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Howard Gardner
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Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education / Harvard Graduate School of Education
Updated: 29 min 10 sec ago

Mind-Changing Books: Paideia

May 15, 2017 - 9:44am

Which books influence us the most?

Sometimes they are books that grab our interest initially and hold it firmly until we have finished the last sentence—and we then tell others about the book and, before too long, we re-read the book and discover far more than we had initially believed to be there. (Recently many young people, as well as others across the age span, have had that experience with the Harry Potter series.)

Sometimes they are books that we sense are important—though we are not quite sure why—and as we return to the books, we find that our initial intuitions were correct. That was my experience with Moby Dick. (Of course it can work the other way as well—sometimes the seduction is immediate but turns out to be superficial and transitory.)

There’s another, profound way in which we can be influenced by books. Occasionally, we encounter books that are so powerful that they become our way of apprehending the world. And precisely because they have that “world making” power, we may actually forget the book or minimize its importance—the so-called “anxiety of influence” that make poets repress recognition and acknowledgement of their most powerful models. When I was in high school, I read and was profoundly affected by the writings of American historian Richard Hofstadter, particularly his essays in The American Political Tradition. A few years later, when I was in college, I read and re-read many essays by the American critic Edmund Wilson. (Indeed, I even invited Wilson to dine with students at Quincy House at Harvard—and I’ve saved his handwritten declination.) I did not repress the names of Hofstadter or Wilson. But I did not fully appreciate their influence until I myself began to write essays and came to admire their exquisite talents—plunging the reader directly into the topic and conveying powerful and often difficult ideas in concise and evocative prose.

Though I have been involved in education for decades, I recently read two books that have generated considerable reflection on my part. One book I had known about for many years. Indeed, I had scanned it twenty five years ago but did not study it until the summer of 2016 (this is an example of a publication whose importance is initially sensed but not understood until a later time). The other book, read early in 2017, is by a friend and colleague of many years; it serves as an example of a work whose significance is immediately grasped. Both books have catalyzed me think more deeply (and, I hope, more trenchantly) about education.

In this and in the succeeding blog, I describe these influential writings.

I begin with Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, a three volume study published in 1930s and 1940s by the German classicist Werner Jaeger. This formidable achievement details how, over the course of a few centuries, the Greeks invented education as we have come to know it and, in many cases (including my own), to cherish it.

At first blush, it may seem aberrant to talk about the “invention of education.” Haven’t human beings always educated the young? In fact, don’t other species also engage in rearing and in modelling desirable and discouraging inappropriate behavior on the part of the young? And if we look at other great civilizations (the so-called “axial civilizations” that emerged in the millennium before Christ), do they not also educate? Aren’t The Ten Commandments themselves a powerful educational vehicle and recipe?

Jaeger asks us to step back and consider the contents, the aims, and the means that characterize what the Greeks accomplished in a brief span of time. To make this concrete, we should think about the achievements of Socrates, Aristotle, and particularly Plato. The Greeks thought about education quite explicitly: they pondered the ultimate aims of education, both for the broad range of young people (males, to be sure) and for those who would presumably become leaders of the society. They described institutions—in Plato’s case, an Academy—in which such education should take place. They devised methods (prominently, the Socratic method of asking questions which are often definitional, enigmatic, or paradoxical and reflecting on the appropriateness and validity of the various answers that were proposed). Perhaps most importantly, they envisioned education as a lifelong process in which one probed important questions about the meaning and purpose of life, what it means to lead a good life, how to launch well and continue to grow and deepen the body, the mind, and the spirit. When Socrates interrogated himself and others about what makes a society just, or what it means for a statement to be true, or what virtues to cultivate, and how, and why, he was engaging in cherished human activities—which at least on an explicit level—had not been pursued before.

Let me now edit the statement that I made earlier. When I speak about “education as we know it,” I am actually talking about education in the West, and particularly that part of the world that was influenced by classical Greece, classical Rome, and the societies that emulated them in succeeding centuries (monastic, medieval, and especially Renaissance). It is certainly possible to have a different kind of education—one based on obedience, or on repetition, or on rewards and punishment, or focused on military might, or, less grandly, on hunting, fishing, gathering, or tending the field. But I am targeting education that involves young people sitting around a (literal or metaphoric) table, typically led by an older and more knowledgeable person, in which nutritious and weighty questions are raised; different opinions are solicited and elicited; some kind of tentative conclusion or synthesis is sought and sometimes achieved while at the same time new sluices of thought are opened up for contemplation.  While the class or seminar is finite, the process is not—it’s assumed that new questions will arise, new problems will be identified, various responses will emerge, and the conversation will continue and perhaps deepen, even over the generations.

