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    #77811 - 06/09/10 12:59 PM Proposal: NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences

    Please read my proposal description for "NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences" at:

    I have proposed a nationwide public school for high school students who are exceptionally gifted in mathematics and the physical sciences. The curriculum is standard, straightforward, and universal with very few choice options. I call my proposed school "NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences."

    I am especially proud of one particular element in the curriculum that I call the Colloquy, which awards The Linus Pauling Medal to deserving students. I describe the Colloquy at:

    The following excerpt describing my thinking regarding the Colloquy is from my "One Response" at:

    "Though I am proud of my academy idea in its entirety, I am especially proud of the Colloquy honoring Linus Pauling. I believe the Colloquy will be the most inspiring and life-changing learning experience of all for some academy scholars, and I look at it as something Linus Pauling would be proud to have his name on. Being awarded The Linus Pauling Medal at a “NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences” will be a high distinction that will certainly earn some academy scholars significant university scholarships.

    If you have not read through the Colloquy description in my document, please do so. And then remember back to being in high school. The academically-minded high-achieving grade-driven student who will be the typical academy scholar will be entirely flummoxed by the Colloquy in the beginning, because all of the usual motivations are gone: it is Pass / No Pass with no need whatsoever to please or impress the teacher, but with every need to impress and influence peers with clear thinking, precise articulation, and persuasive argument in achieving a growing agreement toward a common goal of identifying and advancing an idea for the good of humanity.

    A careful read of the Colloquy description reveals the telling endgame decision that will seriously challenge some academy scholars: Do you abandon the growing consensus of the group effort when the rules allow you to revert to being a lone wolf again, or do you stick with the group effort (even if only in a supportive role) to make the shared solution the best that it can be?

    In the world of ideas, there are those who create, invent, or form ideas, and there are those who make ideas happen — the doers. The idea people need the doers more than the doers need the idea people; the doers can muddle on because they will always accomplish something in the process, but the idea people and their ideas will die lonely deaths if they cannot persuade the doers to actually make things happen. The Colloquy will identify both the idea people and the doers, and sometimes the doers will be those who are most deserving of praise and recognition — and should be those who sometimes receive The Linus Pauling Medal for their efforts.

    Again, I think Linus Pauling would be proud."

    I hope you will read the entire blog. If you do, know that I especially value the following excerpt from:
    "NAPS will put an enormous academic and emotional strain on its NASA Scholars, especially during the junior year. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that each and every scholar can relate in a genuine supportive way with his/her classmate scholars especially, but also with scholars from the other two grade levels and with the “high school” teachers. Because emotional maturity is not always on a par with intellectual maturity, gifted adolescents in the transition to adulthood need friends who can understand them. Gifted adolescents are adolescents at risk who are sometimes very vulnerable to social challenges, and they tend to know this about themselves. But, in usual settings, they are alone with their fears. NAPS academies will have the opportunity to create a safe haven in which truly extraordinary young people can experience what it feels like to be ordinary, at least during the while when they are among peer classmates; the importance of this cannot be overstated: a NAPS site will either succeed or fail in its primary purpose by whether or not it can succeed in making its scholars feel ordinary."

    It may seem like an odd thing to many, but special programs for gifted students only succeed if they create an opportunity for the gifted child to feel "ordinary" or normal. Too often — in fact, almost always — the TAG opportunity is something IN ADDITION TO the regular curriculum. By comparison, Special Education for poor performing students is something INSTEAD OF the regular curriculum.

    The catch is this: a truly gifted child does not need something IN ADDITION TO the regular curriculum, because the truly gifted child is NEVER unable to be self-directed in a personally interesting fun activity. A truly gifted child is rarely bored if he/she is left alone. Therefore, the IN ADDITION TO stuff robs a truly gifted child of that most precious thing of all, which is free time.

    It is tiresome to always be extraordinary in a school setting. Worse than that, always being the smartest person in the room can lead to self-destruction, because even the very smartest young people want more than anything to fit in somewhere — to be ordinary — to be normal. My "NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences" proposal attempts to create that "somewhere" for those young people who are exceptionally gifted in mathematics and the physical sciences — that "somewhere" where those who are truly extraordinary can be simply ordinary for three years of their life.

    Steven A. Sylwester

    #77971 - 06/11/10 02:02 PM Re: Proposal: NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences [Re: ]
    chris1234 Offline

    Registered: 06/27/08
    Posts: 1897
    Very interesting!

    #78046 - 06/12/10 10:19 PM Re: Proposal: NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences [Re: ]
    dd5 Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 04/19/10
    Posts: 9
    Originally Posted By: StevenASylwester

    It is tiresome to always be extraordinary in a school setting. Worse than that, always being the smartest person in the room can lead to self-destruction, because even the very smartest young people want more than anything to fit in somewhere — to be ordinary — to be normal.

    I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. I hope your proposal gets a lot of support.


    #78090 - 06/13/10 08:17 PM Re: Proposal: NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences [Re: dd5]
    blob Offline

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 263
    Thanks for writing this, Steven. I identify with so many points that you've brought up.

    Good luck on your proposal!

    #78152 - 06/14/10 03:36 PM Re: Proposal: NASA Academy of the Physical Science [Re: blob]

    The following is a comment that I made to Forbes:

    The Forbes article:
    What Educators Are Learning From Money Managers
    by Daniel Fisher
    Innovative schools collect data, look for small changes, intervene quickly and move resources to the formulas that work.

    Posted by Steven_A_Sylwester | 06/07/10 02:19 PM EDT
    As much as we need the masses to reach their potential so that the U.S. might have a literate and capable workforce, we need more for the prodigies and the geniuses to reach their potential, too, so that the U.S. might maintain world leadership in discoveries, innovations, and inventions. Ultimately, our success as a nation will be measured by copyrights and by patents - by the economic power we will derive from intellectual property ownership rights.

