YPP Network Description

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

Howard Gardner
Subscribe to Howard Gardner feed Howard Gardner
Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education / Harvard Graduate School of Education
Updated: 22 min 28 sec ago

Answering John Gardner’s Challenge

December 1, 2015 - 1:22pm

Howard Gardner has contributed a blog post to DML Central, the Digital Media & Learning Research Hub’s blog devoted to the effects of digital media on education and youth civics.

Recounting John W. Gardner’s two decade old reflection that many young people are doing good work but are unsupported by government legislation, Howard Gardner notes that youth in our society continue to engage in high numbers in politics by using technology even in spite of a divided political system and concludes that we should encourage the next generation towards a future in which civic rights are protected and leaders are apt and informed.

Click here to read the blog post in full, and visit the Good Project’s website to learn more about this research.

Categories: Blog

Gardner on Seeking Out Differences

November 18, 2015 - 8:13am

Columnist Charles Assisi has written about Howard Gardner in a feature in Mint on Sunday, the digital Sunday-only version of India’s second-largest business newspaper.

In the article, titled “Opposites ought to attract,” Assisi shares his reflections about why he is thankful that the people in his life closest to him are very different from himself. For example, although he is an atheist, a progressive, and an ambitious person, he has a devoutly Catholic wife and two best friends, one of whom is anti-secularist and the other of whom is an alcoholic businessman.

Assisi thinks back on a conversation that he had with Howard Gardner in providing some explanation for the situation. According to Gardner, because people tend to gravitate towards those who agree with their own views, it is necessary, especially in today’s digital world, to seek out alternative perspectives and to listen to those with whom we disagree. By doing so, we are not only able to enrich our own perspectives but also hold a mirror up to ourselves and shift opinions if we discover new information.

Click here to read the full article via Mint on Sunday.

Categories: Blog

Watch Howard Gardner’s TEDx Livestream!

November 12, 2015 - 11:44am

This Sunday, November 15th, Howard Gardner will be speaking as a part of this fall’s TEDx Beacon Street event. Beginning at 3:45pm ET, Gardner’s talk will be titled “Beyond Wit and Grit.” 

Click here to access the TEDx Beacon Street website, where a livestream link will be available to allow members of the public to view Gardner’s talk in real time, as well as the presentations of all the other speakers.

Categories: Blog

Gardner Interviewed by Korean Newspaper

November 5, 2015 - 12:18pm

Howard Gardner was recently interviewed by Korean Newspaper Joongang Daily in conjunction with the publication of the Korean translation of his book The Disciplined Mind. In the interview transcript below, Gardner offers his thoughts about intelligence, creativity, and education on various fronts.

Click here for a PDF of the published Korean article.

Joongang Daily: As you probably know, you are well-known as the father of Multiple Intelligences theory. Your main works, including The Disciplined Mind, Frames of Mind, Extraordinary Minds, etc., deal with how the human mind operates. What does multiple intelligences theory mean in your overall academic career?

HG: Even today, over thirty years after I developed the theory, most of my mail, from all over the world, concerns MI theory. I have a website where I post occasional columns and answers to questions. (I would be happy if someone were to translate the website into Korean!)

My work on “MI theory” has taken me to interesting places and expanded my horizon, and I am glad that I developed the ideas and that they have had numerous applications in education. I have four children, and we are expecting our fourth grandchild—so as long as that paternity is recognized first, I am happy to be the father of MI theory.

That said, in my own scholarship, I have gone on to other issues. For the last twenty years, I have been studying ‘the good’—what it means to be a good worker, a good citizen, and a good person. One reason for this research is that I have seen MI ideas misapplied—and, I have to say, sometimes it has been in Korea. I came to realize that I had a responsibility to speak out when the ideas were not being used in a good way.

One of the rewards of being a scholar is that you can investigate whatever interests you. And so, after 20 years on the Good Project (see thegoodproject.org), I am now studying higher education in the United States as part of a project called “Liberal Arts and Sciences in the 21st Century.”

Joongang Daily: How do you define the human mind in the context of your research/studies? Among the many aspects of the operation of the human mind, which draws your interest the most?

HG: I construe the human mind very broadly—of course all mental activity comes from the human brain, but the human mind extends far beyond the brain to the technologies that we use, to the other people with whom we work and solve problems, and to history, culture and the arts. In my long career, I have had the chance to study many aspects of human cognition—intelligence, creativity, leadership, and ethics. I am more interested in ‘high end’ cognition—how we draw meaning from experiences, rather than how we see a line or hear a sound. And I’ve been more interested in cognition than in emotional or social aspects of the mind, though they are very important as well.

Joongang Daily: In many of your works, you deal with creative minds in human history. Nowadays, many governments and corporations are developing various programs to foster people with creative talents; they are pouring in their resources for this purpose. In your opinion, what does it mean to be creative in modern society? I also wonder if you think developments in science and technology are affecting human creativity.

HG: I think that creativity today is not fundamentally different than it was 100 or 1,000 or even 10,000 years ago. Creative people use their minds to solve problems, to raise questions, and to create objects that arouse the interest and the excitement of others. If I had to specify differences today, I would mention two: 1) we have much more help from technology, particularly digital technology; and 2) we are more likely to work with others, both near and far, than alone. The image of the solitary creative individual, working in a garret or cave or study, is much less relevant today.

Developments in science and technology have always affected creativity. Until now, however, creativity has come chiefly from human beings, not from robots or computers. If that should change, then maybe the computers will be studying creativity, rather than the psychologists or policy makers who study it today!

