Musician: Morrissey

I am reminded frequently how intelligent, principled, the musician Morrissey is. Morissey (Steven Patrick Morrissey) first appeared in the English band The Smiths in the 1980s and is now a solo act.

He is a vegetarian, an outspoken advocate for animal rights and against child abuse. His Lyrics are very intelligent and thoughtful. In a smiths song “Meat is Murder” he makes an incredibly strong case against eating meat. He has a long career writing inspired songs and has a large following, including in the Latin community. In an interview where he was asked what political candidate he preferred, he declared he could not support either one, because all world leaders are bullies using force to change the world they live in. There is real truth here, considering what the American government has done in recent years, other dictators in Africa, the Nazis, Other European powers, including England, France, Spain in eras past.

Other songs of his, speak to how it feels to be a disaffected teenager, how it feels to be alone, the suffering of poor Mexican-American people, sexual minorities and others, powerless and helpless children, and others.

Although I admire his work, I have come to see less desirable aspects to this person. I also care about animal issues and can understand his frustration with workers in China producing goods brutally exploiting animals, Morrissey declared that they were subhuman, which is extremely racist. It also ignores the economic circumstances and the very poor in China who also have very little right.

Problems with Mental Health

A common problem for gifted people is that people in general often just don’t understand us.

This can become a real problem when gifted people realize they need help with mental health and reach out for help. The number of providers who are properly trained to work with gifted people and appropriately consider issues and challenges that gifted people face is very small. Even in a large city like New York, there are few providers who identify as having skilled with gifted people.

I was a student in a MS degree in Mental Health Counseling program, at a point when my awareness around issues of giftedness resurfaced after many years and became much clearer after reading an article in a professional publication. It became real clear in my reading for my classes, the lack of information around gifted issues in the mainstream professional journals. Most of the research is in articles that specialize in education, specifically gifted education, which are generally not read or referenced by people in the mental health field. Mental health training programs also don’t provide any training in working with gifted people. I would up not joining the field due to circumstances in the New York area and a field that wasn’t listening.

A gifted person with poorly trained people can wind up with a wrong diagnosis, incorrect treatment, and treatment that can really be harmful. Instead of helping the client with the issues of being gifted, they can wind up with very serious diagnoses like Bipolar Disorder or a personality disorder although this may be appropriate with some people, but may be more due to challenges dealing with life, that when addressed appropriately can be much more manageable. Trying to fit a round peg in a square hole is just disaster.

When interviewing professionals, raise giftedness as an issue. Ask how much experience the professional has. Check out how they respond. If you can’t find someone with experience, find someone who can listen and is willing to learn. If not, walk away, don’t become a victim.

Obituary: Christopher Hitchens

This week we mourn Christopher Hitchens a writer known for his free thinking intelligent criticism and thought.

Hitchens Died thursday 12/15/2011 of Pneumonia. He had been valiantly fighting esophageal cancer for a number of years. He had been discussing and writing about his Cancer for a number of years almost ad-nauseum, including his book Hitch-22. He will be missed for his thought, writing and debate. He was known as an atheist and defended his atheistic beliefs and refused to accept religion into his fight against cancer and his dying. To be an atheist is very hard and their are few friends in this world for which I defend him. He has argued about the harm that has come from religion in many writings, including his book God is Not Great. Esophageal cancer is highly correlated with Drinking and Smoking, which Hitchens has admitted to have doing heavily. He argues that he would not change his life, even though the drinking and smoking killed him prematurely. He argued that it helped him think and write at his best. One can imagine the alcohol loosening the inhibitions and the tobaco calming the nerves.  Hitchens had been an author for Slate.com and Vanity Fair Magazine. Hitchens had appeared on television numbers of times, including on Charlie Rose.

 

Enough with the Luddites, Know-Nothings and Narcissists

The events at play in the Republican party and our politics in general, remind me of topics I learned in History and Sociology classes I took in college. The bottom two come along for the ride.

