BOOKNEWS AND REVIEWS
The Young Scientists: America's Future and the Winning of the Westinghouse by Joseph Berger. Foreword by Dr. Leon M. Lederman, Winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics. Addison Wesley, 1994.
"The striking thing about schools for the gifted is in their application of the obvious: they expose students to the doing of science rather than the more sterile study of science....As Berger notes, this technique is so successful that it is beginning to find its way into programs in ordinary schools, described as a hands-on, activity-based, discovery method." (From the Foreword by Dr. Leon M. Lederman).
The author, a reporter and Bureau Chief for The New York Times, has written a fascinating account of the schools, teachers and students that participate in the annual Westinghouse Science and Talent Search. In doing so, he has presented one of the strongest arguments currently in print for maintaining and expanding gifted education programs. The Westinghouse competition began in the 1930s as part of a science fair in New York City, and eventually spread to high schools throughout the country. Although every high school in the United States receives information about this science competition, many do not participate. The question concerning why every high school does not compete should be the subject of another book. High schools in the New York City metropolitan area dominate the lists of national winners year after year. Among these outstanding high schools are the Bronx High School of Science (118 winners), Stuyvesant High School (70 winners), and Forest Hills High School (42 winners). As Berger says, many early winners were children of Jewish immigrants. Beginning in the 1970s, the number of students from Asian families increased enormously; their relatives immigrated from Taiwan, China, India, Korea, and Japan. In 1989, 44 percent of the winners were from New York state, primarily because interest in the Westinghouse was greater in New York than in other states.
This is a beautifully written book that conveys the thinking and scientific research of teachers and students in schools such as those in the New York area, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, and the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science. The author's extraordinary ability to describe excellent teaching is illustrated by his description of David Kiefer's method of teaching science at Midwood High School in Brooklyn, New York: "David Kiefer conducts his class like an orchestra. Taut, controlled, his burly shoulders rising in an agony of anticipation, he squeezes information from his students as if he were drawing a poignant adagio from a violin section...." (Chapter 3: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, p. 44). The Westinghouse is not just a science contest; it has served for sixty years as an instrument for launching the careers of the world's greatest scientists. Among the Westinghouse winners, five have received Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry, two have been awarded the Fields Medal in Mathematics, and eight have received MacArthur Fellowships. In addition, 28 winners later became members of The National Academy of Sciences. Teachers and parents will find this book to be inspiring and informative. It clearly shows how young gifted scientists are the products of gifted teachers and world class high schools.
The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made a Difference by Theodore Rockwell. Naval Institute Press, 1992. Telephone: 1-800-233-8764 or 1-410-268-6110
Theodore Rockwell has provided a detailed and exciting account of the life and accomplishments of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover (1900-86), United States Navy. (Rockwell is a former colleague and employee of the subject of this book.) By writing a comprehensive biography of Admiral Rickover, he has also described the history of an important area of nuclear technology. Rickover, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and an electrical engineer, was responsible for harnessing the power of the atom to design nuclear propelled submarines and the first commercial nuclear power plant in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. His parents brought him to America from Poland when he was six years old. From his early immigrant years in Chicago, to his education at the Naval Academy and Columbia University, and his subsequent work on nuclear energy, he demonstrated exceptional abilities to not only "get the job done" but to get it done right. He also had a great talent for identifying the most able individuals to work on his nuclear submarine development staff. As the manager of a crucial high technology program, his primary task was to use the talents of his hard-working and gifted engineers and scientists to achieve the highest levels of excellence. In this regard, he said: "To seek out and accept responsibility; to persevere; to be committed to excellence; to be creative and courageous; to be unrelenting in the pursuit of intellectual development; to maintain high standards of ethics and morality; and to bring these basic principles of existence to bear through active participation in life -- these are some of my ideas on the goals which must be met to achieve meaning and purpose in life." (p. 385). This is the "Rickover Effect" -- achieving excellence through unwavering dedication to attaining the best possible results.
In his later years, Admiral Rickover developed an interest in educating gifted science and mathematics students. Through his work in this area, he helped to start the Center for Excellence in Education in McLean, Virginia. This book complements and expands upon the ideas expressed in The Young Scientists by Joseph Berger because it shows how well-educated and gifted individuals can have enormous effects upon modern technology and society. Students and teachers who are gifted in science and mathematics should read both books in tandem.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY -- The Spring 1994 issue will contain an important article by Susan Winebrenner entitled, "What To Do Until Gifted Programs Come Back." This article discusses in detail various instructional procedures that can be used with gifted children in today's highly anti-gifted climate. A subscription to this Quarterly is $12.00 for one year and $22.00 for two years. Send your order to GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS.
JOURNAL OF ILLINOIS ASSOCIATION FOR GIFTED -- The Spring 1994 issue (Volume 12) of this excellent journal will focus on significant issues in gifted education such as inclusion and cooperative learning. To obtain more information about this journal, contact Joan Smutny, Editor; 633 Forest Avenue; Wilmette, IL 60091; 708-256-1220.
COMPREHENSIVE INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAM FOR EDUCATING GIFTED CHILDREN -- Marilyn Schoeman Dow has developed an extensive set of audio and video tapes and books for teachers and parents of the gifted. She is an outstanding workshop presenter who can help regular and gifted education teachers do a better job with their academically advanced students. Contact her at ThinkLink; 2515 39th Avenue, S.W.; Seattle, WA 98116-2501; 206-937-1626.
ELECTRONIC FIELD TRIPS -- Teachers of the gifted should check into the following electronic field trips scheduled for April and May of 1994: The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and Historic Gettysburg. Both programs combine live cablecast and online computer technologies "...to serve as first-hand discovery experiences that transport your students in ways no traditional field-trip ever could." Future topics will concentrate on NASA space flights, Dinosaurs, the 1996 Olympic Games, exploring the White House, and volcanos in Hawaii. For more information contact: Turner Adventure Learning; 105 Terry Drive; Suite 120; Newtown, PA 18940-9989; 1-800-344-6219.
DISCOVER SCIENCE PROGRAM -- This program combines Discover magazine with a monthly teaching guide, qizzes, Hands-on activities, and foldout posters. Students receive this monthly magazine of science information at a special reduced rate. Articles in the February 1994 issue address such topics as, "Masters of the Ancient Sky," "Science Police," and "How Africa Became Black." For more information write/call: Pat Sproehnle; Discover Science Program; 105 Terry Drive; Suite 120; Newtown, PA 18940-3425; 1-800-448-3399.
A new film version of Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers (1844) was released in the Fall of 1993. It is astounding in that despite a loose interpretation of the book, it manages to capture the magic, tone and inner qualities of this wonderful story. Of course the surface level of the film has universal appeal by emphasizing adventure, spectacle, color, costumes, physical action and mystery. In addition, it also possesses many characteristics associated with the sensibility of giftedness. First, there is the splendid delineation of human character. Dumas portrayed not only exciting and imaginative heroes, but he also produced brilliant villains. Second, the film brings history to life. The gifted child will be inspired to go beyond the mere spectacle and to grasp the historical moment of time and place. A test of giftedness could ask a student to write his or her responses to this cinematic adventure. The gifted child will perceive and record an entire range of emotional and intellectual perspectives. The Three Musketeers is a classic precisely for this reason. Dumas not only entertains, he causes intellectual and moral reflection.
: : Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, February-March 1994 " "