Joongang Daily: Recently The Disciplined Mind was published in Korea. In this book, you have emphasized the importance of academic discipline. However, many people think that creativity is hindered by becoming familiar with the existing knowledge system. How do you respond?

HG: If you spend too much time mastering existing knowledge, that can be counterproductive. On the other hand, unless you know what has been learned before, and how it was learned, the chance is that you will re-invent the wheel rather than coming up with something new, useful, and interesting. As I express it in a book called Five Minds for the Future, being creative means thinking outside of the box. But you can’t think outside of the box unless you have a box! And that box contains the disciplined knowledge that you have acquired, often over a significant period of time.

Joongang Daily: You’ve visited Korea several times, as far as I know. Is there anything you want to say about Korean education? What do you think is the most distinct feature of Korean education?

HG: What I have to say is conventional wisdom about Korea. Students are very good at mastering material and performing well on standardized tests. For students with academic intelligences, this is fine, but it creates enormous stress on young people who may be stronger in areas that are NOT tested by standard tests. Korea stands out in terms of achievement but also stress. Parents are often too tough on their children, probably because the parents themselves were stressed when they were young.

My own experience is that Korean students are often very tough on themselves, very demanding. Up to a point that may be good; but when it becomes self-destructive, that is bad. It used to be said that East Asians were not as creative as Westerners due to cultural differences. But I think that is no longer true. The secrets of creativity are open to everyone, and there are many creative artists, musicians, and scientists of Korean background both in Korea and abroad.

Joongang Daily: Recently, the problem of school bullying is becoming more and more serious worldwide. As an antidote to this problem, our government passed an act called the Character Education Law. What do you think is the core idea of character education?

HG: Often Character Education focuses on identifying and drilling what one should do and what one should not do. That’s fine as far as it goes—no one should lie, steal, or injure others. But the more challenging aspects involve how one should behave in a difficult situation, where there is no easy answer: for example, when one is tempted to cheat on an examination which seems unfair, or when a friend of yours cheats. Those difficult situations cannot be solved simply by being told what to do. One needs to discuss alternatives, understand the positive and negative aspects of each, and work together to make a better community. To do this well is challenging; and that is what we focus on in the Good Project, mentioned above. In fact we have created a toolkit which helps students, teachers, and parents tackle difficult issues like bullying or cheating or competing for scarce rewards. One needs to understand WHY people bully and what are the harms for the victim, the victimizer, and the larger community.

Joongang Daily: As the youth unemployment rate soars, many universities are now faced with the problem called “the collapse of universities,” as they are closing down humanities and basic science departments. Do you think there might be solution to this problem?

HG: As I said before, all of my work now is focused on “Liberal Arts and Sciences in the 21st Century.” I focus on that highly current topic because I am aware of the situation that you describe and want to do something about it. It’s very important that our leaders understand why broad education is essential, not only for work but also for citizenship; alas, too many of them contribute to the problem, rather than to the solution.

When we are interviewing students and parents in our study, and they say that the purpose of education is to get a job, we follow up with the question “And what happens when the job disappears?”.  Often they are shocked; they never thought of that possibility before. Of course, the whole reason for a broad education in history, philosophy, and the arts, as well as basic science, is to prepare you, as best we can in 2015, for the world, no matter what the jobs happen to be in 2020 or 2050 and no matter what is the state of the world.

Joongang Daily: As Internet technology is improving, the kind of information people need is changing. With this background, many people are saying that schools are collapsing and education itself is at stake. What roles can schools, or education itself, play in this era? What meanings do they bear?

HG: For as long as I can look ahead, we will have schools, because we need places for young people to become socialized, to learn to deal with peers, to master citizenship, and—without wanting to be frivolous—to have a place to go while parents are working! But more and more of traditional education—acquiring the literacies and the disciplines—will occur online, before the age of school, and throughout life—no more will we think of education as ending at age 20 or 25. Teachers will become more like coaches or curators, less like dispensers of information that is readily available on any search engine.

A few years ago a ‘wise guy’ student said to me, “Dr Gardner, why do we even need school when the answers to all questions are on my smart phone?”

I looked at him for a moment and said, “Yes, the answer to all questions, except the important ones!” And that’s another reason why schools and the liberal arts and sciences will continue to the indefinite future.

Joongang Daily: What do you think is the biggest problem we are facing these days? How do you think education should change in the 21st century to solve that problem? What can an educator do?

HG: I assume that you mean the biggest problem in education—because problems of climate change, the water supply, regional warfare, and nuclear weapons are far greater than the educational challenges, significant though they are (I hardly need remind an audience of South Koreans, given the weapons available in North Korea).

I don’t think that there is a single biggest problem in education. As I have suggested in my answer to other questions, we have a lot of misconceptions about the reasons for education (not just to get a job) and where it should take place (not just online). In the United States, the biggest challenge is to make the teaching profession attractive enough so that talented students will devote a significant proportion of their lives to teaching and that they will help to bring a diverse society closer together. But in other countries, like Singapore, Finland, or Korea, there are other strengths and other challenges.

Joongang Daily: It’s been thirty years since you announced Multiple Intelligence theory. It has been very influential around the globe. How do you think this theory will be evaluated thirty years from now?