Luddites

Luddites were factory workers who resisted against progress in the textile factories, by destroying the looms. Much like those who resist progress and wish to stay in the 1950s and before and resist changes to society. Workers who are displaced in changes in the market have to be ready to adjust to changes in society, or they will be permanently left behind. Instead of fearing progress, one should continue to learn and take on new challenges. Life is far more secure and interesting when you do.

Know-Nothings

The Know-Nothings were a political movement that resisted the influx of catholic immigrants from Europe during the 1800s. These were feared to be hostile to protestant values and driven by the Pope in Rome. This is much like the fear of “illegal aliens,” who are really undocumented workers. This fear is more about jobs. Of course none, of those in this country want to do the jobs the undocumented workers do them at the prices they charge. This resistance, which is aimed specifically at Mexican and other Spanish speaking immigrants who frankly work harder and expect less than workers here.

Narcissism

I am speaking about the unhealthy variety here, who denigrate other people, put other people down, view them as less than, exploit others, and treat others as simply objects to use. A number of candidates in the republic party, including one who left the presidential race show these characteristics. I am speaking about Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain in particular, but our society is all to full of them, taking up the airwaves. Congress is full of them, who work for their own selfish desires, instead of doing the business of the nation and looking out for the nation as a whole.

Anti-Intellectualism

The first two terms take me to the third trend in politics, anti-intellectualism, seen in populist candidates like Herman Cain, Rick Perry. In earlier years we had George Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Dan Quayle. This presumption that the American people are really that stupid. I am sure when those play dumb and don’t challenge voters to read and think and test assumptions it may seem easy and unthreatening, but we go down the road of stupidity in government. I appreciated John Huntsman’s intelligence and deeper understanding of the issues around him, unfortunately I am discovering I dislike his politics, even though I appreciate his intelligence. People are too threatened when our president uses his intelligence so there is always the need to talk down to the American Public.

 

 

Writer/Poet: Edgar Allan Poe

I was walking in our neighborhood, in the Upper West Side in New York City, turned the corner from Broadway onto 84th Street and discovered an apartment building on the site of a house where The Writer and Poet Edgar Allan Poe lived when he wrote his classic gothic poem, The Raven.  For those Simpsons fans, the show had an episode from the episodes from around Halloween playing out the text of the raven, of course Bart is the raven.

Once upon a midnight dreary,while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door-

                Only this, and nothing more.”

The words Poe uses in this poem are so intelligent, along with his rhyming, this is a classic poem of mourning. Themes of death and mourning run through Poe’s work. In Poe’s story The Premature Burial, in which the fears of his day, the fear that one might fall ill, and be thought dead and be buried alive and wake up in the coffin and die for lack of oxygen. The band Siouxsie and the Banshees, on the 1979 album Join Hands had a song Premature Burial, which was written based on Poe’s Story. The story The Tell-Tale Heart is about a murderer who plans a murder and is haunted by the beat of the heart though the walls. The Author Lenore Terr, MD in her book Too Scared To Cry, suggests that Poe as a child was left alone in the house with his mother’s corpse after she died from tuberculosis, a horrid death, which she suggests led the groundwork for themes in Poe’s work.

 

Podcast: The Science Show.

The Science Show.

Coming out of Australia from ABC Radio National is one of the smartest, most intelligent conversations on radio. If you want to know about what’s going on in Science, natural, physical, physics technology with a taste of humor.

Full Program Podcast.

Separate Stories Podcast Feed.

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The Science Show can also be found on ITunes.

 

 

Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

 

I was watching the wonderful production of The Grinch who Stole Christmas  complete with Boris Karloff’s voice and the wonderful lyrics thinking about all the wonderful words Dr. Seuss created for us. I grew up in the 196os and read Dr. Seuss’s books with much joy. It’s been said the the word Nerd which gifted people are often accused of being was created by Dr. Seuss. If the word was created by Dr. Seuss, than I am glad to be one.

