GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY
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VOLUME ELEVEN, NUMBER ONE
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MEMBERS OF NATIONAL ADVISORY PANEL
Ms. Sharon Buzzard -- Supervisor of Gifted Education, East Liverpool Ohio Schools and Past President of the Ohio Association for Gifted Children
Dr. James Delisle -- Professor and Co-Director of SENG, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
Dr. Jerry Flack --Univ. Of Colorado-Colorado Springs
Dr. Howard Gardner -- Professor, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Ms. Diane D. Grybek -- Supervisor of Secondary Gifted Programs (Retired), Hillsborough County Schools, Tampa, Florida
Ms. Dorothy Knopper -- Publisher, Open Space Communications, Boulder, Colorado
Mr. James LoGiudice -- Director, Program and Staff Development, Bucks County, Pennsylvania Intermediate Unit No. 22 and Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education
Dr. Mary Meeker -- President of SOI Systems, Vida, Oregon
Dr. Adrienne O'Neill - Director of Graduate Studies, Caldwell College, Caldwell, New Jersey
Dr. Stephen Schroeder-Davis -- Coordinator of Gifted Programs, Elk River, Minnesota Schools and Past President of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented
Dr. Bruce Shore -- Professor and Director, Giftedness Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Ms. Joan Smutny -- Professor and Director, Center for Gifted, National-Louis University, Evanston, Illinois
Dr. Virgil S. Ward -- Emeritus Professor of Gifted Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia
Ms. Susan Winebrenner -- Consultant, Brooklyn, Michigan
This issue contains a heartfelt tribute to A. Harry Passow written by Virgil S. Ward, who was his friend and colleague for 35 years. Both professors have contributed significantly to designing differential education programs for academically advanced students, particularly during the post-Sputnik era of the 1960s and 1970s.
Congratulations to Stephen Schroeder-Davis who received the 1996 John C. Gowan Award from the National Association for Gifted Children for his outstanding dissertation, Brains, Brawn or Beauty: A Content Analysis of Adolescent Responses to Superlatives. This honor highlights his research and writing on adolescents' attitudes about giftedness and academic attainment. We published an article based on this dissertation in the Spring 1996 issue. We are doubly proud of this recognition because GEPQ was one of the first periodicals to publish his articles on bibliotherapy for gifted students and coercive egalitarianism, beginning five years ago. In addition, Gifted Education Press published Schroeder-Davis's instructional manual, Coercive Egalitarianism: A Study of Discrimination Against Gifted Children (1993), which includes a comprehensive curriculum for teaching all students about discrimination against and negative attitudes concerning the gifted.
In our continuing search for young authors of intellectual substance, we have recently identified several individuals with innovative ideas and imaginative perspectives on educating gifted children. This issue of GEPQ highlights the work of one of these authors, Daryl Capuano, who has written an article on his experiences in the New Jersey Governor's School. Today, he is a practicing lawyer in the Washington, D.C. area. Capuano's article includes important recommendations for revising the mission of gifted education.
In the second featured article, Teena Vaughn-D’Annibale discusses teaching gifted students about book publishing. Her goal is to help create a positive aura around writing and reading in the schools. Following this article, we have included a review of Ellen Winner’s excellent book, Gifted Children: Myths and Realities (1996).
Michael Walters has written a wonderful essay on the youth, intellect, environment and achievements of Johannes Brahms. This essay, as is the case with all of Walters' previous essays, stresses the intensive study of great artists, musicians-composers, writers, scientists, and thinkers in the gifted curriculum. His analysis of these individuals during the last fourteen years has clearly demonstrated that a comprehensive program for the gifted must include extensive work in the humanities -- i.e., philosophy, art, music, literature and history. A collection of his essays was published by GEP in the fall of 1996 -- Humanities Education for the 21st Century.
Maurice Fisher,Ph.D., Publisher
IN MEMORIAM: A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO A. HARRY PASSOW, JACOB H. SCHIFF
PROFESSOR OF EDUCATION
TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY 1920 -1996
BY VIRGIL S. WARD, EMERITUS PROFESSOR OF EDUCATION
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
Few who knew this eminently productive scholar and author would argue but that his place among colleagues in Education for the Gifted and Talented across the nation was and will remain for many years to come, among the top most ten or twelve in generality of thought, power of understanding and professional leadership.
I first met him face to face through participation in the National Education Association's Project on the Academically Talented, Dr. Charles H. Bish, Director, 1961-67, where his already known work at Teachers College led the Project Director to look to Professor Passow in considerable measure for direction and for substantive thought among the numerous individuals invited to participate in conferences and in the publication of the famed series of "green books," representing virtually every known subject in the American school curriculum. But his published work prior to that, notably in the 1955 Planning for Talented Youth, published through the Horace Mann-Lincoln Institute of School Experimentation, was a commanding summary of understandings, useful then to school men and women, and still fresh and insightful today in a field where circularity of thought remains somewhat characteristic.
