GIFTED EDUCATION NEWS-PAGE
VOLUME 9, NUMBER 1
Published by GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS; 10201 YUMA COURT;
P.O. BOX 1586; MANASSAS, VA 20108; 703-369-5017
BOOK NEWS AND REVIEWS
Here are some books that have been very influential in the humanities, education and the sciences during the twentieth century. The authors (deceased except for Ashley Montagu) have had an enormous impact on millions of readers throughout the world. Gifted students would benefit greatly from studying their works beginning in middle school.
Growing Young by Ashley Montagu, 1905- (1989, Greenwood). This book demonstrates that various physical and mental characteristics of young children are also found in adults who have developed in a nurturing and stimulating environment. Some of the mental characteristics discussed by Montagu as being important to both the child and adult are: the need for love, friendship, sensitivity, the need to think soundly, the need to know, the need to learn, the need to work, the need to organize, curiosity, the sense of wonder, playfulness, imagination, creativity, openmindedness, the sense of humor, and compassionate intelligence. One might judge the quality of a society by how effectively it encourages the development of these characteristics through adulthood. Montagu is a world renowned anthropologist and humanist. Some of his other books are Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race (1974) and The Natural Superiority of Women (1991).
The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939, A.A. Brill, Editor (1938, Random House-Modern Library). Through his writings and lectures, this iconoclastic thinker single-handedly created the study of the mind's inner workings. Through the intensive examination of his patients' mental problems, the descriptions of their dreams, and their speech miscues (malapropisms, etc.) and witticisms, he constructed a "talking cure" known as psychoanalysis. His greatness involved going beyond observations and conversations to create theories that help to explain how the human mind works -- theories of the unconscious mind, the organization of the psyche into the Id, Ego and Superego, and psycho-sexual development. The Freud bashers of the last twenty years have not succeeded in destroying his enormous contributions to psychology, psychiatry, child development, the arts and literature, particularly as related to affective development and its interaction with thinking and problem solving.
The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970 (1945, Simon and Schuster). This individual was another revolutionary thinker of the twentieth century. His book on Western philosophy covers all the major schools from those of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle to Bergson, James, Dewey and the Logical Positivists of the Vienna Circle. Russell was a mathematical genius who with A.N. Whitehead wrote Principia Mathematica (1910-13), a work which demonstrates that mathematics can be derived from logical analysis. He was also interested in many areas of thought and society as shown by his other clearly written books, e.g., The ABC of Relativity (1958).
Escape From Freedom by Erich Fromm, 1900-80 (1941, Holt, Rinehart & Winston). As a psychoanalyst and refugee from Nazi Germany, the author discusses the psychological, historical and sociological background giving rise to this tyranny. He demonstrates how Calvinism and other historical factors led to the "authoritarian character." This type of person rejected individualism for authoritarian rule by Hitler, Mussolini and their henchmen. Fromm's other books should be read for their analysis of current human problems, e.g., The Art of Loving (1956) examines the characteristics of love based on "care, respect, responsibility and knowledge" (p. 59), and The Sane Society (1955) discusses the problem of alienation in Western society. Many of Fromm's concepts presented in these and his other books have direct bearing on understanding the dysfunctional characteristics of modern America.
The Origin of the Species& The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin, 1809-82 (1859 & 1871, facsimile edition, Random House, Modern Library). After returning from his five year voyage (1831-36) on the HMS Beagle, it took Darwin twenty-three years of meticulous preparation before publishing his world shattering book in 1859. We are still feeling the positive effects of his work on the Theory of Evolution in biology, genetics, medicine, psychology, sociology and politics. The lingering effects of the famous Scopes Trial (1925) upon teaching evolutionary theory in our public schools continue to influence modern American society, i.e., the supporters of ignorance and a dark ages mentality are alive and well in such states as Kansas, and elsewhere across the country. For a wonderful example of the effect of Darwin's ideas on the study of the origins of humankind, see the article entitled, Up From The Apes, in Time Magazine (8/23/99).
Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein, 1879-1955 (1954, Three Rivers Press). The book shows how this genius in theoretical physics had many different interests in world affairs and problems of modern society. His clear and insightful writing is on such topics as Bertrand Russell's theory of knowledge, human rights, science and religion, disarmament, education and world peace, Marie Curie, Mahatma Gandhi, Sigmund Freud, the Jewish people, Germany, and various scientific papers. His concern for the welfare of all human beings is reflected in many essays that reveal the extent of his humanism.
Experience & Education by John Dewey, 1859-1952 (1938, Touchstone). Teachers of the gifted should read and reflect on at least one chapter a day of this short 91 page work. The author, an educator and philosopher, is among the most clear thinking and insightful writers in the education field. His book compares the traditional and progressive education approaches while indicating some of the problems and advantages of both. Dewey applies his skills of philosophical analysis with much integrity by sorting out the debates regarding these "isms" and by examining their underlying assumptions. The key argument is that a theory of experience must guide the design of effective education programs. "The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative. . . ." (p. 25). Dewey also discusses the ideas of social control, freedom and the progressive organization of the curriculum. In regard to freedom, he says: "The only freedom that is of enduring importance is freedom of intelligence, that is to say, freedom of observation and of judgment exercised in behalf of purposes that are intrinsically worth while. . . ." (p. 61).
The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori, 1870-1952 (1912, Schocken Books). "The pedagogical method of observation has for its base the liberty of the child; and liberty is activity." (p. 86). This idea of educating children is not so different from John Dewey's, although his minions rejected the Montessori method as being undemocratic. One can speculate as to whether the current state of American education would be better today if Montessori's ideas were more influential in our public schools, beginning in the early part of the century. She developed her pedagogy as a means for educating children from the slums of Rome. It has always stressed the importance of teachers learning to be good observers of their pupils, and using excellent learning materials that stimulate children's motivation to learn independently. By studying Montessori's materials, teachers can learn how properly constructed lessons are the key to developing self- or intrinsic- motivation in students. In Montessori's book, Spontaneous Activity in Education (1917, Schocken Books), she said: "The child must create his interior life before he can express anything; he must take spontaneously from the external world constructive material in order to 'compose '; he must exercise his intelligence freely before he can be ready to find the logical connection between things. . . ." (p. 275).
Alexander Pushkin: The Jewel of Russian and Worldwide Multiculturalism
By Michael E. Walters Center for the Study of the Humanities in the Schools
". . . .the mob is thoughtless, changeable, rebellious, Credulous, lightly given to vain hope, Obedient to each momentary impulse, To truth deaf and indifferent; it doth feed on fables; shameless boldness pleases it." From Boris Godunov, 1825 (p. 368, Modern Library, 1964) By Alexander Pushkin.
These lines from the nineteenth century Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin, could be applicable to recent events in Kosovo and East Timor on the 200th anniversary of his birth (1799-1837). Gifted students search for role models both on a personal and cultural level, and this poet is a relevant role model for them. His ancestry was partly African since one of his ancestors was an Ethiopian member of Czar Peter The Great's court who married into the Russian landed gentry. Although technically a protégé of the Czar, he was under constant scrutiny and censorship. His personal life involved a constant struggle for freedom of self-expression.
His productivity was astounding when he died at 37 years as the result of a duel. He wrote two epic poems, Boris Godunov (1825) and Eugene Onegin (1831); both were subsequently made into operas by Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky. One of his folktales, The Tale of the Golden Cockerel (1834) later became an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov. His short story, The Queen of Spades (1833), was made into an opera by Tchaikovsky. As the founder of modern Russian literature, he influenced writers all over the world. In addition, he wrote some of the finest poems in the Russian language.
Pushkin represents a model of true multiculturalism to gifted students. Besides his native Russian, he was fluent in several languages such as French, German and English. He spent periods living with the Moslems and Gypsies of southern Russia. The dynamics of The Tale of the Golden Cockerel (1834) illustrates the true dimensions of multiculturalism. Pushkin based this story upon an episode he read in Washington Irving's The Alhambra (1832) which is about the magnificent structures and gardens built by the Moors in Grenada, Spain.
Pushkin should be used in the gifted education curriculum beginning in upper elementary school. He is the essential multiculturalist and literary model for gifted students who require challenging and relevant content.
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, October-November 1999