This process will be familiar to readers of these words. And yet, if you are the way that I was, you will not have pondered how this process has come about, what is needed to do it well, how to sustain it, and why it might one day disappear—and at what costs. Indeed, a first order of business for autocrats and totalitarians is to shut off these marks of a liberal arts education—as indeed the citizens of Athens did with respect to Socrates, around 399 B.C. (If you are now thinking about contemporary America, you are not alone.)

As one who had known peripherally about Jaeger for some time, I’ve become curious about why his work is not better known and more discussed. This is a particularly provocative question because Jaeger had considerable influence on two great historians of American education—the historian of colonial America, Bernard Bailyn, and the historian of pre-collegiate education in the United States, Lawrence Cremin.

I suggest three answers: 1) The three volumes are large and quite technical, filled with Greek phrases, and may well be seen as contributions to classical studies, rather than to education; 2) Jaeger was a German national whose original volume was published in Germany early during the Third Reich, and while he (and his Jewish wife) moved to the United States in the late 1930s, and Jaeger became a respected university professor in this country, the stigma of having been reared and having taught in Germany may have unfairly cast a pall over his works; and 3) Perhaps Jaeger overemphasized or misrepresented the uniqueness of the Greek contribution to education as we know it. At any rate, in English, there is virtually no secondary material on Jaeger or his remarkable accomplishment.

Just as Jaeger’s Paideia opened my eyes to the proposition that “education in the Western tradition” was essentially invented on a few islands in the Mediterranean over two thousand years ago, my contemporary David Olson has alerted me to the kinds of assumptions that highly literate people routinely make and indeed take for granted but which are not accessible to those without such an education—resulting in a gulf that can be very troubling.

In the next blog, I discuss Olson’s powerful book The Mind on Paper.

Categories: Blog

Introduction to “Life-Long Learning: A Blog in Education”

May 15, 2017 - 8:47am

Like many of my friends and colleagues, I have spent my entire life in education. Indeed, from the time that I went to preschool at the home of “Aunt Eunice and Uncle Gar” (not relatives) in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in the late 1940s, I’ve been in school: K-12, college, doctoral, and postdoctoral studies, then teaching and professing over the last decades.

My relation to education has been unusual. When I was a child, I imagined that as an adult, I would be a teacher and would teach each of the grades from kindergarten through high school. (I doubt that this fantasy is common!) In high school, college, and graduate school, I gave piano lessons from time to time. When a doctoral student in developmental psychology, I took the unusual step of teaching a K-2 class in the Newton, Massachusetts, public school system (I was not very good). Even though my scholarly identity has been chiefly as a social scientist, I’ve been affiliated for fifty years with the Graduate School of Education (GSE) at Harvard—beginning as a founding member of Harvard Project Zero (which is currently celebrating its 50th year), co-directing Project Zero for nearly thirty years, and then, since the middle 1980s, serving as a member of the GSE senior faculty.

All that said, I did not begin to focus on education as a topic of study until the publication in 1983 of my book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Having directed that book to my fellow developmental and cognitive psychologists, I had not anticipated the enormous interest on the part of educators, particularly those involved in K-12 education. (By coincidence, 1983 was also the date of the publication of A Nation at Risk, probably the most influential white paper in education ever issued in the United States. For the first time in decades, K-12 education moved to the fore of American policy discussions, where it has remained ever since). Both of those events nudged me toward a greater focus in my research and teaching on education—and that, too, has remained over the years.

In this new blog, titled “Life-Long Learning: A Blog in Education,” I want to step back—and venture forward—to consider various issues of education and life-long learning. As with my previous blog “The Professional Ethicist,” I hope to engage colleagues in discussions, and I invite readers and colleagues to submit blogs as well.

Since 2013, with Wendy Fischman, Richard Light, and other colleagues, I’ve been engaged in a national study of higher education. As the collection of data draws to a close in the coming months, and we begin to analyze the data, we will post blogs in which we discuss both concepts and findings. At least for a while, this blog will focus on higher education in the United States.

But throughout, I would like this blog to range widely. And so, to start it off, I am devoting the first two blogs to books that I read in recent months—works that have had a large effect on my thinking.

My first post in this series, titled “Mind-Changing Books: Paideia,” is available by clicking here. The blog will be posted on this website under the category “Life-Long Learning: A Blog in Education.” Announcements of new blogs will be made on my Twitter @DrHowardGardner.

