BOOKNEWS AND REVIEWS
Reflections by Steve Allen. 1994. Prometheus Books: Amherst, New York.
There are few celebrities in our society today that we can truly admire for their personal beliefs, ethical values and behavior. There are even fewer that can be validly called heroes. The author is one of those rare individuals who is both a celebrity and a hero. His celebrity /notoriety stems from his radio and television days when he was the developer and star of NBC's Tonight Show and a pioneering TV comedian. Allen, his wife Jane Meadows, Louis Nye, Don Knotts and Tom Poston created memorable comedy scenes on Sunday nights. (The Steve Allen Show ran during most of the 1950s into the middle 1960s.) Many of these outstanding expressions of celebrity and talent can presently be viewed and heard at The Museum of Television & Radio [25 West 52 Street; New York, NY 10019-6101; (212) 621-6800]. This wonderful broadcasting museum is presenting Steve Allen: A Retrospective through September 11, 1994. Visitors can watch or listen to some of his best shows from the 1940s through 1980s including Meeting of Minds (PBS, 1977-81).
Steve Allen is a hero to thinking individuals because he has the guts to write and speak intelligently about some of the most pressing issues of human existence. This is one important reason why Reflections should be read by teachers and parents of gifted children. (He has written a total of 42 books!) In addition, gifted students themselves in middle and high school will benefit from reading this book because it shows them that entertainment personalities can be intelligent and sensitive.
Over a period of about 40 years, Allen has written or tape recorded his ideas and poems on various topics. As a record of one individual's ideas and beliefs, Reflections is a serious study of the reasoning processes of a highly articulate and gifted individual. The topics are arranged alphabetically and range from abortion to aging, the Bible, books, creativity, education, humility, humor, religion, truth, and world government. There are many other fascinating discussions in this book and most of them can be grouped under philosophy, religion, human virtues, practical affairs, human emotions-sensibility, and show business-entertainment. All discussions reflect the author's rationale as presented in the Introduction: "I do not know what motivates other social critics to share their ruminations with us; my own reason for doing so is the hope that by setting out my own thoughts, in as clear and coherent a form as possible, I can encourage the reader -- whether layman or scholar -- to exercise his speculative abilities . . . . Given that humankind is often identified as the thinking animal, I entertain the modest hope that we can, however rarely and fitfully, be actively encouraged to do a bit of actual thinking from time to time." As an individual who is willing to exercise his reasoning abilities to the fullest, Steve Allen is a model and inspiration to gifted students.
The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present Selected and with An Introduction by Phillip Lopate. 1994. Anchor Books Doubleday: New York.
The Oxford Book of Essays Chosen & Edited by John Gross. 1991. Oxford University Press: New York.
There are few more powerful antidotes and counterforces against the daily exposure to the effluvia of tabloid TV and poor journalism than these two books. Phillip Lopate's hefty selection of over 700 pages of essays and the 680 pages of essays chosen by John Gross will help to relieve some of the intellectual dyspepsia and catarrh resulting from current media circuses. Lopate has concentrated on 76 personal essays: "The hallmark of the personal essay is its intimacy. The writer seems to be speaking directly into your ear, confiding everything from gossip to wisdom . . . ." (p. xxiii). The essays included in this book range from those by Seneca (c. A.D. 3-65) on Asthma to modern writers such as Carlos Fuentes on How I Started to Write, E.B. White on The Ring of Time, M.F.K. Fisher on Once a Tramp, Always, Joan Didion on Goodbye to All That, and Annie Dillard on Seeing. In between, there are gems by Montaigne, Addison & Steele, Samuel Johnson, Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Walter Benjamin, Thoreau, H.L. Mencken, Mary McCarthy, James Baldwin, and Wendell Berry. They are arranged into five areas beginning with the "forerunners" from ancient times, then a selection by Montaigne, next a large number of writings by English essayists followed by selections from "other cultures and continents," and finally, essays from the "American Scene." The author has included an informative Selected Bibliography that lists works about essays, books by the authors, and suggested further reading. Lopate has also written an excellent Introduction that explains some of the origins and characteristics of the personal essay, e.g., "The Conversational Element," "Honesty, Confession, and Privacy," and "Questions of Form and Style." He has included a thematic list of the essays after the Table of Contents, and has written fascinating descriptions of each author before their essay(s). Among the most frequently covered topics are City Life, Death, Family Ties, Growing-Up, Race and Ethnicity, Solitude, Analytic Meditation, and Memoir.
