BOOKNEWS AND REVIEWS
Genius: The Life and Science Of Richard Feynman by James Gleick. Pantheon Books, 1992.
This book describes the life and professional career of the Nobel Prize winning physicist, Richard Feynman (1918-88). It shows how far he went from humble lower-class beginnings in Far Rockaway Beach, New York in the 1920s and 1930s, to being a top undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a doctoral student in physics at Princeton University (Professors John Wheeler and Albert Einstein were there too), one of the "young Turks" working on the World War II Atomic Bomb Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico, to becoming a professor of physics at Cornell University and the California Institute of Technology. The discussion of Feynman's early life is particularly interesting because it shows some of the crucial environmental factors that support early genius in science and mathematics. He was from a family and culture that placed a high value on learning and academic achievement, but neither his mother or father had college degrees. Although his father was a salesman, he had an insatiable interest in science. He encouraged Richard to develop a similar interest by giving him various mathematics and scientific problems to solve, and helping his son to set up chemistry and radio wave experiments. Richard was a great tinkerer with radio sets -- many times his mother would have to explain to friends the reasons for the puffs of smoke and explosions emanating from his bedroom. Both parents tolerated his home chemistry lab and scientific experiments in a culture that placed enormous pride in the academic accomplishments of its children. There were no formal programs for the gifted during Richard's time in the public schools, but there were teachers who encouraged this student with an offbeat and flamboyant personality to participate in extra-curricular activities such as math-science clubs. In high school, he outshined all of his competitors in numerous math team competitions. He also had the self-motivation and chutzpa to begin studying the highly esoteric but essential principles of quantum mechanics while in high school. As a personality, Feynman was brash, outspoken, unorthodox and somewhat of a comedian, all characteristics which the textbooks on giftedness tell us to look for. Because of his Jewish roots, he experienced discrimination at MIT and Princeton, but his enormous mathematical abilities and imagination overpowered the institutional discrimination which existed against Jews at these prestigious universities and in science-based industries. Gleick has done a masterful job of presenting the life, personality and scientific achievements of this revolutionary physicist. This book would be of particular interest to teachers and parents of gifted science students, who would also find it to be exciting and inspirational.
The Dinosaur Heresies: New Theories Unlocking the Mystery of the Dinosaurs and Their Extinction by Robert T. Bakker. Paperback by Zebra Books, 1993. Hardback by Morrow, 1986.
This revolutionary paleontologist has written a provocative book that overturns the staid theories of dinosaur evolution held by cobweb strewn, pipe-smoke-spewing professors at Yale and Harvard universities. Many of the conceptions of dinosaurs designed by computer morphing in Steven Spielberg's movie, Jurassic Park, and Michael Crichton's book (of the same name) were based on Bakker's revised theories of dinosaurs, and the hundreds of illustrations he made for his book. Not only is Dr. Bakker an iconoclastic genius in this exciting field, he is also an expert artist who has drawn energetic and detailed pictures of numerous dinosaur species. His book can be used by upper elementary and secondary gifted students to stimulate interdisciplinary thinking about dinosaurs, evolutionary biology, and other scientific areas.
The Image: A Guide To Pseudo-Events In America by Daniel J. Boorstin. Paperback by Vintage Books, 1987. Hardback by Atheneum, 1961.
Although Boorstin's work was originally published 32 years ago, we highly recommend that it be carefully read today. It provides an intensive analysis of the media techniques used to produce pseudo-news in newspapers, on television, and in other media. His fascinating account of the pseudo-events produced by newspaper reporters and large corporations can provide gifted students with some of the analytical tools necessary for cutting through the glut of non-news, which occurs in all modern media, and get to the heart of bonafide news events. Gifted students interested in the communications field should carefully read and apply Boorstin's analyses in order to learn how to "see through" and reduce the enormous amount of communications garbage in current media.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY -- The Fall 1993 issue contains useful articles on Advocacy for the Gifted by JOAN SMUTNY, and principles of General-Semantics for teaching the gifted by SUSAN AND BRUCE KODISH. The Winter 1994 issue will include a very interesting article by the outstanding show business performer, writer, musician and polymath, STEVE ALLEN, concerning his imaginative ideas on teaching gifted children. Subscriptions are $12.00 for ONE Year and $22.00 for TWO YEARS. Don't miss these interesting issues!