HG: When I put forth the theory, I thought that the most important part was the identification of the specific intelligences and their relation to specific regions of the brain. And indeed, I think that is why the theory attracted a lot of attention. But today, I think it was more important simply to pluralize the word ‘intelligence’ and to help parents, teachers, and children themselves realize that you can be smart in more than one way, and that it’s important to identify your strengths, and make use of them—for work, for play, for what you are passionate about, for how best to work with others. I don’t know and I don’t care whether my name and the phrase ‘multiple intelligences’ will still be on the radar screen, but I do hope that the ideas of ‘several ways of being smart’ will become part of common sense, common knowledge, and common wisdom.

I’ve often said that one of the big problems with IQ is that you can’t do anything about your IQ—it is just a way of labelling you and oftentimes dismissing you. The good think about an “MI” way of thinking is that it gives hope to all people about their own potential and gives parents and teachers different ways of addressing their students. Indeed, that is one of the key ideas in The Disciplined Mind, where I show how important knowledge can be conveyed in ‘’multiple intelligences ways’.

Joongang Daily: With advances in brain science and cognitive science, new findings regarding human learning and decision making are now coming into light. How do you think this progress will affect education in the future? Nowadays, it seems that many people are especially interested in Artificial Intelligence. What do you think of the future of AI?

HG: Brain science and AI (cognitive science) are different from one another. Any educator—indeed, any educated person—should monitor what is happening in both areas of science. I think that brain science will be most important in helping us to identify potential learning problems, very early in life, and in suggesting ways in which to address those problems effectively. It is already happening with respect to spoken and written language.

As for AI, I am less interested in creating machines that will replace human beings than I am in creating machines, programs, and apps that will allow human beings to achieve what we want to achieve more skillfully and more ethically—working together with us, just as we should all learn to work with other persons, even if they don’t look or sound the way that we do.

To put it differently, if brain science or cognitive science can help human beings to survive and thrive together, that should make all of us very happy.

Categories: Blog

Intelligences in the Classroom

October 27, 2015 - 12:06pm

Howard Gardner has been interviewed for an article in the September 20th edition of the Spanish magazine Espacio de Pensamiento e Innovación Educativa (Space Thinking and Educational Innovation). 

Discussing the meaning of intelligence and the practices of individuation and personalization in the MI-conscious classroom, Gardner addresses some of the frequent problems faced by teachers who seek more personalized education for students. He also responds directly to criticism of multiple intelligences theory. 

Click here to read the Spanish (pg. 2) and English (pg. 10) texts as a single PDF. The English interview questions and answers have also been reprinted below.

1. What features must be present in a class based on multiple intelligences?

The most important educational implications of MI theory are individuation and pluralization.

Individuation means knowing as much as you can about each student, giving each student the chance to learn
in a way that is most comfortable and to demonstrate learning and understanding in ways that are comfortable.
Of course, this is easier to do when you have a smaller class. But you cannot let a large class size defeat the idea of
personalized learning, and digital technology makes individualized education a possibility for all students.

Pluralization means deciding what is really important for students to know, learn, and understand and then to convey
that information to students in a variety of formats and media, thereby addressing the multiple intelligences. I’ve never encountered anything of importance that can only be taught in one way. And when you teach pluralistically, you not only reach more students; you also show what it is like to really understand something when you can represent that knowledge in several forms/formats.

2. What problems have been encountered when this is put into practice in a class?

One problem is that teachers worry about every student. That’s not necessary. Many students are flexible and can learn in many ways. It’s not necessary to devote time to those students; in fact, sometimes they can be drawn upon to help those students who have difficulty with the content.

Another problem, alluded to in the answer to the first question, is that it is more difficult to individualize when you have large classes. In that case, one has to be flexible and innovative, making use of various technologies, bringing other teachers into the room, asking older and more sophisticated students to share the job of the teacher… and to use what I have to call ‘pedagogical intelligence.’

Another problem is taking the theory of MI too literally: there is no need to teach everything in 7 or 8 ways. It’s important to teach a topic in more than one way, but even two ways is genuine progress.

And yet another problem is using the intelligences superficially. It may be a bit easier to learn a poem if you sing it, but that is not musical intelligence. Musical intelligence would involve focusing on the interpretation of the text and making choices that make musical sense as well. Similarly, dancing a poem is not bodily-kinesthetic intelligence unless you actually pay attention to the quality of the bodily movement.

3. What do you think about the criticism that your theories are based more on intuition than on the results of empirical research?

The criticism is wrong! The theory is based entirely on scientific evidence, taken from psychology, anthropology, and biology (originally neurosciences, but increasingly now from genetics). What the critics SHOULD say is that theory is not based on experiments. Much of science cannot be investigated experimentally (for example, geology, astronomy, the theory of evolution, etc.).

Not only is my theory based on evidence from science; it can and will be changed on the basis of new scientific evidence. Fifteen years ago I would not have spoken of pedagogical intelligence, but evidence is accruing that the ability to teach is a distinctly human capacity which begins to develop in the first years of life.

4. What are the differences between the intelligences and skills?

I use the word intelligence to designate a broad capacity to compute certain kinds of information in certain kinds of ways. Linguistic intelligence deals with language, whether it is heard or read; spatial intelligence deals with the capacity to locate oneself or objects in space, which can be a small space (like a chess board or a piece of sculpture) or a much larger space, the realm of navigators or architects. Each of these intelligences involves a multitude of skills. There is no tension between ‘intelligence’ and ‘skills.’ It is a question of grain-size: many skills can constitute an intelligence.

People often ask about the relation between intelligences and talents. You can use either term, but I use intelligence, because it is important to indicate that being good with music or with understanding other people is every bit as important, and quite separate from, the ability to do math or to use ordinary language to communicate.