Categories: Blog

Lectures on Intelligence, Creativity, and Leadership

May 4, 2017 - 7:51am

In January 2017, Howard Gardner delivered a series of three lectures at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. These lectures revisited three topics that Gardner has studied over many years: intelligence, creativity, and leadership. Having written books about each of these threads (see his work on MI, Creating Minds, and Leading Minds), about half of each lecture was devoted to summarizing the work he has carried out over the decades. However, in the latter part of each lecture, he presented his recent ideas and thematic conclusions.  

HGSE has now posted via YouTube the latter half of each lecture, corresponding with the sections that contain new content. We are sharing these videos below.




For those who may be interested in learning more, or in reviews of Gardner’s earlier work, please peruse this website or visit our official MI site at multipleintelligencesoasis.org. You can also visit thegoodproject.org or view the various other lectures and interviews posted online.

Categories: Blog

“Five Minds for the Future” Interview

April 17, 2017 - 11:39am

Howard Gardner’s 2009 book Five Minds for the Future describes five specific dispositions that will be important for people to master in the future. These five capacities are:

  • the disciplined mind,
  • the synthesizing mind,
  • the creating mind,
  • the respectful mind, and
  • the ethical mind.

In the fourth edition of the Spanish-language periodical Plurilingüismo e Innovación Educativa, Gardner participated in an English-language interview about these five minds and their integration.

Click here to read a PDF of the full piece.

Categories: Blog

Recommendation Inflation

April 5, 2017 - 12:04pm

Letters of recommendation are a standard requirement of most academic and program admission applications, and most people have either written one or had one written for them in their lives. But are letters of recommendation an honest appraisal of the candidates and applicants that they describe?

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Howard Gardner argues in a blog post that letter-writers can rarely be frank about the flaws or shortcomings of candidates for fear of harming their chances of admission on employment. This leads to “letter inflation,” in which most if not all recommendations have a positive slant. These letters, then, have lost their usefulness as truthful descriptions.

What can the writers of letters of recommendation do about this situation? Gardner offers a few points of advice, including refusing to complete rank orderings and checklists along with a letter, making clear and descriptive statements about the subject, and being prepared to say “no” when asked to write a letter for people you do not know well.

Click here to read the piece via the Chronicle.

Categories: Blog

Spreading Scientific Understanding

March 23, 2017 - 1:36pm

“What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?”

This was the question asked of a number of experts by Edge.org, a website published and edited by author John Brockman, at the start of 2017.

Howard Gardner answered that historiometrics, the field of study that explores human progress and the differences in individual and societal characteristics, should be more widely known. He gives an overview of the history of this realm and questions, “Has the moment for historiometry finally arrived?”

Click here to read Gardner’s response and those of the other contributors.

Categories: Blog

MI and Habits of Mind in Arts Education

March 10, 2017 - 11:39am

Howard Gardner and Ellen Winner discuss their respective research on multiple intelligences and arts education, as well as how these two lines of work fit together, in a newly-released short video.

Gardner is most known for the theory of multiple intelligences, a critique of the notion that humans have a single measurable intelligence, such as an IQ. Instead, the brain is analagous to a set of computers, each processing different information. His theory currently takes eight discrete intelligences into account.

Winner is supportive of arts education and has researched that realm extensively, coming to the conclusion that there is little evidence for claims that education in the arts improves overall test scores. Instead, the conversation around arts education should be changed, which she and her colleague Lois Hetland attempted to do by studying habits of mind in studio art classrooms.

In the video below, these two lines of work are explained and related to one another. Click to watch the full recording.

Categories: Blog

Gardner and Winner on Future Trends

March 1, 2017 - 1:30pm

Howard Gardner and Ellen Winner have both contributed to John Brockman’s 2017 book Know This: Today’s Most Interesting and Important Scientific Ideas, Discoveries, and Developments

The book is a collection of brief contributions from leading thinkers about the trends in science and society that are most important for everyone to understand.

In her contribution, Winner discusses the issue of replicability of psychological experiments, stressing that replicating results is a cornerstone of scientific consensus and encouraging journals to be more discerning in their publication of results. A more rigorous approach will increase the field of psychology’s reputation.

Gardner talks about the changing conceptions of what it means to be human with the rise of intelligent machinery that may one day overpower the human race.

Click here to read both contributions, and find out more about Know This via Amazon.

Categories: Blog

Why Philanthropy Is Not a Profession

February 17, 2017 - 8:38am

Many occupations today call themselves “professions,” but what does it mean for a domain to truly be a profession, and does philanthropy count?