Gross's book includes 142 personal and issue oriented essays. Many of the great writers of English and American literature are represented here; their essays are presented in chronological order by the authors' year of birth. Some of the topics covered are Of Truth by Sir Francis Bacon, On Dreams by Sir Thomas Browne, Of Anger by Thomas Fuller, A Meditation Upon a Broom-Stick by Jonathan Swift, The Levee by Benjamin Franklin, Of the Dignity or Meanness of Human Nature by David Hume, Thomas Carlyle by George Eliot, The Ph.D. Octopus by William James, The Sterner Sex by Rebecca West, Movies and Television by Pauline Kael, Columbus and Crusoe by V.S. Naipaul, and About Face by Joseph Epstein. This is indeed a strange age in which we live that is generally alien to the forms of reasoning and types of sensibility expressed in both of these books. The ideas, writing styles, and human concerns shown by these essayists can help gifted students, and their teachers and parents to overcome the opposition to human thought and analysis that is so prevalent in our society and schools.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY -- The Fall 1994 issue will contain an article by Stephen Schroeder-Davis defending the rationale for gifted education against attacks from inclusionists and other opponents of the gifted. In addition, Dee Esser will discuss the origin and current status of the Florida Future Problem Solving program. Subscriptions to this Quarterly can be ordered for $12.00 for One Year and $22.00 for Two Years. Send your check or purchase order to GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS.
NEW PUBLICATION FROM GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS -- We are pleased to announce publication of the following book: Earth, Wind and Sky! Natural Science Lessons for Gifted and Advanced Students, Upper Elementary Through Middle School. The author, William G. Glenn, Ph.D., is a highly experience scientist and science teacher from San Antonio, Texas. The cost is $15.40 ($14.00 per book + $1.40 P&H).
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE UNITED STATES MATHEMATICS TEAM! -- Six high school students achieved perfect scores at the 35th International Mathematical Olympiad in Hong Kong on July 19th. This is the first time in the history of this competition that all students on a team have achieved perfect scores. They earned a gold medal in competition against students from 70 countries.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH -- "If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead." Gelett Burgess
SYNERGY AND THE GIFTED: THE LION KING (WALT DISNEY PICTURES 1994)
REVIEW BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Walt Disney Pictures has been in the forefront of cinematic innovation using a uniquely American art form, the animated feature film. Recently, I took students who are in a special summer enrichment program that combines photography with English language acquisition to see Disney's The Lion King. Although this enrichment program was designed to improve their English language skills, they were attracted by the Disney-like synergy of photography, reading and writing. Many of them are in fact gifted. As I observed during the movie and afterwards, the more gifted students were particularly stimulated by this film's synergy -- i.e., the combination of the visual effects of animation and color, music and sound, narrative flow, plot and characterization. They experienced a complex range of emotions and cognitive insights regarding the story. Disney has a tradition of using synergy in its movies from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942), Cinderella (1950), Lady and the Tramp (1955), Jungle Book (1967), Beauty and the Beast (1991), and Aladdin (1992). This current Disney film reflects a mythic consciousness that besides having a universal appeal, has unique qualities of its own. It was no accident that a gifted individual such as Leopold Stowkowski (1882-1977), a highly respected symphonic conductor, worked closely with Walt Disney (1901-66) to achieve Fantasia's synergy. Gifted students will thoroughly enjoy this most recent expression of Disney's synergy. The Lion King roars and the gifted child's sensibility responds to it!
""Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, August-September 1994<<