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Heroes of Giftedness — There are many individuals who can serve as heroes for gifted students in different areas of human endeavor including intellectual activities, scientific work, and industrial-technological pursuits. The main task is to identify the ones who have a high degree of ingenuity, persistence and character (positive values and standards of behavior). Many commentators on today’s society ask, “Where have all the heroes gone?” On the contrary, they are here among us – if we would only take enough time look for them.

Helen Vendler, Ph.D. – Professor of English and American Literature, Harvard University. She has written many books about poets such as Yeats, Keats and Wallace Stevens. Her books are noted for the key questions presented about poets and their poems, and her insightful answers which combine technical knowledge with information about the poets’ lives. As an example, Vendler has posed this question about Keats’s odes: “. . . .It was in fact Keats’s choice of subjects for the odes that originally perplexed me: why did he write on a quality (indolence), then to a goddess (Psyche), then to a nightingale, then on an urn, then on an emotion (melancholy), then to a season (autumn)?” (The Odes of John Keats, p. 5, Harvard University Press, 1983). In her book entitled Seamus Heaney (Harvard University Press, 1998), she discusses this Nobel Laureate’s work. What is so fascinating about this book is that it chronicles the interaction between Heaney and Vendler over twenty years. She not only analyzes many of the poems Heaney wrote but also encourages his development as a major Irish Catholic poet and leading spokesman for the Northern Ireland rebellion, Irish farm life, the landscape and its people. Vendler’s tour de force is her analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Harvard University Press, 1997). She provides a detailed discussion of all 154 Sonnets, mainly through interpreting specific words and ideas, and relating the Sonnets to each other. Regarding Sonnet 14, she says: “The speaker as philosophical mock-astrologer. Dramatically, the first appearance in the Sonnets of the linked words truth and beauty (a change from the previous pair, sweets and beauties). The Platonic triadthe good (sweet, kind), the true, and the beautiful (fair)–appears in the Sonnets both as a whole (fair, kind, and true, 76) and in groupings of two of its three qualities. Virtue and beauty can be coupled (sweets and beauties, 12) or problematically disjoined (54: O how much more). Sweets in Shakespeare tend to confer good on others, and (like perfume) to have an extension that survives the bodily extinction of the form in which they originate; truth tends to represent for Shakespeare the convergence of inner substance with outer show, and is related to troth in personal relation. . . .” (p. 105). Vendler’s interpretations will provide gifted students with the motivation to study Shakespeare, Keats and other outstanding poets. She is a role model for all gifted students who seek an in-depth understanding of the lives and techniques of great poets and their critics.


Wynton Marsalis – Classical and jazz trumpet player who studied at The Julliard School of Music and started his jazz career with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. When this outstanding musician began recording trumpet concertos and jazz performances in the 1980s, he reawakened worldwide interest in this instrument among both types of listeners. The jazz world had reached a low point of interest during the 1960s and 70s from which it did not appear likely to recover. Marsalis has been a major force in preventing the demise of jazz and inspiring many young musicians and listeners. He is also a composer of a jazz symphony (All Rise, 2002), a string quartet (At the Octoroon Balls, 1995), and an oratorio (Blood in the Fields which received a Pulitzer Prize in 1997). As host of Ken Burns’ PBS jazz series (2001), his workshops for young musicians, and direction of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Marsalis has become the leader of this unique American music. His talent for articulating the main elements of jazz and enthusiasm for the music and musicians have influenced Americans to again enjoy jazz – whether New Orleans style, bop or swing. Marsalis has made numerous recordings; here are a few that illustrate his talent and dynamism: Carnaval (1987), Classic Wynton (1998), and The Magic Hour (2004).


“The most extraordinary dimension of Wynton Marsalis, however, is not his accomplishments but his character. It is the lesser-known but much appreciated part of this man who finds endless ways to give of himself. It is the person who waited in a dark and empty parking lot for one full hour after a concert in Baltimore, waiting for a single student to return from home with his horn for a trumpet lesson; it is the citizen who personally funds scholarships for students attending the Tanglewood Music Center and the Eastern Music Festival. Wynton Marsalis has selflessly donated his time and talent to non-profit organizations throughout the country to help raise money to meet the many needs within our society.” (Online biography at


“Put it this way. Jazz is a good barometer of freedom. . . .In its beginnings, the United States of America spawned certain ideals of freedom and independence through which, eventually, jazz was evolved, and the music is so free that many people say it is the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet produced in this country.” Duke Ellington


New Book for Educators of the Gifted – Reclaiming the Lives of Gifted Girls and Women by Joan Franklin Smutny (Royal Fireworks Press, 2007).