Categories: Blog

Publicity for The App Generation

October 14, 2015 - 12:02pm

Howard Gardner and Katie Davis’s book The App Generation continues to be referenced in the press two years after its release. In September-October 2015, the following publications featured the book in articles about the effects of digital technology on society:

Sherry Turkle’s op-ed in the New York Times about the psychological results of omnipresent digital devices cites Gardner and Davis’s use of the term “app generation” to refer to the impatient, app-driven instincts of many young people today

-A Sentinel & Enterprise columnist references The App Generation in a discussion about how smartphones are influencing youth today (although somewhat oversimplifying the argument of the book, which does not advocate that such technology be “quarantined” but instead used smartly)

-A presentation in Trinidad and Tobago incorporated ideas from the book in a talk for business managers who want to further understand generational differences, as reported by The Guardian Trinidad and Tobago

-The constraining tendencies of social media and online tools on the reformulation of young people’s identities was the focus of a Pickens Sentinel article that focuses on The App Generation‘s argument

Click any of the links above to read the full text.

To learn more about The App Generation, including ordering information, visit theappgenerationbook.com.

Categories: Blog

The Reggio Emilia Approach to Education

October 1, 2015 - 8:54am

Sweden’s Reggio Emilia Institutet has published an interview with Howard Gardner in the Fall 2015 edition of its magazine Modern Barndom (English: Modern Childhood). 

In this article, Gardner discusses and shares insights about the educational approach of the Italian city Reggio Emilia and the collaboration between Reggio Emilia and Harvard’s Project Zero. 

Click here to see a PDF of the article in Swedish. The original English interview questions and answers have been reprinted below.

1. What do you think is the most important contribution that Reggio Emilia has had on the educational landscape?

A: I am going to challenge the premise of this question. Over the last 50 years, the educators in Reggio Emilia have developed an entire approach to the education of young children, which is also reflected in the values and the mode of operation of the city of Reggio Emilia. To ask for the most important contribution is like asking what is the most important feature of a democracy and how is it realized in Sweden (or in New Zealand or in a New England town meeting). It is the whole approach that is the “contribution.”

I would add that many persons and places take a superficial approach to Reggio Emilia and just copy one feature, like ‘projects’ or ‘reflection’ or ‘listening’ or having a ‘pedagogista.’ What I like about Sweden is that educators in your country have taken the whole approach seriously, realizing that it takes time to construct and must be continuously monitored and adjusted. I often joke that Reggio is really located in Sweden, not in Italy.

2. Have your experiences with Reggio Emilia had any impact on your own research? If so, in what ways?

A: I don’t do research with young children. In fact, at present, I am carrying out a large research project with students at the university. But I can say that my over 30 years of visiting Reggio have affected profoundly my understanding of young children, of their teachers, and of the possibilities of the pedagogical environment. For me, and for others like my teacher Jerome Bruner, time in the Reggio preschools has opened our eyes to potentials that we had not appreciated before. When I first visited Reggio, I had young children, but I was quite naive about their individual potentials and how they could interact with peers and elders. Now, I have young grandchildren, and I think that I have much greater insights into their potentials of understanding, listening, creating, cooperating, and relating positively to their broader community.

3. In what way do you think you and your research have had an impact on Reggio Emilia?

A: I think that Loris Malaguzzi, the principal architect of the Reggio approach during the early years, found my general approach to children sympathetic (I am very interested in the visual arts, for example, and I am a follower of John Dewey and democratic education) and thought that my idea of’multiple intelligences might connect to his “hundred languages of children.” That said, I don’t think that my own ideas have been necessary for Reggio Emilia’s approach.

On the other hand, twenty years ago, I arranged with an American foundation to provide support for Reggio Emilia, in the wake of Malaguzzi’s untimely death. That support enabled a longtime relationship between Reggio Emilia and Harvard’s Project Zero (PZ), a research group that I then directed and have been involved with for nearly 50 years. The interactions between Reggio Emilia and PZ have been mutually beneficial. Not only have we helped Reggio to understand and explain to others what is most distinctive about the enterprise (see question #1); our working together has opened up connections to networks of researchers and practitioners all around the world, from the Lemshaga School outside Stockholm to the Early Model Learning Center in Washington, D.C., to connections with the LEGO Foundation. I would like to think that our two organizations can be key players in facilitating a more progressive, democratic, and caring education for young children, at a time when too much focus around the world falls on test preparation, national rankings, shoving the curriculum of school into the preschool years, and focusing on science, mathematics and engineering, to the exclusion of the arts, humanities, and interpretive disciplines.

4. Does a dialogue continue between you and PZ on the one hand and Reggio Emilia on the other?

A: There is a continuing dialogue between key figures in the Reggio network, both in Italy and elsewhere, including Sweden, and several researchers at Harvard Project Zero (including Mara Krechevsky, Steve Seidel, Melissa Rivard, Daniel Wilson, Ben Mardell, and others, including me). We correspond regularly and take advantage of opportunities to meet (e.g. at the LEGO Conference in May, where Carlina Rinaldi won the LEGO prize; or in Boston in May, when Tiziana Filippini was awarded an honorary degree at Wheelock College). I can say that our relations with our Reggio Emilia colleagues have been formative and transformative for how we at Project Zero think about young children (and, in an extension of Reggio work, with older children as well). I hope that the interactions with our research group have been fruitful as well for the educational pioneers and architects in Reggio Emilia.