From his positions of leadership in other fields of specialized research than the gifted and talented, Passow became noted for his friendliness and encouragement to others, especially those just beginning their careers. If a given individual's writing for a given publication did not appear quite to fit the objective and theme, it was his wont not to criticize and reject, but rather to suggest constructive ways in which the original piece might be brought into line.
Harry Passow's most enduring legacy, however, in the writer's view -- destined to remain influential well beyond the present and for many years into the future -- lies in the impressive series of prestigious publications which he authored or co-authored. He contributed substantially, for instance, first to the Fifty-Seventh Yearbook (1958) of the National Society for the Study of Education, entitled Education for the Gifted, and edited by Robert J. Havighurst, University of Chicago; and second, he, himself edited and contributed to the Seventy-eighth Yearbook, entitled: The Gifted and the Talented: Their Education and Development (University of Chicago Press, 1979).
Passow was not through yet however, for in 1993, he joined other scholars on the international scene, Kurt A. Heller, Franz J. Mönks and himself, to edit the commanding encyclopedic work: The International Handbook of Research and Development of Giftedness and Talent (Oxford, England: Pergamon Press).
Finally, this memorial tribute closes, as it must -- though doubtless there are numerous other instances of our friend and colleague's continued productivity up to the time of his untimely passing -- it is trusted that what we have included here by way of recognition both of some of his warm personal attributes and certain of the works which comprise his legacy for all time, will hopefully serve to remind his host of colleagues and admirers of the man and scholar whom we shall miss for many years to come!
GIFTED EDUCATION: THE COMMUNITY SERVICE APPROACH
The New Jersey Governor's School On Public Issues As A Case Study
BY DARYL CAPUANO
Educators of the gifted have been rendered speechless by an unprecedented backlash against funding gifted education programs. To regain their voice, they must better articulate their purpose; specifically, to what end are schools providing specialized education for gifted students?
The classic basis for establishing gifted programs stemmed from the perspective of the individual. Thomas Jefferson may have said it best: "There is nothing so unequal as the equal education of unequal persons." (Ratner, 1996). In days past, when educational dollars flowed more easily, there seemed little controversy in providing extra academic outlets for top students who otherwise would be wasting their potential in unchallenging classes. Today, as these resources have become a cherished commodity and other special interest groups have joined the mix, funds allocated for gifted education have become viewed, by some, as resources that could be spent elsewhere. (Bower, 1995).
Historically, gifted programs sharpened the academic talent of top students, but provided little, if any, direction for use of their abilities in the future. Thus, while such programs provided obvious concrete benefits to individual students, society's additional value may have appeared more abstract.
If this were still the golden age of funding gifted education, the conventional rationale for serving the particular needs of talented students could continue indefinitely. However, budget makers now, more than ever before, are employing stringent cost-benefit analysis. Given the current era of fiscal constraint, educators of the gifted need to demonstrate greater societal benefits for their programs. To do so, they must develop new arguments to supplement traditional reasons for supporting their projects, and they must clarify the benefits of both old and new styles of gifted education. One innovative theme, a community service oriented approach to gifted education, provides a compelling rationale for supporting gifted programs. By inspiring gifted students to be public spirited as part of their curriculum, the individual and society derive tangible benefits. Moreover, program administrators and teachers would have a stronger arsenal for repelling attacks.
The Attack on Gifted Education
Opponents of differential education for gifted students have presented their arguments with remarkable vigor. They contend that tax dollars should not be spent on students who, by definition, have been blessed with natural advantages and that the state should not increase their good fortune at the expense of depriving the mainstream. The argument follows that precious educational resources should be devoted to both the general student body, and students with natural disadvantages. Moreover, the fringe element of the anti-gifted education movement suggests that the entire concept of gifted education is inherently elitist and should be eliminated as a question of principle, not resources.
Another area of attack, and one that this article counters, centers upon the notion that gifted programs merely strengthen the abilities of top students who then, in turn, enhance themselves but make only limited contributions to the community. If this is true, then society at-large receives little in return for funding such programs. Since all students could benefit from more individually tailored education, why should gifted students receive special treatment, if like most everyone else, they are merely striving for self-aggrandizement?
The Need For A New Response
This article will describe the New Jersey Governor's School on Public Issues, in the hopes of illustrating the type of concept that produces high level benefits for both the individual student and for society and the type of program that could serve as a model of community service oriented gifted education.
Other than as an alumnus, I am not affiliated in any way with the Governor's School. This is neither an advertisement, nor necessarily an accurate depiction of its current curriculum, but merely a reflection of my two experiences with the program, one as a student in 1984, and another as a counselor and teacher assistant in 1988. As more than a decade has passed since my days as a student and nearly a decade since my days as an educator at the Governor's School, my comments are necessarily less precise than a journalistic account, but perhaps more indicative of the lasting impressions that well executed gifted education programs can leave.
While the Governor's School had a strong academic curriculum involving classes, speakers, and reading and writing assignments, the potency of this program was its explicit message; talented people have a responsibility to make a positive difference for society. This message was continually imparted through speech, action, and example.
