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Archive for April 23rd, 2010

On Education And the Limits of Science and Technology

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 from Howard Gardner
“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: (l) 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.

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Written by frrl

April 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm

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