Categories: Blog

Gardner Interviewed by Faculti Media

September 21, 2015 - 11:16am

Short interviews with Howard Gardner on his books The App Generation and Frames of Mind have been released by Faculti Media.

Faculti Media is a company that produces concise videos of experts from across the academic landscape discussing their research and ideas. Watch Gardner’s two videos below via YouTube to learn more about his work on both of these important texts!

The App Generation:

Frames of Mind:

Categories: Blog

Gardner on Education’s Future

September 8, 2015 - 10:03am

Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore has published a featured interview with Howard Gardner about the future of education.

Discussing the effects of digital media and new technology on worldwide education as well as his own work with the city of Reggio Emilia in Italy, Gardner offers some advice for how we can navigate these changes adapt our schools in the years ahead as educators seek to prepare students for the realities of the 21st century.

Click here to read the article in Italian. Below, the English text of the original interview has been reprinted.

1. What is the role of the school in the knowledge economy of the 21st century? Which type of skills should the education system develop?

A: One answer is that the traditional school will be less important. Education will begin shortly after birth and will be lifelong—it will occur on line, at the workplace, in community centers, and with connections being made around the globe, not just with your neighbors.

Another answer is presented in my book Five Minds for the Future. I argue that in the future, individuals who succeed will need to have a disciplined mind (knowing how to become an expert in one or more fields), a synthesizing mind (which can put together disparate information in a useful way), a creating mind (raising new questions and solving difficult challenges), a respectful mind (being able to deal well with individuals near and far), and an ethical mind (handling the challenges that arise in the workplace and in one’s role as citizen, where one needs to behave in a moral way).

2. There is a big difference between the kind of approach to learning of the digital natives (the app generation) and the approach proposed by schools. How could this be managed, and how should the education system change?

A: With respect to the disciplined mind, individuals may be able to acquire disciplines/expertise more efficiently. But they can only do this if they can concentrate and practice regularly, and the digital media can challenge attention and concentration by presenting too much attractive material at the same time.

With respect to the synthesizing mind, there will be apps which can help one keep track of information and organize it. But the synthesis that works for you may not work for me and vice versa. And so one needs to take responsibility for one’s own synthesis.

With respect to the creating mind, web 2.0 presents wonderful opportunities to collaborate. But there may be more ‘interim’ or ‘medium-size’ creativity and less Big C breakthroughs.

As for the respectful mind, individuals need to be able to interact smoothly and appropriately not only with individuals who are near by but with individuals who are remote. This is a new challenge.

And as for the ethical mind, this needs to be rethought completely in a digital age. On the one hand, it is no longer possible for each nation to have its own ethics, because we live in a global society. On the other hand, all sorts of assumptions about privacy, intellectual property, trustworthiness, and what it means to participate in a community are being disrupted by digital technology. Cyberspace is a ‘wild west.’ We need to come up with new ways to ensure ethical and moral behavior.

How does this relate to the educational system? Unless the educational system takes into account the ways in which to nurture the five minds in a digital era, it will become increasingly anachronistic—no longer relevant. Individuals will develop their own approaches to life—which might be quite dysfunctional—or new institutions may be developed by corporate interests or by the wider society.

3. How could digital technology contribute to changes in the education system?

A: Clearly, many skills can be developed more efficiently and more effectively by digital technology—for example, apps can help one to learn the three Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic) and many scientific and mathematical and computational skills can be presented via MOOCs (massive open online courses).

BUT I believe that person to person interaction, unmediated by technology, is as important as ever.

Young children need to be able to see peers and teachers face-to-face, to notice their reactions, and to develop trust. And older learners benefit from direct contact with mentors, who can guide them in the more complex parts of work and especially can provide ethical and moral guidelines.

To put this differently, an important part of life are human values—like honesty, trust, and decency—and these cannot and should not be presented online. There is a real danger that human beings will try to emulate computers and digital systems, and these are fundamentally different kinds of entities.

Also, I don’t believe that one can effectively teach humanistic, artistic, and social scientific disciplines except in the presence of other persons with whom one can discuss, debate, and collaborate face-to-face.

All technology is amoral. One can use a pencil to write beautiful poetry or to poke out someone’s eyes. By the same token, you can use apps or MOOCS to develop skills which can be used to harm or to heal. The difference comes from contacts between human beings in a human space who can look at one another eye-to-eye and see directly the consequences of behavior and misbehavior.

4. There is a big debate over whether—and how—digital technology could be useful to the education of the new “app generation,” and many people emphasize the risk connected to digital and the web. What is your opinion on the issue?

A: From our book The App Generation, I would add this point in addition to what I have already said: apps are procedures for getting tasks done efficiently. We all benefit from the existence of apps. But we should never decide to do something just because an app happens to exist, and we should never decide NOT to do something just because an app does not exist.

My collaborator Katie Davis and I make an important distinction. Human beings should avoid becoming app-dependent: always relying on apps to decide what to do and how to do it. We should become app-enabled: using apps to help us accomplish things that we want to do anyway, but using the extra time and facility to free us to accomplish things that are important to us, whether or not there is an app available.  

And we should all become app-transcendent as well, throwing away devices when they are divisive (causing harm) or when they keep us from being original. Steve Jobs had much to do with the ascendancy of apps, but he would never decide on something just because there is an app. He was able to TRANSCEND apps, and so should we.

5. How are you involved in the projects of the city of Reggio Emilia, and what do you think is the main feature of the Reggio Emilia experience relevant to school and education?