According to Howard Gardner, the field of philanthropy is not yet a true profession, an argument he makes in a February 2017 opinion piece published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Click here to read Gardner’s thought-provoking piece in full, which includes a discussion of the core elements of professions as well as different strategies of philanthropic giving. (PDF also available.)

Categories: Blog

Trump’s View of Intelligence

February 9, 2017 - 9:05am

Donald Trump has made a variety of statements about intelligence both during his election campaign and his short time in office. Calling himself a “really smart person” and claiming his Cabinet has the “highest IQ” ever, he has also stated he “loves the poorly educated” and found high levels of support amongst those without college degrees.

How can we interpret Trump’s attitude towards intelligence? 

Howard Gardner has commented on this issue for a recent guest post in Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post

According to Gardner, Trump has endorsed a narrow view of intellectual ability, and his valorization of being under-educated is problematic and concerning.

Click here to read the piece via “Answer Sheet,” and share your own thoughts below.

A translation of the article has also appeared in Spanish and is available here.

Categories: Blog

Gardner Named Among Top 5 US Education Scholars

February 1, 2017 - 1:29pm

Howard Gardner has once again been listed among the top academic influencers in the field of education in the 2017 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings.

This year, Gardner is fifth out of 200 scholars selected from universities throughout the United States. An annual list created by Rick Hess for his Education Week column “Straight Up,” the ranking includes metrics such as book points, press mentions, and Google Scholar index in an effort to determine which academics have the greatest impact on educational policy and practice.

Click here to access the full list and accompanying article.

We send congratulations to all those who made the list!

Categories: Blog

Colleagues from the Netherlands Visit The Good Project

January 17, 2017 - 1:36pm

In October 2016, The Good Project, one of Howard Gardner’s major research initiatives (co-founded in the middle 1990s with colleagues Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and William Damon), welcomed five colleagues from the Netherlands affiliated with The Professional Honor Foundation (PHF), a Dutch organization that explores professional identity and behavior across many sectors. PHF is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, members of The Good Project and PHF teams convened in Cambridge to share updates, connections, and reflections.

During the visit, The Good Project’s researchers had the opportunity to learn more about the work of these scholars and activists, including successes and ongoing challenges.

Co-founded by Thijs Jansen and Alexandrien van der Burgt, PHF formed following the publication of Professional Pain (2005), a book which detailed the frustrations of many Dutch professionals with pervasive forces of deprofessionalization, bureaucratization, and lack of autonomy. In 2009, a second book, Professional Pride, furthered these messages and emphasized “pride” as a central value for all professionals to embrace.

Over the past several years, PHF has drawn on The Good Project’s conception of “good work” for a series of focus groups with professionals in different sectors, among them judges, physicians, educational officials, and accountants. PHF and associated scholars have also released additional books supporting their vision of a “Good Work society.”

In our sessions together, we focused on three professional domains where PHF has been able to exert influence.

Medicine: In recent years, Dutch healthcare has inched ever closer to the system in the United States, with high costs and insurers/private companies holding increasing power. Those opposed to these trends have had some success in countering them (for example, the government’s plan to abolish the free market for patients to choose their doctors was scrapped); but medical practitioners in the Netherlands are subject to new levels of policy oversight that distance them from patients. In The Alternative for Healthcare (2015), Jansen and his associates argue that the quality of care and a relationship of trust between patient and practitioner are the foundations of the medical profession. Two-thirds of Dutch general practitioners have successfully campaigned for measures that would reduce red tape, limiting the influence of healthcare insurance companies and forced competition between GPs.

Accountancy: Following the 2008 financial collapse, public confidence in accounting in the Netherlands collapsed; surveys revealed that 85% of people had no confidence in auditors. A crisis of identity for the profession resulted, with many accountants questioning how to ensure integrity and quality in their work. Margreeth Kloppenburg has been at the forefront of work encouraging Dutch accountants to be more ethical, accountable, and aware. As a result of her co-authored report “In the Public Interest” about the purposes of the accounting profession, 53 new policy measures were passed by the Dutch government. These measures include the allowance for external governors in accounting firms, penalization for individual misconduct, and the adoption of a professional oath and mandatory ethics courses. Kloppenburg is currently working on a curriculum to help accounting students tackle difficult ethical dilemmas on the job; she has launched a website called The Accountables, where accounting students reflect on vexing professional issues and share ideas and insights. While reforms in the Dutch accounting system could act as a model of “good work” practices, puzzles remain. The best methods of inculcating these ideas have yet to be determined, and students complain they are being asked to over-reflect before they have even entered into the profession. By the end of 2017, PHF will publish a book on the professional honor of accountants, written by accountants and other interested parties, as a force of change for the greater good.

