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Ten Essential Criteria for an Advanced Humanities Curriculum for Gifted Students

Maurice D. Fisher and Michael E. Walters

1. Emphasis on Identifying the Gifted Student's Sensibility Levels and Teaching to These Levels - Students' sensibility levels can be assessed through systematic classroom observations in conjunction with a rating scale such as the Fisher Assessment of Giftedness (Gifted Education Press, 1994). What subjects are most stimulating for the gifted student? What ideas and areas of learning stimulate their interests?

2. Stress Independent Learning and Self-Study - This learning approach, used by the great thinkers of the humanities and sciences, will enable the gifted to make conceptual leaps within and across different subjects, and to study history, mathematics, science and other humanities subjects in greater depth than usually occurs in the regular classroom.

3. Provide Opportunities For Gifted Students to Learn Together In Small Cluster/Affinity-Groups - The interaction between students of similar high abilities will help them increase their own knowledge and social skills. Positive synergy will automatically occur in these groups and will lead to productive individual and group projects.

4. The Advanced Curriculum must be Based Upon the most Significant Non-Fiction and Fiction Books - The use of challenging content is the most important aspect of the advanced curriculum for the gifted. Other excellent resources can be found on the Internet with careful teacher supervision. All major thinking and problem-solving processes must emphasize strong subject matter content.

5. Students Should Read and Study the Biographies of Great Achievers in All Areas of the Humanities, Mathematics and the Sciences - By reading biographies of great people, gifted students will be able to identify with these people and become inspired by their accomplishments. They need role models and mentors that appeal to their sensibility levels.

6. A Historical Approach Should be Used in Instruction and Learning - Gifted students can develop a better understanding of areas such as literature and science if they study the gradual progression of knowledge and writing in these and other subjects. They must learn that all present day knowledge has strong connections to the past.

7. Interdisciplinary Learning - The teacher should help gifted students to see links and relationships among different subjects. This approach to learning will result in the amplification of their knowledge beyond artificially distinct subjects. The great thinkers and doers in all fields of endeavor are very skilled in combining their knowledge from many fields to develop new ideas and products.

8. Differentiation of Instruction and Learning - The gifted student must receive an advanced curriculum that provides many opportunities for in-depth learning of each subject in the humanities and sciences. Examples of differentiated learning opportunities are: working with a mentor who is an expert in a specific field, advanced library work involving independent study, museum study with professional museum staff, accelerated pace in math and science, and one-on-one student and teacher study.

9. The Teacher must be a Mentor, Role Model and Major Resource Provider - Self-study by teachers in different areas of the humanities is essential to provide the environment for high levels of student achievement. They must have a love of learning and constantly engage in questioning and analysis of problems in order to keep the gifted classroom alive and stimulating. An example of how teachers can simultaneously be a mentor, role model and resource provider is: Teachers with a lifelong interest in American history discuss outstanding history books they have read, and explain how they became interested in this subject to gifted students who have similar preferences.

10. The Teacher must Understand and Appreciate Unique Learning Styles - In order for gifted students to be highly motivated and to maximize their learning of different humanities subjects, instruction must be fitted to their unique learning styles in verbal, auditory, visual, and perceptual-motor areas.

Recommended Books -

A. Teaching Resources

Butchart, Ross (1999). Quotations for Creative Insights and Imagination. Manassas, VA: Gifted Education Press.

Fisher, Maurice D. (1999). Multiple Intelligences in the World. Manassas, VA: Gifted Education Press.

LoGiudice, James (1985). Teaching Philosophy to Gifted Students. Manassas, VA: Gifted Education Press.

LoGiudice, James, and Walters, Michael E. (1987). Philosophy of Ethics Applied to Everyday Life. Manassas, VA: Gifted Education Press.

Walters, Michael E. (1984). Humanities Education for Gifted Children. Manassas, VA: Gifted Education Press.

Walters, Michael E. (1990). Teaching Shakespaeare to Gifted Students. Manassas, VA: Gifted Education Press.

Walters, Michael E. (1996). Humanities Education for the 21st Century. Manassas, VA: Gifted Education Press.

Walters, Michael E., and LoGiudice, James (1985). Foundations of Humanities Education for Gifted Students. Manassas, VA: Gifted Education Press.

B. Selected Background Resources

Barzun, Jacques (2000). From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (2000). New York: HarperCollins.