Such encouragement presented a stark contrast to our previous educational role models who actively cultivated our academic potential, but made little effort in directing us towards higher ends. Probing questions about purpose and contribution were a welcome change to the more common onslaught of `what do you want to do when you grow up?' interrogations.
Given the all too typical monomaniacal focus on future career path, rather than life purpose, its no wonder that a good number of gifted children fulfill the societal directive to do well for themselves but fail to dedicate their considerable gifts to doing well for others. This should not be surprising given the direction, or lack thereof, that has been provided to most students.
The Governor's School student body was comprised of rising high school seniors, most of whom were in the midst of considering their college choices; a process that often leads to the first serious formulation of career plans. While many students entered the Governor's School with a conception of their preferred future job label, few had developed a sense of purpose underlying their proposed occupations. At the end of the program, meaning and purpose were incorporated into their plans, such that students who wanted to be doctors now wanted to be doctors contributing to public health and those who wanted to be bankers now wanted to be bankers funding worthwhile projects.
Filling up our top youth with high level education, and then leaving them directionless or at the discretion of their cultural influences, is a disservice to both students and society. Programs such as the New Jersey Governor's School demonstrate that providing for the good of the individual can also elevate the good of the community.
The N.J. Governor's School on Public Issues
Mission and Purpose
In 1963, North Carolina established the first Governor's School. Many states subsequently followed suit, but the New Jersey Governor's School specifically on Public Issues was the first of its kind.
"No limits to Learning," a 1979 report on education issued by the Club of Rome, an international group of academicians, government officials and businessmen concerned with issues relating to the world's future, provided the initial inspiration for the public issues oriented curriculum. The report advocated innovative educational methods beyond traditional modes featuring assigned reading and lectures. The program was, instead, designed to actively engage students as participating learners and not simply passive knowledge recipients. (Wolf, 1985).
I was able to find the original description of the 1984 Governor's School of Public Issues and the Future of New Jersey. Former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean spoke best about the Governor's School's mission and purpose:
"Our purpose in organizing a Governor's School and in bringing all of you together is to acquaint you with some of the problems that are facing your commu-nities, our state, our nation, and, of course, our very world. And the hope is that once you're aware of the problems, that once you understand them, that we can enlist you in trying to find solutions, in trying to do something about them."
Several important lessons can be drawn from both the speaker and his words. First, political support for gifted programs becomes more tenable when matched with solving the problems that face elected officials. Second, such programs offer an additional platform for elected officials to have a bully pulpit for their pet issues, or at least another opportunity to address constituents. Third, from a more high minded perspective, elected officials are given an opportunity inspire young minds. Governor Kean was a model of such inspiration. His true concern for educational programs was evidenced by his next job as President of Drew University in New Jersey.
The Governor's School program description closed with its statement regarding public issues orientation. This concentration differentiated the program from other Governor's Schools which focused on, among other things, the arts, the environment, or technology:
The Public Issues Orientation
"The public issues curriculum has long term societal payoffs for the state, the nation, and the world. This is made more explicit by calling gifted students to an active concern for the future of their state, with the hope that they will develop a taste for public debate and for challenging and complex public problems. The hope is that they will carry on their concern by devoting some measure of their lives to the public good in their professions and communities. Furthermore, a rigorous public issues curriculum can be intellectually demanding, extending and enriching students' sense of how complex problems and systems interact while challenging them to clarify and develop their personal values and assumptions about the world.
"The Governor's School's unique public issues curriculum (the first of its kind) provides a model of response to concerns about the alarming dominance of special interests in politics and the steady erosion of the sense of public trust and public good. Its initiative has attracted a broad based support and provided a fresh symbol of educational leadership and pride for New Jersey."
The Governor's School program description presented itself in the following way:
"The Governor's School of Public Issues and the Future of New Jersey gathers 100 gifted and talented high school rising seniors from the state for an intensive learning experience designed to develop their intellectual abilities, to reinforce and enrich a positive image of themselves, and to challenge their potential capabilities with a new vision.
The inherent nature of gifted programs involves providing enhanced learning experiences. In addition, some prog-rams have included a focus upon cultivating self-esteem, particularly since many gifted students have low social images. (Schroeder-Davis, 1996). The Governor's School did both, while adding a new theme - "making a difference" - to its vision of a comprehensive gifted learning experience.
The curriculum itself was created by Drs. James and Cheryl Hollman Keen, both visionary leaders and top notch educators. Previously, they had taught at Harvard's divinity school and had contributed some of the original research to "No Limits to Learning." They designed the Governor's School curriculum to:
"1) Foster a transdisciplinary global aware-ness, an enriched personal awareness, and an appreciation of both living and nonliving systems ranging from microscopic to the biospheric and beyond.
"2) Be forward looking in scope and con-tent, emphasizing the anticipation of both the perils and the promises associated with rapidly changing technologies, patterns of global interdependence, and changing economic realities.
"3) Pose ethical and moral dilemmas with the aim of encouraging the scholars to become more explicit in clarifying values and value conflicts and in developing a sense of moral stance.