Teaching: Education in the Netherlands is increasingly hierarchical, with the government dictating policy down to districts, to administrators, and finally to individual teachers. In 2013 the co-authored book Het Alternatief  (English title: The Alternative), Jelmer Evers, a candidate for the Global Teacher Prize, details a reversal of this un-professional top-down power structure. According to the scheme that he has developed, education should focus more on open dialogue for teacher collaboration/association, a reduction in burdensome instructional periods, and creation of national teacher academies. These recommendations have received attention from the Dutch Minister of Education and Parliament. As part of a global professional movement, Evers the co-authored an international follow-up book called Flip the System: Changing Education from the Ground Up (2015). Based on this work, together with Education International, Evers is organizing a worldwide educator network called TENGlobal which seeks to increase teacher agency through greater trust, a sense of purpose and pride, and collaborative effort and support.

Overall, PHF has pushed matters of professional identity into the national consciousness of the Netherlands, presenting a counter-narrative to the marketization and systemic weakening of individual choice apparent across the professional landscape. As Gabriel van den Brink, professor emeritus at Tilburg University, put it, a new paradigm in professionalism will temper the prevalence of capitalist commercialism with more relational and creative arrangements.

Gardner and colleagues look forward to continuing to learn from these colleagues and their work.

Categories: Blog

MI Theory Overview Video

January 6, 2017 - 1:02pm

The Brock International Prize in Education, which Howard Gardner was awarded in 2015, has created a short video summary of the theory of multiple intelligences.

In the engaging and quick feature, which incorporates illustrations and diagrams, the components and implications of MI theory are explained in simple terms.

Check out the 2-minute video below!

Categories: Blog

Good in the Absence of Truth?

December 13, 2016 - 9:17am

In the post below, reprinted from Howard Gardner’s blog The Professional Ethicist, Gardner discusses the relationship between truth and the nature of what is good, as well as challenges to the concept of truth in the contemporary era.

For over half a century, I’ve been obsessed with the nature of truth, beauty, and goodness. I see them as central in education and, indeed, in life—I would not want to live in a world where human beings could not distinguish truth from falsity; did not value beauty; and did not seek what is good and desist from what is bad.

In the last quarter century, I have argued that a principal reason—perhaps the principal reason—for education is to help young people understand (and act upon) this trio of virtues. These are the themes of my books The Disciplined Mind and its update in Truth, Beauty and Goodness Reframed. This past term, I taught a course on the topic—I jokingly dubbed it “Truth Beauty and Goodness Reframed Reframed.” And in an ongoing study of education, I speak about the space between LIteracies (the goal of the first years of school) and the LIvelihoods (the attainment of reasonable employment toward the end of adolescence) as the LIberal Arts and Sciences—the study, appreciation, and realization of these three virtues.

But any thought that I had cracked the secret of the virtues has been exploded during the past year by the political events in the United States. Voters in America had the choice between one presidential candidate who approached issues of truth with the hair-splitting logic of a lawyer; and another candidate who baldly lied and then lied about his lies. As if to finish the final funeral of truth, we have an electorate, many of whom do not seem to care about rampant lying; and the creation of a new category—fake or false news: news which is simply made up for propaganda purposes and is then circulated as if it had been carefully researched and validated.

How does this newly emerging state-of-affairs relate to the virtues? Until 2016, I had assumed that truth was a widely accepted goal—we might even say a widely accepted good—even though, of course, it is not always achieved. And so we could turn our attention to what I consider the heartland of goodness: the relations that obtain among human beings, those to whom we are close as well as those with whom we have only a distant, transactional relationship.

But I have had to come face-to-face with an uncomfortable, if not untenable situation: if we don’t agree about what is true, and if we don’t even care about what is true, then how can we even turn our attention to what is good, let alone care about what is good, and what is not? (In thinking about this issue, I’ve been aided by the excellent discussions with my students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.)

So here’s my current thinking:

Option #1. A Post Post-Modern View: If we throw out the possibility of ascertaining truth, or even caring about truth, then goodness must be scuttled. If P and Not P are equally valid (or equally invalid), there is no possibility of making an ethical or moral judgment. All are good, all are bad, flip a coin.