    The American ethos granting "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" tends to be bottom-up in practice in public education, and only lasts as long as the money lasts. Special Education for poor performing students is required by laws that speak of legal rights and fairness, as if excellent performing students can somehow make it on their own while poor performing students are doomed without extraordinary interventions. By comparison, Talented and Gifted (TAG) programs are recommended and endorsed, which means they no longer exist because the money for them ran out a long time ago.

    Though a common fallacy believes otherwise, the fact is: prodigy and genius are not reliably the product of privilege. Economic advantage and high social status do not determine giftedness. A genius can be born in poverty.

    In the face of it all stand three truths: 1) Special Education students are children at risk, 2) TAG students - especially the prodigies and the geniuses - are children at risk, and 3) the United States of America is a nation at risk. If we ignore any of those "at risk" groups, we do so at our peril - and all three of those groups are interrelated.

    I propose a nationwide public high school for our science-minded prodigies and geniuses to be located on the campuses of 150 public research universities across the U.S. I have called the school "NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences." My proposal can be read at:

    Steven A. Sylwester

    Edited by StevenASylwester (06/14/10 03:43 PM)

    #78153 - 06/14/10 03:41 PM Re: Proposal: NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences [Re: ]

    Again, please read:

    Please read the whole blog from start to finish from the beginning to the end. Thank you.

    Steven A. Sylwester

    #78244 - 06/15/10 01:30 PM Re: Proposal: NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences [Re: ]
    inky Offline

    Registered: 10/10/08
    Posts: 1299
    Thanks for sharing this! A great example of thinking outside the box when it comes to gifted education and I really liked the stealth approach. Hope it catches the attention of those who can make it happen.

    #78332 - 06/16/10 12:15 PM Re: Proposal: NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences [Re: inky]

    Kudos to "inky" for reading this:

    Now, how do I get everyone else to read it, too?

    Why is this so important? And why would the many U.S. intelligence agencies partner with the U.S. military with a NASA front to make "NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences" happen? For starters, watch the following linked "60 Minutes" segment "Cyber War: Sabotaging the System" online if you missed the repeat national broadcast last weekend:

    Some of the prodigy and genius children in our nation would have happy and fulfilled lives if they were specially trained and educated in mathematics and the physical sciences for the task of keeping America safe. If creating that opportunity for such special training and education allowed for some or most of the exceptionally gifted young people to then advance into other career choices, we would be doubly blessed.

    Some parents might balk at the stealth underpinnings of "NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences," but they would be fools to do so in my opinion. Whatever it takes is worth the doing.

    Steven A. Sylwester

    #78388 - 06/17/10 12:50 AM Re: Proposal: NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences [Re: ]
    ColinsMum Offline

    Registered: 09/19/08
    Posts: 1898
    Loc: Scotland
    Originally Posted By: StevenASylwester
    Kudos to "inky" for reading this:

    Now, how do I get everyone else to read it, too?

    I think you have two separate problems to tackle:
    (a) how to get people here to read your proposal;
    (b) how to get other people to read it.
    I think you'd do better with (a) if you realise that this is a community (largely) consisting of people struggling to get better education for their children. You don't need to convince us that there is a problem in much of education: we know that.

    Moreover, we are busy and we don't owe you anything. "Thanks" to inky for reading your proposal would have been more tactful than "kudos".

    It would also help to know why you would like us to read it. Do you want detailed constructive criticism? Feedback on whether we broadly like the idea? Action to push for its implementation? Or do you want nothing from us and just think we'll find it interesting or encouraging that it exists?

    If you want people to invest time reading your proposal, what you need to convince us of (and in fact, the same will apply to others, although with others you may also have to convince them that there is a problem to be solved) is that you have something to offer towards a solution. That could either be a convincing abstract posted here, or something about your credentials to do this (who are you, what is it in your background that means we should expect you to have done a good job of designing a school?) or better, both. To be concrete, I think a succinct description here of your Pauling Colloquy, which is a seriously interesting idea, would have hooked more readers than what you did write about it, which didn't make sense unless the reader had actually read what you'd written about it elsewhere.

    My own reaction, which may or may not have been typical, was: when you first posted, I clicked, skimmed, saw a large body of highly rhetorical and not clearly structured text, and made a judgement that the expected value from reading your blog wasn't worth the time it would take. It was only when chris1234, a long-time poster here whose opinions I've come to respect, posted that it was interesting that I invested the time in reading it.

    When I did so, I found some interesting ideas and a lot of statements that I agreed with, but I felt that the proposal was frustratingly vague in important ways, such as the curriculum. Perhaps your US readers have background that helps them to understand things I'm missing, though. To give one example from a field I'm very familiar with, you list CS courses and you suggest that computing is central to your proposal, but you say nothing about what's in the CS courses and you come worryingly close to equating CS with programming. It makes me wonder whether there is any substance to the proposal.

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to write a straight, rhetoric-free description of what the proposal actually is, with more detail than you have given so far, and separately, a document justifying your choices?
    Email: my username, followed by 2, at google's mail

    #78398 - 06/17/10 07:44 AM Re: Proposal: NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences [Re: ColinsMum]
    inky Offline

    Registered: 10/10/08
    Posts: 1299
    Steven, I sense frustration about "what is our call to action?" Maybe it would help to clarify what steps you've already taken to contact NASA Administrators about this proposal. It seems to fit with the Education Mission Directorate. It would help to have an Executive Summary and the conventional proposal format.
    P.S. Have you tried this route already?
    Or as an unsolicited proposal?

    Edited by inky (06/17/10 11:09 AM)
    Edit Reason: P.S.

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