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN -- A five hour audio tape (Craven Street: Benjamin Franklin in London) can be ordered of this exciting radio show about Mr. Franklin and his Pre-Revolutionary War Times as the Massachusetts representative in England. Send a donation check or money order for $50 or more (marked "donation") to the Hollywood Theater of the Ear; 1870 N. Vermont Avenue, # 548; Hollywood, CA 90027. TEL: 818-546-2574. This is a non-profit organization.
THE WILSON QUARTERLY -- The Summer 1993 issue has some interesting articles for gifted children and their teachers: Hollow Rock & The Lost Blues Connection by Martha Bayles and The Dictionary Makers by Anthony Burgess. Bayles writes about how American music went wrong through losing touch with its soul, "the rich blues tradition." Burgess discusses the history of the dictionary as designed by Samuel Johnson and James Murray. The address for TWQ is: 901 D Street S.W., Suite 704; Washington, D.C. 20024. TEL: 202-287-3000.
PC/COMPUTING MAGAZINE -- The October 1993 issue includes very informative articles on multimedia PCs and software. Read this helpful issue if you own a CD ROM drive or plan to purchase one. This magazine is available on newsstands or from: Ziff-Davis Publishing Company; P.O. Box 53131; Boulder, CO 80322-3131.
THE SECRET GARDEN (1993): THE SECRET FOR GIFTEDNESS
MOVIE REVIEW BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
A classic is a work of art that is always being rediscovered; every succeeding generation finds it relevant. The Secret Garden, originally written in 1911, has been a perennial rediscovery experience: In the last decade, there have been several television adaptations, a successful Broadway play, and this year, a cinematic masterpiece. This 1993 movie version shows the revolt of gifted children against their oppressors. When I recently saw the film, I observed in the audience a mother of about 60 years cuddled in her middle-aged daughter's arms. In the next row, a Latino father and his ten year old son were quietly discussing the film in Spanish. The theatre had the atmosphere of a religious ceremony.
The book was written by Frances (Eliza) Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924) who was born in Manchester, England. As a teenager, she and her family migrated to rural Tennessee where they had relatives. She became one of the first modern literary celebrities; her friends included President James Garfield and members of British royalty. She represents an era of gifted women writers (Louisa May Alcott and Kate Greenaway were others) who specialized in literature for young ladies. Burnett also wrote the very successful book, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886).
The film was directed by Agnieszka Holland, a Polish Jewess whose family history includes the Holocaust and Stalinist repression. Her film reflects the pain and agony of the historical traumas she and her family lived through. It also possesses a wonderful magical element that is the emotional hallmark of the book, the spiritual regeneration of two gifted children by nature (flowers and plants), and their encounters and rapport with animals.
The performances in this film by the child actors -- Heydon Prowse, Kate Maberly, and Andrew Knott -- are fantastic and almost unbelievable. In fact, I felt that I was a member of this band of children. The acting is an experience in the reality of giftedness, and both the film and book are testaments to the statement, "Yes Virginia, there is a gifted child." This film represents a perfect response to the gifted child debate currently raging in American public education. It clearly demonstrates that giftedness cannot be successfully buried, ignored or misrepresented.
"Perhaps we all long for a 'secret garden' where everything is happy and peaceful and growing and good --life is as it should be -- and I think the beauty of this book is that it expresses this natural human need in a simple, straightforward, and exciting story." Nina Bawden, Afterword to The Secret Garden, 1986, Dell Yearling Classics.
"" Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, October-November 1993 ""