Thursday, November 24, 2005


It is the Davidsons' other, related aim that calls forth a different kind of fervor. Authors (with Laura Vanderkam) of a book called "Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Minds" (2004), they are on a mission to remedy what they are convinced is a widespread neglect of exceptionally talented children. That means challenging the American myth that they are weirdos or Wunderkinder best left to their own devices or made to march with the crowd. "By denying our most intelligent students an education appropriate to their abilities," Jan Davidson warns a nation in the midst of a No Child Left Behind crusade, "we may also be denying civilization a giant leap forward." Precocious children are not only avid learners eager for more than ordinary schools often provide, the Davidsons emphasize; they are also a precious - and imperiled - resource for the future. The Davidsons, joined by many other advocates of the gifted, maintain that it is these precocious children who, if handled right, will be the creative adults propelling the nation ahead in an ever more competitive world. As things stand, the argument goes, the highly gifted child is an endangered species in need of outspoken champions like the Davidsons, who are role models for the "supportive, advocating parent" they endorse.

The youths have their chance to engage in advocacy, too, and the Davidsons had selected very personable prodigies to visit Washington to publicize the don't-hold-children-back message. (Video presentations are part of the fellowship application process.) "Rounded like an egg" is the simile John Zhou used in the SAT-prep classes he taught (though he himself, a perfect scorer, didn't take any), where he recommends blending a well-honed talent with other interests to "erase the image of the nerd or the geek" - a balanced profile the Davidsons would surely endorse. Their fellows fitted it and proved ideal ambassadors of well-tended youthful brilliance. Admirably poised, they were getting precocious practice for the future eminence that, they were told more than once that day, awaits them.

The Davidsons are not the first Americans dedicated to cultivating early promise and dismantling the popular image of highly gifted children as misfits, an affront to a nation founded on egalitarian principles. More than three-quarters of a century ago, the Stanford psychologist Lewis Terman, armed with his newly minted I.Q. test, set out to challenge the myth that unusually intelligent and talented children are "puny, overspecialized in their abilities and interests, emotionally unstable, socially unadaptable, psychotic and morally undependable." His longitudinal "Genetic Studies of Genius" aimed to prove the opposite: highly gifted youths tended not only to enjoy more wholesome childhoods than ordinary kids but also to become extraordinary adults. His labors have since helped spawn a rich field of research and outreach devoted to exceptionally gifted children - though you might not guess it from the embattled rhetoric employed by gifted-child advocates in general, not just the Davidson Institute.

The lament uttered half a century ago that in philistine America "there are no little leagues of the mind" could not be made in our turn-of-the-millennium meritocracy. Thanks precisely to programs like those run by the Davidson Institute, there is what you might call a farm system devoted to finding talent and developing it, and though the process isn't streamlined, it has become ever more extensive. You merely have to look at the r‚sum‚s of the Davidson Fellows, which list a stunning array of distinctions - from music and Intel competitions to math and science olympiads to participation in highly selective summer programs. Even as they sound the alarm, prominent advocates themselves celebrate the widening span of resources. Consider, for example, "A Nation Deceived," the Templeton National Report on Acceleration issued last year and subtitled, "How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students." In its brief for more grade skipping and subject acceleration, it indicts an educational system that indeed gives talented students short shrift. (Federal money for the "gifted and talented" is minuscule compared with the quarter billion in this year's No Child Left Behind budget, and state and local efforts, though often better, are uneven.) Yet in the course of promoting the benefits of leaping ahead, "A Nation Deceived" also extols "a whole host of outside-of-school opportunities, including award ceremonies, summer programs, after-school or Saturday programs, distance-learning programs and weekend workshops and seminars," to which the talent search serves as a "gateway" for the topmost students, who also have a variety of early college options to consider, like California State University at Los Angeles's lively early-entrance program. Julian Stanley, a Johns Hopkins psychology professor and a pioneer of the gifted-child movement, marveled not long before he died last summer at age 87 at how a dearth of opportunities had given way to a "wealth of facilitative options."

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Cash incentives for university study in Australia

And I know it's true: My son got a small scholarship to study mathematics at university level after he got good grades in an advanced placements class during his final High School year

Thousands of university scholarships are on offer to this year's Queensland school leavers as the wheel turns full circle. Scholarships were last offered on a large scale in the early 1970s before the Whitlam Labor Government abolished university fees. While a record number of students have nominated for full-fee courses next year, thousands of others will apply for financial-hardship scholarships offered by the Federal Government and individual universities to defray costs for lower-income families. Students can also apply for an increasing number of academic excellence scholarships offered by universities and industry this year.