"4) Foster a sense of personal responsibility and hope among the Governor's scholars and provide a pivotal experience that enhances the growth and development of each scholar's sense of commitment to working for and contributing toward a more productive, peaceful, and just future. This sense of commitment should not be tied to any particular party line. Instead it should constitute an acceptance of a personal challenge in the face of ambiguity and complexity."
This curriculum vision translated into four main educational components: the intensive seminar, the evening series, field trips and the integrative seminar, which was for most students the centerpiece of the program.
The intensive seminar was the most traditional academic element of the Governor's School. As a student, my class was entitled "Ethics and Public Policy." While reading was assigned and a professor lead or moderated discussions, the seminar format necessarily made the class different than most any high school educational experience. For most of us, it was the first time that we could actively engage other students and the teacher in debate. We were taught that our opinions really did matter, and that our ideas were most convincing when supported by verifiable facts. This, of course, made us appreciate both the context and the importance of even the most dreaded of scholastic processes - rote memorization.
For the most part, our elementary and secondary education systems provide little ethical debate due to administrative constraints enveloping controversial topics. By ignoring ethics, students are implicitly given the message that ethics are irrelevant. Such neglect shortchanges the sharpening of critical-ethical thinking. Gifted students thrive in environments which require judgment, creative arguments, and unconstrained thinking.
I can still vividly recall preparing for an argument surrounding President Truman's decision to launch the atomic bomb. Learning how to disagree without being disagreeable, understand an opponent's view, and present our own unique views were important areas of intellectual and emotional development.
Four years later I served as a teacher assistant for a course entitled "Conflict Resolution." The teacher, Dr. Andrew Hahn, was truly remarkable in his ability to shape the class as a forum for discussions which moved simultaneously on a societal and personal level. He also provided students with a role model of someone embodying the Governor's School ideal of gifted people making a difference.
The evening series involved speakers who often were engaged in a modified debate style format. The speakers were typically prominent political and civic figures. The public issues core of the program enabled the Governor's School to attract high level officials such as the Governor, congressmen, and notable state leaders. The debate format lead to an increased ability to perceive nuances in complex social arguments. Most of our previous classroom experiences involved hearing the single opinion of our teacher. For many of us, this was the first time that we witnessed, in a classroom setting, two adults vigorously presenting opposing viewpoints.
Field trips varied yearly. In my year, we went to the United Nations. This was an eye-opening experience for most of us, and helped lend realism to a later Governor's School simulation of the Security Council meeting during a nuclear crisis.
The integrative seminar was comprised of one student from each of the intensive courses and one faculty member designated to channel discussion. Our initial free flowing discussions were spent processing information related to classes, the evening speakers, and current events. As the weeks wore on, and as intimacy grew, topical discussions progressed with more personal revelation and style. Conversations about racism evolved beyond abstract societal observations to include personal experiences related to bigotry and prejudice. Discussing societal drug abuse would lead to revealing anecdotes about relatives or friends. We also used this time for filtering our thoughts about the program and its effect upon us.
Personal expression was the most valuable factor in the success of the seminar. Students were initially surprised that they were allowed, and in fact encouraged, to state their own opinions, and bring in stories from their own life experience. The integrative seminar format produced significant levels of personal growth within participants. The importance of the seminar's self-developmental aspect cannot be overstated.
An Atmosphere of Innovative Learning
Monmouth College President, Dr. Samuel H. Magill, who deserves significant credit for conceiving the idea for this Governor's School, believed that it should be the first of its kind to demonstrate innovative learning. He defined innovative learning in the following way:
"The concept of innovative learning stresses: 1) developing the capacity to anticipate change and live creatively into the future; and 2) promoting the ability to participate effectively, reflectively and responsibly in the life of one's community, society, and world. It emphasizes participation with a sense of personal autonomy and in collaboration with others, out of a sense of the whole human family."
Magill's comments touched on several themes of this particular Governor's School. Most importantly, this program was distinctly future oriented. For example, John Naisbitt's Megatrends (1982) was part of the curriculum and helped ground students with the belief that they would be shaping tomorrow's world. For the first time, many of us were propelled to think beyond the next school year.
Furthermore, this was the first compelling presentation of the community ideal. For those of us who had come from sprawling disconnected suburban enclaves, community service was almost a novel concept. The Governor's School provided a distinct community and propounded the idea of contributing to our various communities back home. Thinking globally and acting locally was a mantra that dominated my first experience with the Governor's School, both conceptually and concretely. For example, as we were exposed to world environmental issues, we were simultaneously told that we could do something about the problem on the local level. By bridging the gap between thought and action, a yearly ‘cleaning the beach’ event was created. Local residents may have developed a strange appreciation for the annual influx of teenagers, if only because it assured a clean beach for a few months each summer.
Yet, despite the emphasis on community, students were encouraged to allow their distinctive character to emerge. Personal autonomy is rarely advocated in standard public school education where order requires conformity. Here, individuality was the favored theme above peer pressured convention.