Joan Smutny, who has authored many useful books for teachers and parents, is one of the most prolific writers and tenacious advocates in the gifted education field. This is an excellent resource that first discusses the stereotypes about and discrimination against girls and women who are gifted. It also includes an interesting section on the “pathfinders” who have helped break down these negative influences. Most important for educators, it contains an extensive section on what teachers and parents can do to promote female students’ maximum development in the school and home. The book has comprehensive bibliographic references, a list of organizations and supplies, relevant websites, and a section on books for girls. Some of the specific topics Smutny discusses are:

●What factors have contributed to the demise of female students’ aspirations? – Relinquishing One’s Self, Learning Dependency, and Becoming a Female Impersonator.


●What are the Needs of Gifted Girls and Women Today?


●What should teachers look for and do in order to foster their successful classroom learning?


●What teaching practices support gifted girls?


●How to expand gender awareness, and make it a school wide issue and program.


●How to help gifted girls fulfill their social and emotional needs.

All of the topics included in Smutny’s book will provide teachers with a practical resource for working successfully with gifted girls. She has extensive experience with these students through her gifted enrichment programs in the Chicago metropolitan area. This experience is reflected throughout the book in a sensitive and knowledgeable manner. We highly recommend its use in all gifted education classrooms.


Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936): Story Teller for the Gifted Imagination

Michael E. Walters

Center for the Study of the Humanities in the Schools

In 1907 Rudyard Kipling was given the Nobel Prize in Literature. When we examine his literary productivity, the reason he received this honor becomes obvious. Gifted students can be easily stimulated and inspired by his life and writings, particularly because he was one of the earliest representatives of the multicultural personality. He was born in Bombay, India in 1865. Kipling’s English father was a professor of architectural sculpture at the Bombay School of Art. His English mother was an in-law of Sir Edward Burne-Jones who was a Pre-Raphaelite painter. As a child, Kipling learned Hindi from his nanny. She not only spoke the language but also knew the folklore of India. At six years, his mother and father sent him to England where he lived with a foster family. He was bullied and beaten by this family, and his mother finally removed him from this harrowing environment when he was twelve. Beginning in 1878 he attended a private school which his book, Stalky & Company (1899), describes in sadistic and comical detail. When he returned to India in 1882, his family had moved to Lahore which is now a part of Pakistan. He worked for local newspapers in Lahore and Allahabad, and encountered the Muslim and Sikh cultures. Later in 1892 he married an American woman in London. (Henry James was his best man.) They lived for awhile in Brattleboro, Vermont from 1892-96 where he wrote The Jungle Books (1894-95) and Captains Courageous (1896). After a violent disagreement with his brother-in-law, he and his family returned to England in 1896 where he became a literary icon.

The book Kim (1901) is especially relevant for our current times. It describes the Great Game which was a political rivalry between Russia on one side and England on the other for the controlling influence in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Kim was the orphan son of an Irish soldier in the British Army; his mentor was a Tibetan lama. The book is a classic adventure story that includes the many cultures, religions, vernaculars and geographic settings of the 19th century Indian sub-continent. Kipling also wrote The Jungle Books (1894-95) and Just So Stories (1902). The stories in both books use animals as parables. Just So Stories is an early example of modernism later represented by James Joyce and Dylan Thomas. These stories are written in a poetic prose that is meant to be heard rather than just read silently. While in the United States he wrote Captains Courageous (1896), the tale of a rich teenager named Harvey Cheyne who learns values of life from New England fisherman. They rescued him after he fell overboard from an ocean steamer. Kipling also wrote some of the finest short stories in the English language, e.g., The Man Who Would Be King (1888). Among the writers he influenced were the American – Ernest Hemingway, the Russian-Jew – Isaac Babel, and the Argentinean – Jorge Luis Borges.

He was also a wonderful poet. His poems about the enlisted English soldiers in India expressed their point of view (Barrack-Room Ballads, 1892). These poems also influenced future writers who wrote about military combat, e.g., From Here to Eternity (1951) by James Jones. Kipling’s poem IF (1895) is one of the most inspirational works in the English language. Here is the first stanza:

IF you can keep your head when all about you

   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

   But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

   Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated, don't give way to hating. . . .

Gifted students will benefit from reading and discussing Rudyard Kipling’s works. To read an author such as Kipling is to be seriously exposed to the world, history and humanity.

 ☞☞ Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, June-July 2008 ☜☜