A: Like many other people, including my beloved teacher Jerome Bruner, I have learned a great deal from my visits to Reggio and from my research there, which now encompasses over thirty years! Observing the schools and the pace of life in Reggio has taught me much about the potentials of young children and also about the role of adults and the surrounding community in helping to develop thoughtful and engaged citizens. In Reggio, there are not artificial boundaries between child and adult, teacher and learner, public officials and ordinary citizens—people work together, unselfishly, for the health of the broader community.

Of course, there are tremendous challenges. And one has to be honest and say that with huge waves of immigrants coming to northern Italy, from dozens of different cultures, the tasks facing the schools and the broader community are greater than was the case thirty years ago. But Reggio does not run away from these challenges. It welcomes them and hopes to serve as a model for Italy and, indeed, much of the developed world.

On the subject of technology, Reggio has never spurned new inventions, digital or otherwise. Indeed, it has embraced the modern. (I remember the excitement thirty years ago when the first fax machines were introduced into the Diana School, and the children there exchanged messages with their counterparts at the Model Early Learning Center in Washington, D.C.!). But the city recognizes as well the importance of the human dimension.

The world over, Reggio is known from two elements: its delicious food (most notably cheese) and its excellent early childhood education. I hope that the world continues to benefit from both forms of nourishment.

6. There is a school reform movement underway in Italy. What suggestions would you give to the Italian or to any government wanting to modernize the education system and bring it in line with these new realities?

A: My major advice is perhaps an unorthodox one. Do NOT copy what is happening in the United States and the United Kingdom. An excessive focus on testing and evaluation of teachers and students can be damaging and counterproductive; so can an excessive dependence on technology. There is much to be learned from countries and systems that operate very differently, as, for example, from the Finnish educational system, as described by Pasi Sahlberg in his important book Finnish Lessons

Build on what is already strong in Italy—examples like the Montessori system and the approaches developed in Reggio by Loris Malaguzzi, Carlina Rinaldi and their colleagues. Take pride in Italy’s magnificent history, dating back to classical times and stretching forward to the Renaissance and to the remarkable artistic and technological advances in the post World War II period. Honor the rich diversity of your own village and city cultures. Make use of technology, but don’t let the technocrats dictate what should be taught and how it should be taught. Respect the Italy of Dante, Leonardo, Galileo, and Verdi, the beauties of Tuscany and Rome, and the civility of the hill towns that for a thousand years have been democratic. And don’t be seduced by Hollywood, Silicon Valley, or Wall Street!

Categories: Blog

Meaningful Professional Development for Teachers

August 27, 2015 - 11:32am

An op-ed about improving professional development for educators by Howard Gardner, Clayton Lewis, and Jim Reese has appeared in The Washington Post‘s “Answer Sheet” column.

Citing a TNTP study that found most teacher professional development is ineffective, the authors point to the Project Zero Classroom institute, which has now held for two decades at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as an example of how enriching PD can be for educators. Gardner, Lewis, and Reese believe that the time has come to to move away from using curricula and testing as the only “fixes” in our schools and to bring good teachers back into the equation. Professional development should be an investment that provides new pedagogical techniques that can be used in practice.

Click here to read the full article via The Washington Post.

Categories: Blog

Italian Magazine Interviews Howard Gardner

August 17, 2015 - 9:22am

The Italian magazine Teatri delle diversità has published an interview with Howard Gardner in its May 2015 issue!

Answering questions about multiple intelligences theory, Project Zero, his life-long and wide-ranging research, the current state of education, the content of several of his books, and more, this interview with Gardner touches on a variety of subjects and is a must-read for Italian speakers interested in Gardner’s work. 

Click here to access a PDF of the article. The piece is also available online via the magazine’s website.

The English text of the interview has been reprinted below.

1. The international scientific community has recognized the importance of your theory of multiple intelligences and the idea that intelligence is not a single factor quantifiable by an I.Q. test. In the 30 years since your work on The Mind’s New Science, do you believe educators have sufficiently embraced the concept of the centrality of the mind and the role that context and culture play in the formation of an individual?

A: In the United States alone, there are close to five million K-12 educators, and there are certainly ten times as many in the rest of the world. I think it is amazing that many of these educators have heard of MI theory, in one form or another, though most would not have read my works or know my name. I feel that I’ve been successful in challenging the notion of a single intelligence that is adequately assessed by an IQ test or its equivalent.

But once one gets to more specific questions, like an understanding of the role of context and culture, I don’t feel that I can give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. So much depends on how the questions are phrased and the answers are interpreted.

Let me give an example. In the United States, if you ask teachers, “Are there children whom we should call ‘gifted?’”, many if not most will say ‘No.’ That’s the politically correct answer. But if you then ask the teacher to rank order students in terms of how well they paint or write or dance, they’ll have little difficulty in doing so. 

By the way that I phrase the question, I can make teachers (or for that matter parents) seem either sensitive or insensitive to culture or context. But I will say this: Individuals who have taught for several years, and who are reflective about their practice, are quite likely to be sensitive to culture and context.

2. Considering your experience, how—and to what degree—can an educational scholar or practitioner positively influence the promotion of innovative and research based learning theories within the educational system?

A: Recently, an American scholar, Jack Schneider, has published a book called From the Ivory to the Schoolhouse. In that book, he analyzes pairs of ideas—which superficially seem quite similar, but which differ widely in the degree to which they have been picked up by educators. He compared my well known theory of intelligence, with the theory of intelligence developed by my colleague Robert Sternberg, and proposes reasons why my ideas have caught on and influenced both educational theory and practice, and why Sternberg’s triarchic theory of intelligence has not had discernible impact.