Durant, Will (1953). The Story of Philosophy. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Durant, Will (2001). Heroes of History: A Brief History of Civilization from Ancient Times to the Dawn of the Modern

Age. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Janson, H.W., and Janson, Anthony F. (2001). History of Art (6th Edition). New York: Harry N. Abrams.

Johnson, Paul (2000). The Renaissance: A Short History. New York: The Modern Library.

Johnson, Paul (2006). Creators: From Chaucer and Dürer to Picasso and Disney. New York: HarperCollins.

Nuland, Sherwin B. (1995). Doctors: The Biography of Medicine. New York: Vintage.

Ravitch, Diane, Editor (2000). The American Reader: Words that Moved a Nation. New York: HarperCollins.

Schonberg, Harold C. (1997). The Lives of the Great Composers. New York: Norton.

Seymour-Smith, Martin (1998). The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought from Ancient Times to Today. New York: Barnes & Noble Books.

Washburn, Katharine and Major, John S., Editors, and Fadiman, Clifton, General Editor (1998). World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time. New York: W.W. Norton & Company and Book-of-the-month Club, Inc.

The Aeneid: Virgil's Epic of Giftedness

Michael E. Walters Center for the Study of the Humanities in the Schools

". . . .Similarly, the reader is surrounded by a luminous, recurrent Now that not only captures his or her attention but also makes the reader a witness and even, within one's private study, a participant in a series of events. . . . " Robert Fagles, Translator's Postscript, The Aeneid by Virgil, 2006, p. 391.

Robert Fagles, the translator of numerous Greek and Latin classics, has produced a new translation of The Aeneid. Gifted students will enjoy and benefit from reading it. The comprehension that humanity experiences from reading this epic with its timeless universal and emotional issues will appeal to and stimulate their cognitive and affective awareness. In many parts, they will find resonance with contemporary life. The episodes I suggest to illustrate this concordance are the following: The beginning which describes the fall of Troy and the arrival of Aeneas' ships at Dido's Carthage; the love affair between Dido, the queen of Carthage, and the impact of their doomed love; and Aeneas' travels to the underworld.

The fall of Troy episode emphasizes the tragedy of war. It also depicts humanity's ability to survive a physical catastrophe with emotional endurance. The exiled Trojans are victims of Venus' anger. She has the lord of the winds to torment the fleet but Neptune intervenes. The reader not only experiences the sailors' terror and courage but also the impact of fate and destiny upon human events. The Trojans, despite the aloneness of exile and dislocation, possess the commitment to a divine mission to journey to Italy and begin a Roman civilization.

The segment involving the love affair between Dido and Aeneas is one of the most passionate narratives in the human language. Aeneas loves Dido with all of his erotic personality but he remains true to his mission, and reluctantly continues on to his historical duty in a determined manner. Dido commits suicide as Aeneas leaves with his fleet. Aeneas witnesses her funeral pyre on the horizon. It is one of the most poignant moments in literary history. This conflict between duty and passion echoes throughout the centuries.

The narrative concerning Aeneas' journey into the underworld is also a powerful intellectual and emotional literary experience. Every person has experienced the agony of the demise of parents, siblings and loved ones. The opportunity to renew communication with the departed is a universal need. The catharsis of this narrative is one of the main literary signposts of artistic productivity.

Gifted students will appreciate Robert Fagles' skills as a translator. He has captured the ability to perceive Virgil's linguistic insights including Virgil's use of the present tense to constantly express himself, which allows readers to feel that they are simultaneously living within the narrative. Fagles also translated Virgil into colloquial English, making his poetry a part of our contemporary language.

Both the translator, Robert Fagles, and Bernard Knox who wrote the Introduction, have backgrounds that can serve as role models for gifted students. Fagles was trained in English literature and was chairperson of the Comparative Literature Department at Princeton University. His intellectual appetite is deep. He taught himself Greek and Latin, and translated renowned versions of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. He worked on the Aeneid during the last decade. Bernard Knox was Fagles' teacher, mentor and collaborator on many translations. Knox is not only a world renowned academic from Yale, Harvard and Cambridge universities, but he played a heroic role during World War II. He was behind the Nazi lines in France and Italy with the Resistence. Among his military citations were the U.S. Army's Bronze Star and the French Army's Croix de Guerre.

Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, December 2006-January 2007