It must be said that the Governor's School had some built-in advantages that are not available to most gifted programs. First and foremost, it was a one month total immersion program. Students from around the state were provided free room and board at Monmouth College, in West Long Branch, New Jersey. David Wolf (1985) of The New York Times provided the following description of how students were selected:
"They [the students] represented the top of their class statewide and were chosen by the Governor's School's directors from a pool of more than 600 finalists nominated by their high schools through a rigorous selection process based largely on scholastic achievement and perceived leadership potential."
Since they were away from their accustomed surroundings, students were able to receive new paradigms without interference. Second, the teachers and staff lived with the students, thereby providing constant models and references for new ideas presented, and third, the scenic campus and the nearby beach helped create an idyllic environment.
Most specialized programs are more interesting than standard class work, and certainly help develop academic abilities. Few, however, leave lasting social impacts.
In contrast, the Governor's School was a pivotal experience for many students. By educating talented but, for the most part, directionless youth, and pointing them towards meaning and purpose, the Governor's School community service oriented approach helped create passionate, committed, and energized students dedicated to making a difference. Legislators and school budget administrators should appreciate the long lasting benefits that such citizens will provide.
Gifted children are often showered with attention. The attention, however, seems almost exclusively focused upon developing the gifts and not upon cultivating a sense of purpose for using the gifts. Ted Kaczynski, the alleged Unabomber and perhaps the most extreme example of the gifted child gone awry, provides a frightening view of misdirected genius. An unexpected source, the movies, contribute a different model - Luke Skywalker, the gifted student from the Star Wars Trilogy. Born with access to the Force, he was trained by Yoda to use his gifts for goodness, and to resist the temptations of Darth Vader's dark side. Program developers would serve society well by emulating this make-believe educational prototype.
My sense from meeting a host of gifted children all grown up is that many have not developed a purposeful sense for how they should use their gifts other than to benefit themselves. As self-centeredness seems to be a reigning ethic in our society, this is not surprising, but it also demands that educators respond to allegations that gifted education merely develops higher functioning narcissists.
Legislators and community officials expect returns on their investment. If precious educational dollars are being siphoned away to enhance the abilities of individuals who give back little or nothing to the community, then society does not derive concrete benefits from gifted programs. If, however, legislators can be shown the fruits of projects created by community contributing students, then allocation for special programs becomes more appealing.
The first speaker that I heard at the Governor's School was the late Millicent Fenwick, the legendary former Congresswoman from New Jersey. She gave a stirring oration championing the idea that talented people have responsibilities to society. At the time, this notion was foreign to most of us. Through the course of the month, this message was echoed through interaction with the staff, speeches from guests, and the ethic of the community. Although the staff could only be construed as liberal, there was never any overt political message. The real message was to bring the Governor's School ideal back to our own communities. At home, energized students created numerous local service projects that provided tangible benefits to their communities. Such action demonstrated to legislators and school administrators that the money allocated for the Governor's School was well spent.
Gifted education can still be supported for traditional reasons; however, in an educational world of scarce resources, further justifications are needed. Tying in community service with gifted education provides one such justification, and from a political relations standpoint, a very powerful one. ☞ ☞ ☞
Carolyn Bower, "Gifted Children Pose Problem for Parents, Schools: Districts Struggle to Balance Resources, All Stu- dents' Needs," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p. 1C, December 8, 1995.
John Naisbitt. (1982). Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives. New York: Warner Books.
Robin Pogrebin, "Gifted Programs: Necessary Elitism?", The New York Times, p. 10. February 25, 1996.
Andrew Ratner, "Gifted, Talented, and Misunderstood," The Baltimore Sun, p. 6A, February 3, 1996.
Stephen Schroeder-Davis, "Anti-Intellectualism in Second-ary Schools: The Problem Continues," Gifted Education Press Quarterly, (Vol. 10, No.2) p. 2, Spring, 1996.
David Wolf, "The Governor's Schools Catching On," The New York Times, August 18, 1985, p. 13.
FIRST CLASS PUBLISHING FOR GIFTED STUDENTS
BY TEENA VAUGHN-D’ANNIBALE
As I walk into the classroom I see twenty-four bright, eager, interested faces and two that look bored to death -- already. It’s my daughter’s academically gifted class and I’m there to teach them about publishing. I’ve done this program for many classes and the ratio of eager faces to bored faces is not always the same when I start, but, so far, has consistently been the same when I finish -- 100% EXCITED!
”Picture this classroom as a publishing company." I begin. ”All twenty-six of you are ‘First Class Publishing.’ Do you know that publishing houses receive, on the average, 5000 submissions a year? Do you know how many books they publish?"
The hands shoot up.
“Yes. Do you have a guess?" I say, smiling. For I know the number is astronomically low.
“I think 500 books. That’s 10%." -- a bright young ‘eager’ face pronounces proudly.
”Yes?" I choose another hand.
”I would say more like 1,000!"
”Guess again." I point to the ”bored" face and ask, ”How many do you guess?"
He tries to muster a wise guy voice and looks around for approval, smugly saying, ”One." A look of self satisfaction crosses his face, obviously pleased at making such a funny joke.
