BOOKNEWS AND REVIEWS
Essays by Michael de Montaigne (Translated into English by J.M. Cohen). 1993. Penguin Books: NY.
This collection by the all-time French master essayist, Montaigne (1533-92), should be required reading in humanities courses for the gifted. Although written from 1572 to 1588, they are timeless and timely, and particularly relevant for an age that lacks moral and ethical direction. Here is a reflective thinker and writer who will teach the gifted student a great deal about logical argument, ethics, writing style, and "thinking skills." This book should be joyously sampled according to one's interests and desire to be enlightened on such topics as "On the Education of Children," "On Friendship," "On the Power of the Imagination," and "On Experience." The Complete Essays (1991, Penguin Books) has been recently translated into a new English version by M.A. Screech. This work presents 107 of Montaigne's essays compared to 26 in the book, Essays. Either book will bring much pleasure to the avid gifted reader. They can serve as the primary text for differentiated courses in philosophy and ethics. "Man is certainly stark mad. He cannot make a flea, and yet he will be making gods by the dozen." Montaigne, 1588.
Be Reasonable: Selected Quotations for Inquiring Minds by Laird Wilcox and John George. 1994. Prometheus Books, 59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197. Telephone: 1-800-421-0351.
Clearly, American readers have an enormous interest in books of quotations, since hundreds have been published within the last 10 years. Large bookstores such as Borders devote entire sections to them. [There is even a popular book of misquotes, They Never Said It (1989) by Paul F. Boller, Jr. & John George.] Why do Americans like these types of books? There are probably many reasons such as the need for inspiration, moral guidance, insight, goads to the imagination, guidance, verification of one's own ideas, and basic information. All of these reasons could lead to writing a Montaigne-like essay on this question. Since the reviewer is a "quotation addict" who owns about 30 such books, I will show my great respect for Be Reasonable by quoting the quoters, Wilcox and George, regarding their selection criteria: "The basic purpose of this collection is to present ideas and points of view to readers, which, we hope, will goad them into some serious considerations (or recommendations) of their own values, opinions, and beliefs. We tended to pick viewpoints that were disquieting, skeptical, sometimes cynical, but always thought-provoking." (Preface, p. 7). The quotations in their book do indeed have these qualities; this is why it is far above 90% of the others in my collection in provoking thought and stirring the imagination. Some chapters are "Envy, Resentment, and Egalitarianism," "Fanatics and True Believers," "Skepticism," and "Tolerance, Intolerance, and Prejudice." One of my favorite quotes is from the chapter on Envy: "The dog with the bone is always in danger." American Proverb. The application of this proverb to the main topic of this newsletter would be: Gifted education advocates must beware of those who unjustly criticize differential education. These critics may want to take away special programs, etc. for the gifted.
The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics. Edited by Timothy Ferris with a Foreword by Clifton Fadiman, General Editor. 1993. Little, Brown: Boston.
Timothy Ferris is a first rate science writer whose earlier book, Coming of Age in the Milky Way (1988), is an exciting voyage through the history of astronomy from ancient to modern times. Clifton Fadiman is one of the greatest book men and book critics of the 21st Century. He has been a judge for the Book-of-the-Month Club since 1944. This unusual combination of editorial expertise and knowledge has produced a unique collection of essays by scientists (e.g., Einstein, Hawking, Pagels, Dyson, Feynman, Asimov, Snow, Russell, and Turing) and non-scientists (e.g., Annie Dillard, John Updike, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Walt Whitman). This book will appeal to the unique sensibility of the gifted student because it demonstrates that great scientific works are expressions of the thoughts and insights of great poets and writers. The World Treasury also shows the importance of an interdisciplinary curriculum, for the unification of the humanities and science is strongly supported by the editors' selection process. They have included 99 essays and poems covering such general areas as: "The Realm of the Atom," "The Wider Universe," "The Cosmos of Numbers," and "The Ways of Science." We highly recommend this book for gifted students who want to see how science and the humanities are related. It will serve as a stimulating resource even for gifted students who are not particularly interested in science because the high quality of the articles will provoke their interest in science topics.
Russell Baker's Book of American Humor. 1993. W.W. Norton & Company: NY.