Option #2. An Olympian View of Goodness: For the sake of argument, let’s concede that we ordinary humans are not able during our lifetimes to make judgements of what is true and what is not true and hence are stymied in our evaluation of “the good.” There might still be judgments of goodness which are based on some absolute standard: standards of justice (that exist in some document, be it a constitution or the Bible); standards of the good (that are made by God or by the gods); standards of posterity (that are made by historians many years hence); or standards of philosophers (what Plato or Kant or Rawls might deem to be good).

I certainly favor Option #2 over Option #1. But I propose another way of thinking of this issue.

If there is any view of good that can be put forth as universal, or close to universal, it is that one should not kill innocent people (The Seventh Commandment—Thou shalt not Kill; The Golden Rule: Do onto others…). So let us stipulate that principle as a “Given Good.” In making a judgment about the relation among human beings, we can therefore conclude that one who kills one or more innocent persons is a bad person and/or has committed a bad act. (By extension, one could then say that individuals who save innocent persons or who penalize killers of innocent persons are good persons.)

Following this line of argument, we need now to determine the truth of the matter: whether a killing took place, who carried out the killing and why, what is the status of the person who was killed, and what, if anything, should be done with the identified killer.

Allegation: John killed Joe.

In what I have termed “neighborly morality,” these questions can usually be answered without too much difficulty. People who live in a neighborhood know one another, they see what is going on and why, and nowadays they can record (and replay) happenings instantly on various recording devices. If Joe’s murder is observed by other individuals, and/or recorded for posterity, then only a crazy person will deny that it has happened.

Of course, determining the motive of the killer and the status of the killed can be more challenging. But again, in a neighborhood, individuals will generally be well-known by those whom they see each day, and the planned or accidental nature of the killing will be apparent, as well as the behavior of the killer in the aftermath of the deed.

And so, in brief, if establishing what happened, what is true, is relatively straightforward, and judgments of good/bad can be validly made… except by the extreme post-modernists or by those who are crazy.

But now let’s consider killing that occurs outside the neighborhood, often of a large number of persons, and often by agents whose motivation and activities are far more difficult to ascertain.

Allegation: Serb leader Radovan Karadzic killed thousands of innocent Bosnians and Croats

Allegation: Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad is killing thousands of innocent Syrians.

Allegation: Russian leader Vladimir Putin poisoned several of his political opponents.

In these latter cases, the norms of neighborly morality do not apply. The alleged killers are not known personally by most of the victims and observers. Nor do the alleged killers directly carry out the killings—the lines of authority, and the details of the killing, are much more difficult to ascertain. Indeed, in the absence of such personal culpability and of documentation of the circumstances of murder, the killings can almost seem like crimes that did not happen or perpetrator-free crimes: As Josef Stalin cynically quipped, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

In the second decade of the twenty first century, such heinous crimes do not always go unpunished. Using the precedent of the Nuremberg Trials in post-World War II Europe, we now have an International Criminal Court. And at least occasionally, a leader like Karadzic can be held accountable for mass deaths—in his case, he was found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. But for this result to occur, one needs to have massive amount of evidence, the power to arrest and extradite, and the decision of a court that proceeds according to international law. No wonder that more distant forms of killing typically go unpunished.

Even in the case of the conviction of Karadzic, consensus about the crime and punishment can remain elusive. The charge of genocide is very difficult to sustain; indeed, over a century after the killing of one million Armenians, Turkish leaders refuse to discuss or even use the term genocide. Militant Serbs believe that they are in a justifiable struggle to vindicate their own history and sustain their own culture, a struggle dating back to the battle of Kosovo in 1389! Paradoxically, for many Serbs, the actions of the late 20th century were a retaliation against neighbors whom they have loathed over the centuries.

So if truth is so difficult to establish, where is the dry land? Once we leave the neighborhood, on what bases can we render judgments of what is good and what is not, especially when cases are less clear-cut than the Syrian or the Serbian cases?

I find two sources of hope:

  1. Understanding the means, the methods, and the evidence on which assertions are made. If one is dealing with contemporary or historical political events, one needs to know how to make sense of journalism, eyewitness reports, historical documents, and other putative sources of evidence. This approach applies equally well to science, medicine, art, and indeed any way of marshalling and evaluating evidence.
  2. Identifying individuals and sources who are trustworthy. Even the most polymathic among us cannot be expected to be able to evaluate all argument and evidence by ourselves. And so it is especially important to identify those persons (known personally or known through the media) and those sources of information that we find to be regularly accurate and reliable. This does not mean that such persons or sources are always right. None can pass that test! Rather it means that when they are wrong, they acknowledge it. It also means that their judgments are not always predictable; rather, they evaluate each case on its merits.