I reply, ”Well, you are the closest."
His head whips up and his eyes pop open, partly embarrassed, partly shocked.
”On average a publishing company publishes less than .1% of their submissions or in this case the answer was 5 books out of 5000 submissions. I took that information from a very important book you will need if you want to get published called the Writer’s Market. It tells you everything you will need to start getting published."
That’s the opening dialogue for a unique program I provide for schools called Publish and Prosper. Publish and Prosper is unique in that it provides a new motivation to both teacher and student to write.
Mrs. Diane Flaggler of the Pine Valley Elementary School in Wilmington, NC has touted this as the best program she’s ever seen for motivation in writing, ”My big specialty is Math. But after your presentation, I’m more excited than the children. I really want to try to get published. Can you help?"
”Sure, you can get published. You have to be able to take a lot of rejection and criticism, but if you set your mind to it you can probably find your niche in a trade journal or a Gifted Education magazine. After all, you are an expert. You do what you do every day and find innovative and creative ways to teach. That makes you an expert."
Every child, and adult, for that matter loves to see their works in print. I am sure every one of you reading this article today has ”published" books in your classroom to be placed on display, or in a class library, so other children can share the author’s talent and expertise. It isn’t so bad for the ole self-esteem either -- eh? You’re smart and creative to be thinking and teaching like this because academically gifted children are bored by more traditional forms of teaching.
So why not take it one step further and teach them about the ”publishing game" and see if they can really get published. The six steps are motivate (be excited and offer incentives), imitate (stress reading to learn a unique writing style), delegate (give them the power to publish), initiate (get things going with deadlines, etc.), participate (the program encourages teachers to get published themselves), and lastly to ”reward-egate" (yes, I made it up but it is creative and you should reward me for thinking up something new, as you should your students -- rewards are the ultimate incentives.)
So, let’s talk about how to actually implement this whole program. The most important idea is that you are all in this together. When my daughter’s gifted class sent me their query letters (a letter that asks the publisher if they are interested in your article), their teacher sent her query right along, too.
The day I sent them back with corrections, Mrs. Flaggler gave me a call, ”Teena, the students were so thrilled that I received corrections, too."
They love it! Let them know you are a human being and next thing you know the creativity flows. The rewards offered tie into motivation, as does this one simple statement: You may get published in a real live magazine. Motivation also requires an open mind on your part. You may not think a story on how Kaity’s little brothers drive her insane is anything but a nine year old complaining. Yet, a children’s magazine like ”Cricket" might love that kind of thing. Be open minded. Remember Picaso? Who would’ve thought?
Of course we all learned in one of our English Lit classes in college that the reason for reading Shakespeare was to not only enjoy his work but to learn a classic style. If the children know they are reading to help them be better writers, to learn the different styles so they can form their own, they will be more open to a variety of authors and will not read all one hundred eighty million volumes of Babysitter’s Club exclusively. Take the time to find some funny verses in Shakespeare or the Bible or James Joyce and without telling them who wrote it, read it out loud and ask if they think this person is a good author. You’ll be surprised by the answers and debate you will receive. Exceptional children generally have very strong opinions and love to voice them -- if you let them. Then, explain who the authors you chose are and why they are so famous. Teach them what is good about their writing and the children can imitate the famous author’s style in order to better their own.
This is where I usually talk about plagiarism, and what it is and how you can literally be taken to court for plagiarism. Using someone’s style to learn and then create your own style is a lot different than borrowing their words. Make sure they understand this. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, only if credit is given where credit is due.
Ok, now the fun begins. You will be picturing your class as a publishing house. If you haven’t already, you need to buy a Writer’s Market and read the beginning to give you a feel for publishing and how it works. Point to your class and tell them they are the whole publishing house. A query letter comes in and a group of people called ”readers‟ might receive 200 queries in a day. Assuming all of you are readers, that would be 4000 letters. (Obviously, you do the math for your class, but you get the idea.) Then, they choose 5 to be sent to the Editorial Staff. (Point to 5 children) You are the Editorial Staff and Joe (I try to pick the least interested child in the class to be Editor-in-Chief because, as we all did, I took Psych 101) here, is the editor. They will read these 5 letters and decide if any of the ideas are something the magazine would like to publish. If there is one they like, then send a letter to the prospective author stating how many words and what ”angle‟ they would like for them to take and how much they are willing to pay.
Now that they have the idea of a publishing house and how it functions (of course, this is a VERY simplistic explanation, but it gets the idea across), divide them up into publishing houses and delegate the power to them. Just the editorial staff exists at their publishing house and you as a teacher must decide if rejection is ”allowed‟ depending on their maturity level. They must review the letters they receive as a group and send the author back a letter describing what kind of article they want. If you want to keep them short, put a 100 word maximum on the article and ask them to describe a shoe, or describe how it feels to win. Then each student queries a publishing house other than their own.
