BOOKNEWS AND SOFTWARE REVIEW
Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.
A new book by Neil Postman is often a landmark in understanding the impact of technology upon American culture. For example, his 1986 book, Amusing Ourselves To Death, provided many insights into how television and the entertainment industry have contributed to the decline of discourse and clear thought in this nation. (As discussed by Postman, this decline is clearly seen by comparing the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 with the low-level "sound bites" of today's politicians). In his current book, Postman argues that we are the first nation to become a Technopoly -- a society in which technology dominates everything we say and do including our values. "One way of defining a Technopoly, then is to say it is what happens to society when the defenses against information glut have broken down. It is what happens when institutional life becomes inadequate to cope with too much information...." (Postman, p. 72). The author elaborates on this concept by providing detailed analyses of current medical practices, computer technology, invisible technologies such as language and statistics, management technologies, and the educational curriculum necessary for coping with a Technopoly. Gifted students and their teachers should read this book because it will alert them to the problems created by different technologies ranging from writing (as described in Socrates' story of Thamus) to television, to computers, to the procedures and findings of the behavioral sciences. Postman attempts to make sense of these technologies by analyzing their pernicious effects upon our culture and thought. For this reason alone, he should be carefully read and discussed in the gifted classroom. As he said in Amusing Ourselves To Death, we must become more aware of these problems through rational discourse and analysis, or as he says in the final chapter of Technopoly, we must become a "loving resistance fighter."Introduction to Dickens by Peter Ackroyd. Ballantine Books, 1991.
This is a brilliant and concise (177 pages) account of the life and literary history of one of the great geniuses of English literature. In contrast to today's Technopoly culture, Dickens' era was noted for the interest of the masses in reading good, imaginative literature. The latest installments of Dickens' stories were eagerly purchased, read and discussed by thousands of English citizens intent upon keeping up with the lives of his fictional characters. In our computer age, who has the time or energy to read about such imaginary worlds after spending 8 or more hours per day working on a computer and 3 to 4 hours every evening watching TV? The gift of time has been stolen from us by these time-consuming products of our Technopoly. Ackroyd has related Dickens' astounding accomplishments to his early life experiences such as being sent by his family at ten years to work in a blacking factory, and his father's incarceration in a debtor's prison. The incredible creative energy of the young Dickens (early twenties) was shown by his working on two great novels simultaneously, The Pickwick Papers, and Oliver Twist, while also editing a monthly magazine. His concern with the major problems of the times was shown by his writing Nicholas Nickleby, a novel centered around the poor educational practices of the Yorkshire schools. Ackroyd's book presents a stimulating account of these and other great novels by Dickens such as David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Each one of these books has much to teach us about Dickens' age and our own times. For a more detailed biography of his life and times, read Peter Ackroyd's massive 1,200 page volume entitled, Dickens (1990). Both of his books should be conscientiously studied to gain insights into the nature of creative genius.Science Adventure: Discoveries that Changed the World (For ages 5 to 105!) by Isaac Asimov, Fernando Echeverria, Dan Kegel, Kirk Reinholtz, and Larry Gross. Knowledge Adventures, Inc., La Crescenta, CA, 1992.
The spirit of Isaac Asimov lives inside your computer! This creative genius of culture, science, technology and science fiction passed away at the age of 72 on April 6, 1992. But his ideas of science and technology education as being culturally intertwined with the humanities and highly interrelated across different fields have clearly influenced this outstanding software. If you have an IBM PC or compatible with at least 500 KB of RAM and 7 MB of hard disk space, you can use this program to study the development of mathematics, physics, chemistry, life sciences, technology, earth & ecology, and space. By choosing one of these topics, you can read the history of these fields and see related visual displays. You can also travel through the chronology of a particular topic by moving the timeline bar, or focus on knowledge in a particular part of the world or universe by using the global icon. This program also includes a help menu; retrace button; games at beginning, medium and difficult levels; zoom, sound and print options; and a library button for locating different concepts discussed in the text. It is very fascinating and easy to use. Gifted students will find the relational features of its library index to be particularly useful, since by simply highlighting a word in the text, they will locate other related topics. Science Adventure can be ordered from TigerSoftware; 800 Douglas Entrance; Executive Tower, 7th Floor; Coral Gables, FL 33134; Phone - 1-800-888-4437.
NEW MAGAZINES FOR YOUR INFORMATION AND READING PLEASURE:
CURRENT BOOKS Magazine. Published quarterly. P.O. Box 34468, Bethesda, MD 20827. 301-530-8200. Edwin S. Grosvenor, Editor and Publisher. The attractive first issue contains wonderful excerpts from 25 new books. These excerpts capture the essence of each publication, thereby motivating one to read the entire work. Some of the books included in Vol. I, No. 1 are by James Michener, Jane Goodall, Garrison Keillor, Louis L'Amour, Salman Rushdie, Vaclav Havel, Jimmie Carter, Erma Bombeck, George Plimpton, Richard Leakey, William Safire, Daniel J. Boorstin, Barry Goldwater and Joyce Carol Oates.
STORYTELLING Magazine. Published quarterly by the National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling. P.O. Box 309, Jonesborough, TN 37659. 615-753-2171. Jimmie Neil Smith, Executive Editor. This interesting periodical contains articles about storytelling, stories from around the world, and information about meetings, famous storytellers and books related to this art form.
CALL FOR PAPERS: SOCIETY FOR ACCELERATIVE LEARNING AND TEACHING:
Contact Dr. Win Wenger at PROJECT RENAISSANCE, Box 332, Gaithersburg, MD 20884-0332 (Phone: 301-948-1122) for information on submitting paper proposals. The theme of the 2nd annual conference is Reclaiming Human Genius; Location: Student Union Bldg., University of Maryland, College Park, MD.
YEVGENY YEVTUSHENKO: A MODERN RUSSIAN POET AND FREEDOM FIGHTER
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
"Throughout the land talent is put into storage like merchandise that has lost its value" Yevtushenko
The long night of Soviet totalitarianism has recently been illuminated by the light of stars in the sky. These stars were the glow of its heroic and sometimes martyred dissident writers, especially the poets. Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933- ) is one of these big glowing stars who brightened the human soul and the universal cause of personal freedom. To be gifted in a totalitarian society is a very frustrating psychological situation. One's talent is put into cold storage because the merchandise of sensibility and intellectual achievement has indeed been devalued. The role of the literati is to keep the integrity of the written word intact in this situation. George Orwell said you destroy freedom by devaluing human thought and taking meaning away from language. In the Soviet system, words were officially defined by ideology and the bureaucratic apparatus. Added to this dynamic is the terror of the police state with its death camps, dungeons of torture, and gulags of despair. Yevtushenko's poetry stirred the conscience and consciousness of the Soviet people. Gifted students in a democracy should not take this freedom for granted. By discussing the life and creative endeavors of individuals such as this poet, American gifted students can realize and accept their potential for great achievements.
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, August-September 1992