Theordor Seuss Geissel (1904-1991) grew up in  Springfield MA, and went to Dartmouth in NH. He was the editor of the school’s humor magazine. His father wanted him to become a professor, so he went to Oxford which he found boring and began a career as a cartoonist. Though too young to be a soldier he served in the signal core making training films, where he learned how to do animation.

The bo0k, The Cat in The Hat, came out of a illiteracy campaign, where he was given a list of 400 words, and asked to reduce it to 250 words, he used 220 words in the book. When he wrote Green Eggs and Ham, he was challenged to use 50 words, the book was written, but the bet never paid.

By the time of his death, he wrote and illustrated 44 books, that were read by millions. There is a museum in Springfield, MA.

 

Malcolm Gladwell: Arrogant and Insensitive.

First before I start, I want to say, before everyone jumps to his defense, Malcolm Gladwell is definitely gifted and I found his earlier books “The Tipping Point” and “What the Dog Saw” very interesting and though provoking, and this is not a full out attack on him or his writing. His books are often full of little interesting snippets of information.

His book “Outliers” is another story. I started reading it with interest, after reading the other books, but found myself turned off, not sure why but I knew something was wrong. I like his idea of the 10,000 hours needed to learn a skill and to get to a highly proficient level in any field, and there is something to say about it.

He writes a book, acting as an expert on education, though he has done no real research and has no advanced degree in education. It seems like his knowledge is more about sports, for example the time of year most hockey players were born. He wrote an interesting article in The New Yorker about the problem of professional football, which was excellent, but he is not an educator. I was listening to an interview by the radiolab guys.  Radiolab, a program produced by WNYC in New York, that is syndicated across public radio. I first heard them on The science show. They interviewed Gladwell talk about the interaction between destiny and determination. Robert Krulwich asked him whether he denied giftedness  or did he hate the gifted? I thought this was a good question and the book and his discussion does raise these questions. He argues that gifted education is about picking high achievers, which is most definitely not the case. Of course high achievers are among the gifted, but he totally dismisses the challenges that gifted children deal with, particularly those who are twice exceptional. I was a student before gifted education was established and I hated being in the wrong classes, being in boring classes, which were a torment. Maybe he also missed gifted education like myself and resents those who got it.

This book perpetuated and created idea that giftedness is a myth. For instance this article in New York Magazine, it’s all about testing and preparing your children for the test. But it ignores the reality of testing, and IQ and the New York system, where there are limited opportunities to get into the gifted system. Gifted children need to be engaged in school, and often don’t get those needs met in normal classes. This problem goes far beyond New York or any other location for that matter.

Another problem is that Gladwell references, old out of date material. Terman’s Termites was research done many years ago and is largely out-of-date with respect to current thinking about intelligence and giftedness. During its time, the research was good, but Terman started researching in 1929, many many years ago. He starts critiquing one of many intelligence tests. Many of the tests have issues, but he picks Raven’s Progressive Matrices  and not the more widely used Wescheler or Stanford Binet tests which are the standard, and most researched, used and understood tests. He misses what IQ measurement is about, i.e. mental processing power.

According to Eric Wargo, writer for The Observer, a publication of the association for psychological science, in an article  he wrote, Gladwell had a dream of becoming a gold medal runner, and suggests he was a Prodigy who didn’t wind up later going on to stardom. Clearly for him it’s about becoming a star, or observations, that graduates from gifted programs didn’t become superstars or become the next Einstein. The differences between those who become stars in sports and those who are purely amateurs is very different than about intelligence. Living with Being gifted and growing up gifted is not about stardom, but more trying to find your way in the world, trying to be able to fully use your abilities. Which I think goes to what Gladwell is more about Elitism, Stardom, how the few exceptions become who they are. Gifted people may become high achievers, but that’s not what it’s about. Just because you can’t  become a star don’t dump on us.