In my next blog, I’ll turn my attention to the ethics of roles. I’ll pursue how, on the basis of these two promising sources, we can establish—or, perhaps, more precisely RE-establish—a firmer link between truth and goodness.

-Howard Gardner

Categories: Blog

Interview on MI Theory Reprinted

December 9, 2016 - 8:06am

In 2013, Howard Gardner was interviewed by the Spanish website tiching.com about his theory of multiple intelligences.

This blog reappeared in the 2016 Spanish-language education-themed book Hablamos de Educación (Let’s Talk About Education).

Click here to read the republished version of the interview (Spanish). The original English version has been reprinted below.

2013 Interview with Tiching.com, English translation. This interview appeared in Spanish in its entirety in 2013 on blog.tiching.com

Tiching: Your Multiple Intelligences Theory is known around the world, but how do you define the term “intelligence”?

Howard Gardner: An intelligence is the biological and psychological potential to analyze information in specific ways, in order to solve problems or to create products that are valued in a culture.

T: Your Theory explains that eight different intelligences exist. Do we have all the intelligences in various degrees, or does each person have only one type of intelligence?

HG: As implied by the definition, I reject the notion that human beings have a single intelligence, which can be drawn on for the full range of problem solving. What is usually called ‘intelligence’ refers to the linguistic and logical capacities that are valued in certain kinds of school and for certain school-like tasks. It leaves little if any room for spatial intelligence, personal intelligences, musical intelligence, etc.

All human beings have all of the intelligences. But we differ, for both genetic and experiential reasons, in our profile of intelligences at any moment. We can enhance our intelligences, but I am never going to become Yo-Yo Ma, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, or Pele.

T: We attended your conference at Montserrat College, and you talked about two new intelligences that you want to introduce (pedagogical and existential). How has this issue advanced?

HG: In order for me to ‘endorse’ an intelligence, I need to carry out lots of research. I have not had the time to research ‘teaching intelligence,’ and the survey I conducted years ago of ‘existential intelligence’ left me uncertain about whether it is a full-blown intelligence. Yet I use these terms informally, and anyone else is welcome to do so as well.

T: Which criteria do you use in order to include a new type of intelligence in your theory?

HG: My eight criteria for an intelligence are laid out in Chapter 4 of my 1983 book Frames of Mind. These criteria are drawn from several disciplines and several kinds of populations. There is not a single foolproof equation for determining whether a candidate intelligence does or does not qualify. I weigh the various considerations and make the best judgment I can. My guess is that ‘teaching intelligence’ and ‘existential intelligence’ would do pretty well on the 8 criteria, but as I’ve said, I have not been able to do the required research to be confident about my conclusion.

T: Do you think you will include more types of intelligence in the future?

HG: Only in a speculative manner. My colleague Antonio Battro has written about a ‘digital intelligence’ and that is certainly worth thinking about. However, at present, what he calls ‘digital intelligence’ seems adequately accounted for by logical-mathematical and bodily-kinesthetic intelligence—the skills of coding and of manipulating a mouse and/or a cursor.

T: You have launched the Multiple Intelligences Oasis site; what are its objectives?

HG: This is a website, launched in the summer of 2013. It represents my effort to describe MI theory, to highlight powerful applications, and to point out problematic assertions—hence the image of an oasis (water in the middle of a parched desert). I’d be delighted if we could find a way to produce a high quality version in Spanish.

T: Most of the members of our community are teachers. How can they identify the intelligences of their pupils?

HG: When speaking to parents, I encourage them to take their child(ren) to a children’s museum and watch carefully what the child does, how she/she does it, what he/she returns to, where there is definite growth. Teachers could do the same or could set up ‘play areas’ which provide ‘nutrition’ for different intelligences… and watch carefully what happens and what does not happen with each child.

When a child is thriving, there is no reason to spend time assessing intelligences. But when a child is NOT thriving—in school or at home—that is the time to apply the lens of multiple intelligences and see whether one can find ways to help the child thrive in different environments.

T: Once intelligences are identified, how can they be enhanced? Are empowerment mechanisms different for each type of intelligence?

HG: Intelligences are enhanced when a person is engaged in activities that involve the exercise of that intelligence. It helps to have good teachers, ample resources, and personal motivation. Anyone can improve any intelligence; but it is easier to improve the intelligence if those factors are available and if you have high potential in that intelligence.

T: Should school curricula be redesigned in order to enhance all the intelligences? If yes, what should be transformed?

