,' said Holmes, pushing back his chair and lighting a cigarette. 'I am bound to say that in all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own small achievements you have habitually underrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt.' " (The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1902).
Educators of the gifted and all readers are also in debt to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle made a world of fiction that has become historical reality for his readers. Next to Shakespeare, he is one of the most popular writers in the English language. He represents a role model for the gifted as he was a medical doctor and a writer. His characters are etched into the memory of all who read him, e.g., Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Professor Moriarty and Irene Adler. Dr. Watson was based on Doyle's own medical mentor, Dr. Joseph Bell, and Holmes received his name from the American poet and essayist, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. -- an M.D. greatly admired by Doyle.
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!
:: Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, April-May 1994 " "