BOOKNEWS AND REVIEWS
Nature's Kindred Spirits by James I. McClintock. (1994). The University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, Wisconsin. Telephone: (608) 262-4928.
Beginning with Thoreau, our nation has produced outstanding literature about nature. McClintock, a professor of English and director of the American Studies Program at Michigan State University, describes the lives and contributions of five of the best nature writers in each of five chapters. Aldo Leopold, Joseph Wood Krutch, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard, and Gary Snyder are all 20th century American writers who have used knowledge of ecological sciences and the study of human values to address environmental issues. (The book also includes excellent wood engravings by the author's son, Matthew M. McClintock.) Leopold is famous for A Sand County Almanac (1949). It is considered to be the "Bible" of the environmental movement and a great literary work. This book emphasizes the interdependence of human beings and the natural world by presenting beautiful descriptions of natural environments. Joseph Wood Krutch, who was a professor of English at Columbia University, became interested in the biocentric approach which emphasizes that all elements of nature are equal and should be treated equally. His books, including The Voice of the Desert (1955) and Grand Canyon (1958), popularized Leopold's ideas and stressed the need for ecological approaches to the study of nature. The eccentric iconoclast and philosopher of the ecology movement, Edward Abbey, was also attracted to the American desert (Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, 1968). He waged many battles against the National Park Service and land developers to stop the destruction of some of our most beautiful natural areas. Abbey was particularly concerned with the excessive tourism in these parks.
The chapter about Annie Dillard discusses her book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: A Mystical Excursion into the Natural World (1974) -- a classic of natural observation in which she wrote detailed accounts of what she saw in the woods. She is not only one of our finest nature writers, but one of the best non-fiction writers in the English language (e.g., The Writing Life, 1989). Gary Snyder is the last nature writer discussed by McClintock in a separate chapter -- a poet and fighter extraordinaire for environmental conservation. Snyder has emphasized studying the insights of Native Americans and ecological sciences. He has " . . . fully articulated a powerful ecological vision of harmony among nature, society, and the spirit." (Introduction, p. XVII). The final chapter shows how the works of Wallace Stegner, Wendell Berry and Gary Lopez are related to these five nature writers. McClintock's book will help to increase gifted students' awareness of this important area of literature, and demonstrate the concerns many Americans have for the accelerating destruction of our natural landscape and animals for the sake of super highways, shopping centers, and investment properties.
Profiles of Female Genius: Thirteen Creative Women Who Changed the World by Gene N. Landrum. ( 1994). Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY. Telephone: (800) 421-0351.
Landrum has written an excellent resource, particularly for gifted girls who are seeking female role models in the business, entertainment, political, and publishing fields. He has conducted an extensive analysis of the psychological, social and educational factors related to the success of thirteen of our nation's and the world's most outstanding women. Among them are Golda Meir, Ayn Rand, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Mary Kay Ash, Gloria Steinem, and Maria Callas. The first seven chapters present a detailed summary of these women as related to birth order, self-esteem, education, intelligence, personality traits and temperaments. His two provocative chapters on the origins and expressions of creativity would be of particular interest to educators of the gifted. For example, he argues that early life crises have been the instigators of creativity in all of his subjects. He says that "crisis is the mother of creativity."
The subsequent chapters, after the first seven, describe the lives and accomplishments of each woman. These chapters include discussions of their achievements, personal life history, professional background, temperament, family versus career, life crises, and primary traits. The author has also written a one-page summary at the end of each chapter discussing a famous woman. These summaries are particularly useful because they capture their major characteristics in a concise format. The concluding chapter (twenty-four) entitled, "Promethean Women," has many interesting observations such as: (1) "reaching the top of most fields is performance rather than gender-based"; and (2) "I believe creative geniuses are bred not born and that the Mozarts of the world are an aberration not the rule for any great endeavor." There are many provocative discussions in this final chapter including gender-dominant skills related to success, religion and creativity, success tips, and inhibiting factors. This book is a comprehensive educational experience in the examination of female accomplishment. We highly recommend it to teachers, parents and gifted students.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
NEW PUBLICATION FROM GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS -- Our latest book, published in August 1994, is Book and Curriculum Reviews from Gifted Education News-Page: An Information Resource for Teachers, Parents and Gifted Students Maurice D Fisher, Editor. It contains extensive information from American culture and the Humanities that can be used to teach the gifted. The cost is $15.40 ($14.00 + $1.40 P&H).