Next, they will need deadlines to initiate the work. You give the initial deadline for the query letter and then let the publishing houses give deadlines for the articles they want from each author. They may want to give a different deadline to each author so they can control how many articles they receive at one time. Or they may take the real approach and say, ”This is a buyers market; I’ll get back to you when I feel like it.‟ However realistic, this last alternative is best discouraged. So you’ve gotten them started, now it’s your turn.
Participate in the process. If you’re a little too reticent to actually try to get published in ”real life,” then query one of the class publishing companies. The children think it’s so cool for their teacher to be learning right along with them. And, as we all know from experience, they can usually teach us a thing or two.
If you are brave enough to dip into the published author pool, make sure you share your rejections or acceptances with the students. You provide a model for them and give them the confidence to one day try to get published themselves. Rejection, you must let them know, is part of publishing and a part of life. It doesn’t mean you’re bad at what you do or that you’re not talented. The Beatles were thought to be no talents who would never make it in the music industry. And like I said before: Picasso? Go figure. The idea is: Don’t give up AND have a LOT of self-confidence.
Reward-egate, my word that you so graciously allow me to misuse, is pretty self explanatory. You all know the traditional rewards, but maybe you can actually get a group book published. Go to a local print shop or newspaper and tell them about your project; they may donate the actual printing of a ”real book‟. Don’t forget to try universities in your area. They usually have in-house printing offices and hopefully will be very sympathetic to such a good cause, being institutions of learning. (Besides, it’s great PR for them.)
So, there you have it -- a wonderful new program to get the students interested in writing through reading, self-esteem building and most importantly through getting to know you. I look forward to seeing you and your students Publish and Prosper.
“I’d say one of the most common failures of able people is a lack of nerve. . . . In innovation, you have to play a less safe game, if it’s going to be interesting. It’s not predictable that it’ll go well.” George Stigler, 1982 Nobel Prize winner in economics. From Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (1996) by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
BOOK REVIEW FROM GIFTED EDUCATION NEWS-PAGE --AUG.-SEPT. 1996
GIFTED CHILDREN: MYTHS AND REALITIES BY ELLEN WINNER (1996). BASIC BOOKS: NEW YORK.
This is a unique and essential work in a field that has an abundance of textbooks on identifying and educating gifted children. The typical formula-based textbook includes three to four chapters concerned with defining giftedness and providing examples of gifted children’s behavior in the school and home. The remaining chapters usually describe various approaches and in vogue “models” of gifted education. (At least one of these chapters contains an obligatory discussion of creativity -- What is it? How can educators improve it?) In addition to providing readers with only a superficial birds-eye view of gifted children and their education, such textbooks over-emphasize teaching models and approaches. There is not enough in-depthdiscussion and analysis of their characteristics and behavior.
Winner’s book is similar in quality to a few exceptional works in the gifted field such as Gifted Children: Their Nature and Nurture (1926) by Leta S. Hollingworth and Differential Education for the Gifted (1980) by Virgil S. Ward. It approaches giftedness mainly as a psychological phenomenon of human development rather than a statistical or educational concept. Winner’s perspective is that of a psychologist attempting to penetrate the minds of different types of gifted children. Throughout the book, one can sense a struggle to understand these children from a psychological and Piagetian perspective, i.e., by closely observing and analyzing their cognitive development. What makes it an outstanding work in the gifted field is Winner’s brilliant analysis and description of these developmental processes in extraordinarily gifted children. She has succeeded in improving the reader’s understanding of these children as a result of her insightful and detailed discussions of various types of giftedness. These discussions are based on actual case histories of artistically, musically, verbally and mathematically gifted children. The discussion of artistically gifted children is particularly informative because of the numerous children’s drawings used to illustrate their development and the author’s insights into these drawings.
Educators of the gifted will like the book’s format because it is centered around disproving nine popular myths introduced in Chapter One: (1) Global giftedness -- all gifted children have general intelligence that can produce high performance in all areas; (2) Talented but not gifted -- these are two distinct groups that should be separated into different school programs; (3) Exceptional IQ -- a high IQ is a necessary condition for being gifted; (4)/(5) -- Biology versus environment -- either biology is more important in determining giftedness than environment or vice versa; (6) The driving parent -- gifted children are “made” by pushy parents; (7) Glowing with psychological health -- they are paragons of mental health; (8) All children are gifted -- educators just need to use the correct methods for identifying each child’s strengths and gifts; and (9) Gifted children become eminent adults -- being gifted as a child will automatically lead to successful careers and significant creative work as an adult.
Chapters Two through Five are particularly informative concerning: (1) the globally gifted; (2) children who have extraordinary abilities in either language or mathematics; (3) those who are highly gifted in artistic or musical areas; and (4) children who do not have exceptionally high IQs but are gifted in art or music. To illustrate the extremes of the IQ problem, Winner provides many fascinating examples of savants who produce exceptional artistic works and brilliant musical performances. Chapter Six is concerned with The Biology of Giftedness, and includes an interesting discussion of Norman Geschwind’s hypothesis (1984) on the relationship between right brain anatomy and functions (mathematics, music and art), non-right-handedness, childhood allergies, and excessive testosterone production during the later stages of fetal development. This discussion demonstrates the important point that future brain research may improve understanding of the biological basis of giftedness.
