Bits from the beginning of Five Minds for the Future

Sunday May 20, 2012

Five minds for the future
Howard Gardner

This guy keeps going with his multiple intelligences thing. I haven't finished the book, but here are some selections I wanted to remember:

"In the long run, it is not possible for parts of the world to thrive while others remain desperately poor and deeply frustrated."

"In a world where we are all interlinked, intolerance or disrespect is no longer a viable option."

"'Education is inherently and inevitably an issue of human goals and human values.' I wish that this statement were mounted prominently above the desk of every policymaker. One cannot even begin to develop an educational system unless one has in mind the knowledge and skills that one values, and the kind of individuals one hopes will emerge at the end of the day. Strangely enough, however, many policymakers act as if the aims of education are self-evident; and as a consequence, when pressed, these policymakers often emerge as inarticulate, contradictory, or unbelievably prosaic. How often my eyes have glazed over as I have read vacuous proclamations about 'using the mind well' or 'closing the achievement gap' or 'helping individuals realize their potential' or 'appreciating our cultural heritage' or 'having the skills to compete.' Recently, in speaking to ministers of education, I've discovered a particularly Sisyphean goal: 'leading the world in international comparisons of test scores.' Obviously, on this criterion, only one country at a time can succeed. To state educational goals in this day and age is no easy undertaking; indeed, one purpose of this book is to posit several more gritty goals for the future.

"A first caveat: science can never constitute a sufficient education. Science can never tell you what to do in class or at work. Why? What you do as a teacher or manager has to be determined by your own value system - and neither science nor technology has a builtin value system. Consider the following example. Let's say that you accept the scientific claim that it is difficult to raise psychometric intelligence (IQ). From this claim one can draw two diametrically opposite conclusions: (1) don't bother to try; (2) devote all your efforts to trying. Possibly you will succeed, and perhaps far more easily than you had anticipated. Same scientific finding: opposite pedagogical conclusions."

"To the extent that personal service or personal touch continue to be valued, these disciplines will provide a good livelihood for those who have mastered them. But my focus here falls chiefly on the scholarly disciplines that one should acquire by the end of adolescence, and the one or more professional disciplines needed to be a productive worker in society."

"Most important, set up 'performances of understanding' and give students ample opportunities to perform their understandings under a variety of conditions. We customarily think of understanding as something that occurs within the mind or brain - and of course, in a literal sense, it does. Yet neither the student nor the teacher, neither the apprentice nor the master, can ascertain whether the understanding is genuine, let alone robust, unless the student is able to mobilize that putative understanding publicly to illuminate some hitherto unfamiliar example. Both teacher and students ought to strive to perform their current understandings; much of training should consist of formative exercises, with detailed feedback on where the performance is adequate, where it falls short, why it falls short, what can be done to fine-tune the performance.

"Why talk about performances of understanding? So long as we examine individuals only on problems to which they have already been exposed, we simply cannot ascertain whether they have truly understood. They might have understood, but it is just as likely that they are simply relying on a good memory. The only reliable way to determine whether understanding has truly been achieved is to pose a new question or puzzle - one on which individuals could not have been coached - and to see how they fare."

"When critics deride business schools as being too academic, they usually mean that the ultimate uses of the purveyed knowledge are not evident; students are not forced to flex their text or lecture- or discussion-obtained knowledge. Here, in brief, is why most standardized measures of learning are of little use; they do not reveal whether the student can actually make use of the classroom material - the subject matter - once she steps outside the door. And here is why traditional training in the crafts requires a culminating masterpiece before the journeyman can rise to the level of master."

"As Plato remarked so many years ago, 'Through education we need to help students find pleasure in what they have to learn.'"

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