HG: I don’t think that it is necessary to rethink curricular goals. But it is certainly worth thinking about whether these goals can be reached in multiple ways. I think that any important educational goal can be realized via several routes. In Chapters 7-9 of my 1999 book The Disciplined Mind, I show how to teach important lessons in science, history, and music, through alternative intelligence routes.

T: Which is the importance of new technologies, such as Tiching, in the learning process of each pupil?

HG: Any good teacher should become acquainted with relevant technologies. But the technologies should not dictate an education goal. Rather, the teacher (or parent or student or policy maker) should ask: can technology help to achieve this goal, and which technologies are most likely to be helpful?

T: Which is the intelligence that you have most developed yourself?

HG: I think that I am strongest in linguistic and musical intelligence, and I continue to work on my interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence.

T: What project(s) are you working on now?

HG: For the last twenty years, I have been engaged in The Good Project, a study of how professions survive in a time when markets are very powerful, which now has many offshoots. I am now working on a study of liberal arts and sciences in the 21st century. We want to understand how best to create and preserve a form of higher education that we value but that is in jeopardy for many reasons.

Categories: Blog

Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and the US Election

November 30, 2016 - 1:04pm

In the weeks following Election Day, many news outlets have devoted significant attention to analyzing the trends and conditions that led to the victory of Donald Trump for the American presidency.

Released on The Huffington Post, The Professional Ethicist, and Cathy Rubin’s CMRubinWorld, Howard Gardner has written a piece that looks at the election through the lenses of truth, beauty, and goodness. These three virtues, according to Gardner’s estimation, had a significant impact on the outcome in unexpected ways. Gardner probes how conceptions of truth guided the electorate, which candidate was able to create “beautiful” experiences, and how goodness likely factored into the voting decisions of millions of Americans.

Read Gardner’s post via The Professional Ethicist, and read it in Q&A format with Cathy Rubin at The Huffington Post.

Categories: Blog

A Conversation with Chomsky

November 17, 2016 - 8:41am

On October 10, 2016, the Harvard Graduate School of Education welcomed renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky for a conversation with Howard Gardner.

In a far-ranging discussion touching upon linguistics, societal trends, education, politics, and more, Chomsky shared his insights and opinions on many topics while Gardner facilitated, reflected, and took student questions.

Watch a video of the full event below.

Categories: Blog

Scientists Making a Difference

November 4, 2016 - 12:14pm

Reflecting on your life, what has been your greatest accomplishment so far and why?

A version of this question was asked to Howard Gardner and ninety-nine other behavioral and brain scientists, each of whom wrote a summary of their most important contribution to the field for the book Scientists Making a Difference, edited by Robert T. Sternberg, Susan T. Fiske, and Donald J. Foss and released in August 2016 by Cambridge University Press. Gardner’s answer is that the theory of multiple intelligences has been the most influential part of his scholarship.

In his short essay, Gardner discusses his scholarly background and what led him to investigate human intelligence. He offers a few explanations for what made his theory of multiple intelligences unique enough to catch on at the right time and why he considers it his most important contribution. He also comments that while still applicable, MI theory as he originally conceived it is “no longer current” with contemporary research and is open to updates by those willing to do the work. 

Click here to read Gardner’s piece in full.

Categories: Blog

Short Video: Gardner’s Educational Vision

October 25, 2016 - 9:35am

Earlier this year, Howard Gardner participated in a short interview for a conference held on the far northern island of Svalbard, Norway, by the Aurora Borealis Foundation. Now, a video with highlights from the interview is available on Vimeo.

In this video, Gardner succinctly summarizes some of his most powerful thoughts about education. He states that much of education today is focused on teaching literacies (such reading, writing, math, and now programming) and livelihoods (training for work). “I’m interested in what is between,” says Gardner, explaining that he is most intrigued by the power of liberal arts to help us understand the human condition, our past, and our present conditions and trends.

He further discusses the difference between “neighborly morality” and “ethics of roles” in his conception of the “good” and how these frameworks relate to the interconnected global society and its new challenges.

Watch the video in full below!

Categories: Blog

French TV: Gardner Discusses Trump

October 14, 2016 - 10:26am

With the 2016 election fast approaching in the United States, coverage in the news media has been nonstop as nearly daily scandals have marred both the campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and divided the public.

Howard Gardner was interviewed for a segment on the French television show “Quotidien” about Donald Trump’s consistent pattern of insulting others. During this interview, he was asked about what Trump’s behavior may indicate about his personality and the way in which he has turned the national conversation and normal rules of politics on their heads.

Click here to watch the clip (French language program). Gardner appears at 3:50 mark. 

Categories: Blog