Chapters Seven through Ten focus on family influences, social-emotional development and characteristics, schooling, and factors that influence success as an adult. Chapter Eleven is a summary of the realities associated with each myth introduced in Chapter One and discussed throughout the book. Educators should be very interested in reading these chapters. For instance, Chapter Nine (Schools: How They Fail, How They Could Help) presents Winner’s ideas on educating the gifted. She argues that limited resources for gifted programs should concentrate on the extreme forms of giftedness discussed in the book. Unfortunately, current trends appear to be going in the opposite direction, i.e., watering down gifted programs to a level which is barely distinguishable from general education programs.
Winner’s definition of giftedness in Chapter One includes three elements: “precocity,” “an insistence on marching to their own drummer,” and “a rage to master.” This definition and the subsequent narrative provide strong support for maintaining and expanding rigorous programs for gifted students. We enthusiastically recommend Gifted Children: Myths and Realities to all educators, psychologists, graduate students, and parents who want to be enlightened regarding the real world of the gifted.
JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-97): AN APPRECIATION DURING HIS CENTENNIAL YEAR
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF THE HUMANITIES IN THE SCHOOLS
“There are people who vindicate the world, who help others live just by their presence.” The First Man (1995) by Albert Camus. P. 35.
A few months ago about three o’clock in the morning, I found myself unable to sleep that particular night. I proceeded to read and listen to The New York Times’ radio station. It was playing A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms. The experience was like a religious service and the hour and a half performance went by as if I was in a timeless zone. The only time that was relevant was the sense of being totally enveloped within the music and text of this profound work. I was overcome by the realization that this music was a living reality of the Sensibility of giftedness. The next day I began to study the life of Johannes Brahms to learn about this obviously unique musical genius.
One of the major books on the life and art of this great composer is Brahms: His Life and Work (1982) by Karl Geiringer. The author was an Austrian academic and an expert on the life and music of Bach and Brahms. Geiringer fled Vienna after the entry of Hitler’s army and emigrated to the United States where he became a professor of the history of music at several American universities including Boston University and the University of California at Santa Barbara. His biography is primarily based on studying Brahms’ letters. It is written in a wonderful narrative style that combines both musical descriptions and a lucid prose which are easily accessible to the layman. Every teacher of the gifted should read this book because it captures the holistic texture of how personal sensibility combined with a community of giftedness created a genius. For Brahms, his youth exemplified the German version of the African proverb -- “It takes a village to educate a child.”
Brahms was born and raised in the most humble sections of Hamburg. His parents were artistically inclined individuals. His father was a musician in Hamburg who played in several civic musical organizations. Yet, despite these economic and social limitations, his giftedness was recognized, appreciated and nurtured by his community. As a teenager, Brahms played in taverns located on Hamburg’s waterfront. His talent was brought to the attention of a music teacher who made Brahms’ musical development a major personal endeavor. This teacher, Freidrich Wilhelm Cossel, was an excellent pianist who was not satisfied with mere technique, but instead he demanded that his students gained a thorough intellectual and aesthetic appreciation of the compositions they were learning. Cossel sought from his students the understanding that every musical work was sacred and could only be appreciated with reverence. Brahms’ musical development was so accelerated that Cossel’s teacher, Eduard Marxsen, a famous composer of that time, took on Brahm’s musical education without receiving any remuneration whatsoever. Brahms was so appreciative of his teacher Marxsen that, even in his mature years after he was successful, he continued to correspond with him and send him manuscripts for review.
The community that nurtured, stimulated and appreciated Brahms in his early adulthood included his fellow musicians. The couple, Robert and Clara Schumann, created a family nexus that included Brahms. When Robert Schumann succumbed to mental illness and was tragically confined to an asylum, Brahms became a devoted companion to Clara Schumann and her seven children.
Brahms marched to his own drummer. While Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner were enthralled with political and nationalistic mythologies, Brahms was dedicated to the concept of writing pure melody and the music of universal human emotions. In this endeavor, he was influenced by German folk songs, gypsy melodies, Jewish cantorial lamentations, and the popular music of the taverns where he spent much of his leisure time. His mother and Clara Schumann died at about the same time. Brahms’ response was to compose A German Requiem as an expression of his grief. The emotional thrust of this requiem was not the concept of transcendence, but of endurance and consolation. In this sense, he was a precursor of the modern religious existentialist viewpoint. He wrote the text himself which was based on Martin Luther’s translation of the Old Testament Psalms. It was ironical that this requiem created a deep appreciation of the Old Testament.
It is the Centennial of the death of Johannes Brahms. In October 1996, the Berlin Philharmonic was in New York City to perform Brahms’ symphonic works. They were joined by piano and violin soloists to play his great concertos written for these instruments. His choral works will be highlighted in religious services during 1997. We in the gifted community have a duty to discover and teach our students about the genius of Johannes Brahms, and the environment that encouraged his development.