In this age of political correctness and artificial seriousness, Mr. Baker has put together a wonderful collection of essays by our best humorists and satirists. It is ironic that the individuals presented in this book, such as Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken, would have probably been unable to publish many of their writings, if they had lived in the present censorial age. They would have also been reviled and labeled as anti feminist, anti minority, anti gay, or even worse, anti mom and apple pie. In truth, they were grand satirists who wrote essays and books to alert Americans to their foibles and narrow-mindedness. Fortunately, the present aura of politically correct censorship has not yet stopped modern American satirists from jabbing the psyches and stifled sensibilities of their fellow-countrymen. This book includes writings by many of our great satirists from the 1960s to 1990s such as Peter DeVries, Erma Bombeck, Joseph Heller, Fran Lebowitz, Russell Baker, Garrison Keillor, Roy Blount, Jr., and Tom Wolfe. Old-timers like Damon Runyon, James Thurber, S.J. Perelman, E.B. White, Groucho Marx, Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, Fred Allen, and Ring Lardner are well represented too. Many of these essays are lighthearted, for example "How to Eat an Ice-Cream Cone" by L. Rust Hills, while others are what Baker calls "Comical-Tragical Tales" such as "Jack Schmidt, Arts Administrator" by Garrison Keillor. Another excellent feature of this book is that Baker has included interesting mini-biographies of each author. "Conventional wisdom" says that most gifted children and adolescents like jokes and other forms of humor. Russell Baker's Book of American Humor can be used to test their sensibility for humorous writing and satire. What is wrong with having a good laugh at life and its foibles, particularly in this ridiculous age? With the help of Baker's book, the gifted classroom can serve as a House of Humor for developing their sensibility.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY -- The Summer 1994 issue contains articles of particular interest to coordinators of gifted education programs. The lead article discusses using Virgil S. Ward's Differential Education System to design Outcomes Based Education (OBE) programs. It is based on applying Ward's System to gifted programs in Jenison and Grandville, Michigan. The second article is an in-depth analysis of mentoring programs and their usefulness for gifted education. Also included is an essay on the literary work of the famous British writer, C.S. Lewis. Subscriptions to GEPQ are still $12.00 for one year and $22.00 for two years!
NEW FASTBACK FROM PHI DELTA KAPPA -- Dr. Bella Kranz has published a new (1994) Fastback, Identifying Talents Among Multicultural Children. It is a three-stage identification model that uses The Kranz Talent Identification Instrument (KTII). Write to Phi Delta Kappa at the following address for more information: 408 North Union; P.O. Box 789; Bloomington, IN 47402-0789.
REVISED (1994) ASSESSMENT INSTRUMENT -- The Fisher Comprehensive Assessment of Giftedness: What to Look for When Identifying Gifted Students has recently been published. This instrument can be easily hand-scored by teachers, and used to compare all students in a classroom. It emphasizes measuring SENSIBILITY levels of gifted and non-gifted students. Contact GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS for more information.
RAY BRADBURY (1920- ): MENTORING AND SENSIBILITY
ESSAY BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
Ray Bradbury is one of the world's master writers in the areas of science fiction, essays, poetry, novels, and television drama. He has written intriguing short stories (e.g., "The Dwarf" from The October Country, 1955) and screen plays (e.g., the movie version of Moby- Dick, 1956). However, due to his popularity and subject matter, most literary critics fail to take him seriously. His book, Fahrenheit 451 (1953), is one of the most significant novels of our time that deals with book burning and totalitarianism. The French film director, François Truffaut, brought this cinematic classic to the screen. Bradbury, along with Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, is considered a master of science fiction. The Martian Chronicles (1950) is a great work in this field. In describing the exploration of Mars, Bradbury comments on such topics as pollution, racism, militarism, and science and technology. Another of his major novels is Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) which is a struggle of good versus evil that unfolds when a mysterious carnival comes to a small town during Halloween. His autobiographical memoir, Dandelion Wine (1957), is a poetic journey through small town America as seen through the eyes of a child. This master of story telling only went through high school. However, he had exceptional mentors that included his high school English teacher, librarians, and Robert Heinlein whom he met as a teenager. His literary mentors were Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe. Bradbury is a similar mentor to gifted students through a wonderful book, Zen In the Art Of Writing (1994), which I have used in my staff development program in the NYC Public Schools. By studying his works, teachers and parents will acquire a better understanding of the connection between the gifted child's sensibility and mentoring.
:: Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, June-July 1994 ::