UNDERSTANDING OUR GIFTED -- This bimonthly periodical includes outstanding articles by such educators as Susan Winebrenner and Jim Delisle. The current issue concentrates on "Mainstreaming the Gifted." (July-August 1994). Write to the following address for further information: Dorothy Knopper, Publisher; Open Space Communications, Inc.; 1900 Folsom, Suite 108; Boulder, CO 80302.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC -- The October 1994 issue is devoted to "Our National Parks." Extraordinary photographs of scenes from several parks are presented in this article. As Thoreau said, "In wildness is the preservation of the world."
DISCOVER: THE WORLD OF SCIENCE -- The October 1994 issue contains some fascinating articles: "Ascent of the Dog," excerpts from Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 (1994), and the "1994 Discover Awards." Write to Discover Magazine Science Program to receive the science curriculum newsletter that emphasizes "strategies for using Discover in the classroom." The address is: DMSP; Attn: Darlene Quinn; 105 Terry Drive, Suite 120; Newtown, PA 18940-3425.
AMERICA'S LIBRARIES AND THE EDUCATION OF GIFTED STUDENTS
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
" . . . Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt. . . ." From "The lost Dimension in Religion" by Paul Tillich.
Gifted students acutely require high quality public libraries. In these institutions, they can conduct personal independent research and fine tune their skills in locating resources and discovering new worlds of thought and imagination. They do not require assigned readings or topical papers because the essence of these students is their need to seek knowledge for its own sake. This aspect of independent self-development has traditionally found the public library as a place where the inner search for ideas and creativity can be fulfilled. The above quote by Paul Tillich, the Protestant existential theologian, is from an anthology of articles that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post magazine (1960, Richard Thruelsen and John Kobler, Editors): Adventures of the Mind. This anthology includes some of the seminal thinkers of the 20th century --- Bertrand Russell, Edith Hamilton, S.I. Hayakawa, Fred Hoyle, Aaron Copland, etc. These individuals and their essays were concerned with the entire realm of human thought and feelings: Bertrand Russell on "The Expanding Mental Universe," Edith Hamilton on "The Lessons of the Past," S.I. Hayakawa on "How Words Change Our Lives," Fred Hoyle on "When Time Began," Aaron Copeland on "The Pleasures of Music." It is also noteworthy that a magazine like the Saturday Evening Post published such profound essays although it was a mass circulation periodical. Is there a magazine similar in mass popularity publishing such themes and authors today? The answer is an obvious no, and there are repercussions for American culture and the present state of cultural deprivation. Recently, I found this book on sale at the local branch public library where I live. This and other similar high quality books were placed on sale because, according to the recent policy of this public library, a book should be removed if it does not circulate properly. Room must be made for high circulation authors such as Tom Clancy and Danielle Steel. Another example of an excellent book removed from the stacks and placed on sale was American Literary Essays (1960, Lewis Leary, Editor). These essays cover the entire literary history of the United States and were written by such luminaries as Washington Irving, Emerson, Whitman, H.L. Mencken, E.B. White and William Faulkner. The inside covers contain a chronological list of great American essayists. There is a lifetime of knowledge and experience in these two books, but the other problem is they are politically incorrect. The criteria for choosing the contributors were the profoundness of themes, expertise, and clarity of writing. It is ironical that most of them were intellectual and political rebels of their time and place.
Gifted students are special victims of this approach to "de-selecting" books. One important purpose of the New York City Public Library System is to enable children with economic and social limitations to develop their innate giftedness. Another important function of the public library is to preserve human memory; great thinkers should not be put down a memory hole in the name of current political and social tastes. These major purposes of the public library are in danger. The slogan of the United Negro College Fund is that "a mind is a terrible thing to waste." This concept is one of the most significant of our times. A waste of human thought and energy occurs when gifted individuals go to a local branch public library and have to search for their masters on the "book sale rack." REFERENCES: (1) Leary, Lewis. (Editor). American Literary Essays. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1960; (2) Thruelsen, Richard and Kobler, John. (Editors). Adventures of the Mind. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1960.
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, October-November 1994