Schneider emphasizes that the theories and research that have impacted practice are simple to state and also vivid to conceptualize; have immediate educational implications; do not cost a great deal to implement; and have found ‘translators’ and ‘advocates,’ who help teachers to understand and make use of the theory.

Of course, sometimes theories like mine are misunderstood and misapplied. Often the misuses are insignificant, but sometimes the misuses are damaging and need to be stopped. On a few occasions, I have had to be the ‘traffic cop’—explicitly denouncing practices that I feel are destructive or deceptive. I now have a website called multipleintelligencesoasis.org, where I identify good practices and malpractices.

3. You have visited and observed early education centers around the world and were one of the first to recognize the significant contribution of Loris Malaguzzi and his Reggio Emilia team. Did your expereince in Italy help further your research on the learning potential of the young mind as you observed children in this classroom setting?

A: Of all my educational experiences over a fifty year period, my encounters with the schools in Reggio have had the greatest impact. That’s because the efforts of Loris Malaguzzi and his numerous colleagues have expanded our understanding of the potentials of young children to make use of ‘the one hundred languages of childhood’; and they have amplified our knowledge of how best to work with children from six months until they begin to school. The Reggio team has built on the fundamental understandings of Piaget and Montessori. They have fashioned educational interventions that are appropriate for our time and for cultures around the world.

At Harvard Project Zero, a research group of which I was a founding member in 1967, we have carried on research inspired by our collaborations with the Reggio Schools. In the book Making Learning Visible we described the importance of collaborative learning and documentation; and in the book Visible Learning we expand the Reggio approach for use with children at different ages. (Principal researchers: Mara Krechevsky, Ben Mardell, Melissa Rivard, Daniel Wilson)

4. You are the senior director of Project Zero, founded in 1967 by the philosopher and language scholar Nelson Goodman at Harvard University. This program has examined the learning process, from early childhood to adulthood, within institutions. Can you briefly summarize the latest findings of this research and the way it examines ideas around intelligence, creativity, understanding and ethics?

A: The easiest answer and most honest answer to this question is ‘No.’ Currently we have ten principal investigators at Project Zero, and each of them has instituted a separate and important line of investigation. These are best surveyed at our website pz.harvard.edu. 

But to respond to the spirit of your question, I’ll briefly mention three lines of work of which I have direct knowledge. Others are described below in response to other questions. 

A. Collaboration with Paul Salopek, a prize winning journalist who is taking a walk around the globe, simulating what homo sapiens did tens of thousands of years ago. Colleagues are developing materials that schoolchildren all over the world can employ to follow Salopek’s remarkable trek and to interact with peers who are trying to encompass their own neighborhood. (Principal researcher: Liz Duraisingh)

B. The ethics of the new digital media. Many assumptions about ethical behavior, having to do with truthfulness, privacy, intellectual property, and participation in a community, have been disrupted by the internet, the web, social media, search engines and the like. How do we re-negotiate moral and ethical behavior on this rapidly changing landscape? We’ve been studying both young people and adults as they attempt to choreograph and orchestrate their behaviors in ways that take advantage of the power of the media, but not at the expense of other persons. (Principal researcher: Carrie James)

C. Liberal arts and sciences in the 21st century. Four year residential education in the liberal arts and sciences is a genuine American invention. It is admired and imitated all over the world. But it is also in jeopardy in the United States due both to external factors (high costs, widespread demands for vocational education) and internal fractures (cheating, excessive drinking of alcohol, sexual misconduct, high-profile athletics). With researcher Wendy Fischman, I am carrying out a national study of how different ‘stakeholders’ think about this admired but increasingly fragile form of education. From our research on 5-10 campuses, we will make specific recommendations about how best to preserve and strengthen education in the liberal arts for our time.

5. In the volume Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed: Educating for the virtues in the 21th century, you claim that researching truth, beauty, and and goodness are profound human needs and, therefore, a fundamental basis for individual learning and growth. Could you briefly outline how public schools could incorporate this awareness into educational systems?

A: I think that every educator, indeed every human being, is concerned with what is true and what is not; what experiences to cherish and which ones to avoid; and how best to relate to other human beings. We differ in how conscious we are of these questions; how reflective we are about our own stances; whether we are aware of how these human virtues are threatened by critiques (philosophical, cultural) and by technologies (chiefly the digital media). A good educator should help us all to navigate our way in this tangled web of virtues.

In work that I’m currently undertaking, I speak about the naive or ‘unschooled’ view of the three virtues; how we should be schooled with respect to the virtues in formal schooling; and how we should continue to wrestle with what is true, beautiful, and good (and what is not) once we have left formal schooling. This is by no means an easy task. And yet, a continuing conversation with other persons, with cultural products, and with oneself, is a large part of what it means to be a human being, in our time and perhaps in all time.

6. The title of your current course at Harvard, which is taught to a very motivated and qualified group of international students, is called Good Work in Education: When Excellence, Engagement, and Ethics Meet. It picks up on the research of the Good Work Project founded by you in 1995 together with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and William Damon, later folded into the broader Good Project. Today, what does it mean, at all levels and all roles, to do “good work” in the field of education? Additionally, given your more than 20 years of  research and collaboration, can you articulate a sort of  “Code of Responsibility” for those working in the field of education in various contexts (teaching, administration, academia)?

