Geniuses teach themselves

“Gifted” education doesn’t do much for geniuses, writes Jay Mathews in the Washington Post. “An occasional pullout class is likely to be less interesting to them than their own research in their parents’ bookcases, kitchens, the local library and the Internet,” he writes.

Our schools have more than they can handle in helping other students become fully functioning adults. There may be something to the view that socially awkward geniuses need a safe place to be weird, but the better approach is to focus on stopping bullying of all kids. Public schools are mostly successful at finding people who know how to teach English, math, history and science, but we don’t know how to encourage creativity very well and might find it better to let the gifted do their own exploring.

He offers a counter-example: In her 1977 book, Turning On Bright Minds: A Parent Looks at Gifted Education in Texas, Julie Ray profiled a Houston sixth-grader she called Tim.

He was in an ambitious public school’s gifted-education program that would later be called Vanguard. Tim was reading dozens of books and had several science projects underway. He was surveying classmates in order to rate all the school’s teachers. He loved the school’s small group discussions, where he was free to share his wildest ideas.

“Tim” appears in Brad Stone’s new book, The Everything Store. His real name is  Jeff Bezos. His store is Amazon.

Checker Finn is researching how other countries educate high-ability students. No country does it very well. Singapore is the best — but only for the top 1 percent.

“Nobody is compensating well for the absence of pushy, prosperous, influential parents,” though Hungary is trying hard to reach disadvantaged students.

Amazon offers college aid to warehouse workers

Amazon will give warehouse workers up to $2,000 in annual scholarships to pursue associate degrees in high-wage, high-demand careers, such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies and nursing.

Give up sex to not lug college texts?

To avoid toting heavy textbooks, one in four college students would give up sex for a year — or so they said on a survey by Kno, an education software company.  One third would take 8 a.m. classes every day; 28 percent would rather have parents visit every other weekend for a year than carry textbooks daily

That said, it’s no surprise that 71 percent said they would use digital textbooks through apps on tablets, laptops and netbooks. If students could access textbooks from anywhere without having to carry them around, about 62 percent said they would study more often and 54 percent insisted they would study more efficiently.

Or so they said. Nearly half predict physical textbooks will be obsolete in the next five years. That’s probably correct.

Amazon now rents textbooks on Kindle e-readers. Students can download free Kindle reading apps for various laptops, netbooks and smart phones.

Kindle Textbook Rental gives users up to 80 percent off the list price of a print textbook. For example, accounting textbook Intermediate Accounting is available through Amazon for $183.53 in hard cover and buying it through Kindle for $109.20. However, it’s listed for rental on Amazon for only $38.29.

As a relatively new Kindle user, I don’t think it’s as easy to read as a book — especially a textbook. But the convenience and cost savings of rentals are bound to attract students.

Kindle for textbooks

Amazon will debut a larger-screen Kindle designed for textbooks and magazines, reports the Wall Street Journal. The new Kindle will include an updated web browser.

Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school’s chief information officer. The university plans to compare the experiences of students who get the Kindles and those who use traditional textbooks, he said.

Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State also will try out the new Kindles.