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On Multiple Intelligences, Minds, and the Education for the Future

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A couple of decades ago (1983), Howard Gardner came up with this idea that IQ (“Intelligence” Quotient) only measures one type of intelligence.  Observation shows that people possess abilities that IQ tests can not measure.  Gardner got the idea that to really understand the full range of human capability it was necessary to extend the concept of “intelligence” beyond the traditional default definition.

Gardner came up with the theory of multiple intelligences.  The belief was that multiple  intelligences better capture the full capability of human being and that an individual, evaluated on traditional IQ tests alone, did not tell the full story on a particular individuals capability.

Here is a list of Gardners 9 intelligences

  1. Visual-spatial
  2. Verbal-linguistic
  3. Logical-mathematical
  4. Bodily-kinesthetic
  5. Musical-rhythmic
  6. Interpersonal
  7. Intrapersonal
  8. Naturalistic
  9. Existential

You can read more on the theory of multiple intelligences here –

A few years ago (2007), Gardner came up with a complementary idea.  The idea that, in order to be successful in the world, and especially in the world of globalization, one must possess multiple “minds” capable of analyzing and understanding people, events, situations, and the world from different perspectives.

Gardner calls these the Five Minds for the Future

With these “minds,” as I refer to them, a person will be well equipped to deal with what is expected, as well as what cannot be anticipated; without these minds, a person will be at the mercy of forces that he or she can’t understand, let alone control. I’ll describe each mind briefly…

  • The disciplined mind has mastered at least one way of thinking— a distinctive mode of cognition that characterizes a specific scholarly discipline, craft, or profession. Much research confirms that it takes up to ten years to master a discipline. The disciplined mind also knows how to work steadily over time to improve skill and understanding—in the vernacular, it is highly disciplined. Without at least one discipline under his belt, the individual is destined to march to someone else’s tune.
  • The synthesizing mind takes information from disparate sources, understands and evaluates that information objectively, and puts it together in ways that make sense to the synthesizer and also to other persons. Valuable in the past, the capacity to synthesize becomes ever more crucial as information continues to mount at dizzying rates.
  • Building on discipline and synthesis, the creating mind breaks new ground. It puts forth new ideas, poses unfamiliar questions, conjures up fresh ways of thinking, arrives at unexpected answers. Ultimately, these creations must find acceptance among knowledgeable consumers. By virtue of its anchoring in territory that is not yet rule-governed, the creating mind seeks to remain at least one step ahead of even the most sophisticated computers and robots.
  • Recognizing that nowadays one can no longer remain within one’s shell or on one’s home territory, the respectful mind notes and welcomes differences between human individuals and between human groups, tries to understand these “others,” and seeks to work effectively with them. In a world where we are all interlinked, intolerance or disrespect is no longer a viable option.
  • Proceeding on a level more abstract than the respectful mind, the ethical mind ponders the nature of one’s work and the needs and desires of the society in which one lives. This mind conceptualizes how workers can serve purposes beyond self-interest and how citizens can work unselfishly to improve the lot of all. The ethical mind then acts on the basis of these analyses.

One may reasonably ask: Why these five particular minds? Could the list be readily changed or extended? My brief answer is this: the five minds just introduced are the kinds of minds that are particularly at a premium in the world of today and will be even more so tomorrow. They span both the cognitive spectrum and the human enterprise—in that sense they are comprehensive, global.

How capacity in each of these “minds” affect’s one’s standing in the world

Earlier, I introduced the five kinds of minds that we will need to cultivate in the future, if we are to have the kinds of managers, leaders, and citizens needed to populate our planet. I hope to have made the initial case for the importance of these minds. To approach my brief sharply:

  • Individuals without one or more disciplines will not be able to succeed at any demanding workplace and will be restricted to menial tasks.
  • Individuals without synthesizing capabilities will be overwhelmed by information and unable to make judicious decisions about personal or professional matters.
  • Individuals without creating capacities will be replaced by computers and will drive away those who do have the creative spark.
  • Individuals without respect will not be worthy of respect by others and will poison the workplace and the commons.
  • Individuals without ethics will yield a world devoid of decent workers and responsible citizens: none of us will want to live on that desolate planet.

On Education for the Future

No one knows precisely how to fashion an education that will yield individuals who are disciplined, synthesizing, creative, respectful, and ethical. I have argued that our survival as a planet may depend on the cultivation of this pentad of mental dispositions. Indeed, without respect, we are likely to destroy one another; without ethics, we return to a Hobbesian or Darwinian world, where the common good is nowhere to be seen. But I firmly believe that each human faculty should also be justified on noninstrumental grounds as well.

As a species, we human beings have impressive positive potentials—and history is replete with individuals who exemplify one or more of these kinds of minds: the discipline of a John Keats or a Marie Curie; the synthesizing capacities of Aristotle or Goethe; the creativity of a Martha Graham or a Bill Gates; the respectful examples of those who sheltered Jews during the Second World War or who participated in commissions of truth and reconciliation during more recent decades; the ethical examples of ecologist Rachel Carson, who alerted us to the dangers of pesticides, and of statesman Jean Monnet, who helped Europe move from belligerent to peaceful institutions.

Education in the broadest sense should help more human beings realize the most impressive features of the most remarkable representatives of our species.

Read more on the Five Minds for the Future –
And from Usable Knowlege at Harvard Graduate School of Education

Written by frrl

April 24, 2010 at 4:21 pm

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