Since the introduction of financial hardships scholarships last year, the Federal Government has awarded in Queensland more than 1850 Commonwealth means-tested Education Costs Scholarships worth $2080, and almost 1600 Commonwealth Accommodation Scholarships, valued at $4161 open to rural and remote students. Applications for next year's Commonwealth scholarships close in February. A University of Queensland spokeswoman said yesterday the university offered additional needs-based scholarships under the same criteria as the Commonwealth. "We are recognising the fact that with the increase in costs in attending university, more and more students are requiring assistance," the spokeswoman said.

The University of Queensland will offer for the first time Fee-Pay Scholarships to offset the new Student Contribution, formerly known as HECS debt. It also offers means-tested Excellence Scholarships, valued at $6000 a year, UQ Link Residential Support Scholarships for students nominated by their school, as well as scholarships offered by individual faculties and schools.

For the first time, the Queensland Resources Council will offer four $40,000 scholarships to entice school leavers into an approved engineering, earth science or environmental science degree at any Queensland university. At the Queensland University of Technology, OP1 and OP2 students can apply for 50 new Vice-Chancellor Scholarships, worth $5000 a year. In the QUT Science Faculty, a Dean's Scholars Accelerated Honours Program, valued at $9000, will be open to OP1 students. Engineering scholarships for high achievers and law scholarships for financially disadvantaged students are among 90 different scholarships and bursaries being offered at QUT next year. Griffith University will award 15 Academic Excellence Scholarships and six sports scholarships, each valued at $15,000 to $25,000, as well as hardship and faculty scholarships. The University of Southern Queensland is offering accommodation scholarships, at $1000 a semester, to students attending its new Springfield campus near Ipswich.



And this in the country where Rutherford first split the atom

Physics is fast disappearing from schools in England and Wales, with only a quarter now having a teacher with a degree in the subject, according to a study. The number of pupils taking physics has fallen by almost 40 per cent in the past 20 years. To make matters worse, almost half of the country's physics teachers will be retiring in the next decade. As a result the Institute of Physics is preparing to offer 300 bursaries to prospective students of the subject.

The findings, from the University of Buckingham, have alarmed academics and scientists. "The science community is in danger of sleep-walking into the loss of one of the greatest branches of knowledge that we possess," Alan Smithers, one of the report's authors, said. "The challenge is to secure physics for the future and educate everyone in science as a whole." Professor Smithers says that the dramatic decline in physics is directly linked to the introduction of the national curriculum in 1988. Since then pupils at state schools have had to study all three sciences at GCSE or take the combined science exam, which imparts only a little of chemistry, biology and physics. In independent schools, where pupils do not have to follow the national curriculum, they may choose to study only one science.

While 60 per cent of biology students are women, they comprise only 20 per cent of physics students. However, with more women than men attracted to teaching, science teachers are frequently not experts in physics. As a result they have less enthusiasm for the subject. The study also shows that a teacher's expertise in a subject is the second most powerful predictor of pupil achievement in GCSE and A level physics, after pupil ability.

"Independent schools have the freedom to offer any combination of sciences and that should be extended to maintained schools," Professor Smithers said. "But many physics graduates don't want to teach biology." The result is that the number of pupils taking physics A level has fallen from 46,606 in 1985 to 28,698 last year. Professor Smithers also says that better-qualified teachers are attracted to working in independent schools. That claim has been borne out in his latest research, with the disclosure that nearly a quarter (23.5 per cent) of 11 to 16-year-olds have no teacher who has studied physics at university, while two thirds of physics teachers at independent schools have a joint honours in the subject.

He concludes that "pupils from low-income homes tend to be concentrated in those schools least likely to offer GCSE physics and with the least well-qualified teachers". Robert Kirby-Harris, the chief executive of the Institute of Physics, blames part of the decline on league tables, and the tendency for some schools to pick only the brightest to study physics, in the fear that others may fail. "Physics is seen as a hard subject so average students are often dissuaded from taking it. I really think the dysfunctional element of league tables is a factor in putting young people off studying physics," he said.

Between 1994 and 2004, more than 30 per cent of the physics departments in Britain disappeared. Last year Newcastle became the first member of the elite Russell Group of universities to announce that it would no longer accept applications to study undergraduate physics. In order to boost the number from lower income backgrounds, the Institute of Physics is offering 300 bursaries of 1,000 pounds each next year to budding physicists.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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