A: Our general scheme of good work entails three characteristics, which, in English, all begin with the letter E. A good educator is technically EXCELLENT—he or she knows his subject matter, good pedagogy, and his or her students; a good educator is ENGAGED—he or she finds it meaningful to teach, and looks forward to the classroom encounters; a good educator is ETHICAL—he or she tries to figure out what is the proper course of action to follow in difficult situations; reflects on the choices made; and, in the future, tries to adjust his language and actions accordingly.

Note that the three Es are separate; one can be technically excellent but not engaged; one can be ethical but not excellent;, etc. It is a constant challenge to maintain all three Es. We have created a Good Work Toolkit to help educators attain and retain the capacity to carry out good work under challenging circumstances (see thegoodproject.org).

We devoted a whole book to the question of what does it mean to be “responsible at work” (see Responsibility at Work). A good educator has a variety of responsibilities: to her students; to the subject matter or discipline; to the institution in which she teaches; to parents and colleagues; and to the broader society in which she lives. Of course, even to monitor these responsibilities can be overwhelming; and no one can possibly be equally responsible to all constituents at all times.  That said, if one develops good habits and routines, it is possible to be a responsible educator most of the time; and to marshal the special energies and reflection for those times, when the correct course of action is not clear, or when one is weighing one wrong against another wrong.

7. We live in a society dominated by the idea of science and technology and increasing globalization. In your text Five Minds for the Future, you outline five mind capabilities: discipline, synthesis, creativity, respect and ethics. How is it possible to “educate for the future,” integrating these principles?

A: In writing about “five minds,” I was certainly keeping in mind the reality of globalization. Only individuals who have cultivated these kinds of minds are likely to thrive in a complex, interconnected and rapidly changing global world.

In directing the book toward educators, and also toward leaders in corporate and political institutions, I was trying to call attention to capacities that we take for granted (e.g. respect) as well as ones that we may not think much about (synthesizing, ethical choices). As with the Three Es of Good Work, it’s difficult to address all five minds; and yet the best educators and the best leaders never lose track of this quintet. And all of us, as workers and citizens, should attempt to keep these five minds in mind.

How does one synthesize or integrate these minds? In the book, I come to the conclusion that such synthesis is an individual project: no one can synthesize your five minds for you. Also there is inevitable tension across the minds:  respect can be in contention with ethics; discipline can pull in a different direction from creativity. And so, while synthesizing is usually thought of with respect to knowledge, this form of synthesis is an individual one, turned inward, and constantly being re-calibrated in light of our goals, values, and rapidly changing  national and international conditions.

8. In your recent book The App Generation, co-written with Katie Davis, you examine ideas of identity, intimacy and imagination in the adolescent population. To what degree do you feel today’s adolescent is dependent on digital life? What are the potentials and limits of digital technology as it regards adolescent development?

A: In every part of the world with which I am familiar, young people are completely immersed in the digital world—so much so, that it is inconceivable to them that they can, for long, be separated from their devices. Indeed, many of us who are not young, who are ‘digital immigrants’ rather than ‘digital natives,’ are also wedded to, if not dependent on, our digital devices.

The principal distinction in the book, written in collaboration with my wonderful former student Katie Davis, is between app-dependence and app-enablement. A person who is app-dependent is always searching for the best app; and as soon as its routine has been executed, the person searches for the next app. A person who is app-enabled also uses apps frequently. But he or she is never limited by the current array of apps; apps will free the person to do what he or she wants to do, or needs to do, irrespective of the next application of the app. An app-enabled person can also put devices away, without feeling bereft.

And best of all, persons can sometimes be app-transcendent: making dramatic progress or discoveries, without any dependence on any app. In this context, I like to mention Steve Jobs. While he had as much to do as anyone with the invention and development of apps, he NEVER was limited by the current technology—indeed, he typically transcended it and relied on his own considerable wits.

9. To celebrate your 70th birthday in 2013, Mindy Kornhaber and Ellen Winner invited 117 scholars and students to write something in your honor and you replied to each, resulting in the volume Mind, Work, and Life: A Festschrift on the Occasion of Howard Gardner’s 70th Birthday. Reflecting on your own career, what recommendations and warnings do you have for young researchers just entering the field?

A: The Festschrift is among the highlights of my life—what a privilege to have such wonderful colleagues and friends, to eavesdrop on what they are thinking about my work and me, and to have the opportunity to respond to them. And, for extra credit, to be able to post the entire 1500 page document on my website.

I have been an incredibly fortunate person in every respect. From an early age, I wanted to search and to do research, and I’ve had the privilege of doing so. And so my primary piece of advice is this: “Go for it, but with your eyes wide open.”

To unpack this slogan: If you enjoy reading, writing, learning, and sharing what you have learned, don’t hesitate to look for a life where you can continue to do those things. It could be as a scientist, an educator, an editor, a journalist, the founder of an organization. You only live once, and it is a tragedy if you deny yourself these options without trying to pursue them.

But don’t assume that the way that one searches and researches is the same from one era to another—it isn’t. In the 19th century, most research was done by amateurs: either individuals who were rich or individuals who had a day job. In the 20th century, most researchers worked at universities or think tanks and received money from the government or from foundations to pursue their work. In our time, the sources of support and the locations for research may be quite different.

Also, distinguish between the work and the job title. When I was leaving school in the early 1970s, many people wanted to be journalists, carrying out investigative reporting for print newspapers. Print newspapers may not exist in twenty years. But good thinking and good writing about issues that need to be reported and investigated will always be needed; but where this happens, what it is called, and who pays for it may be quite different than could have been envisioned by the great journalists of the past.

10. This interview cannot end without a question about that regards our periodical, Teatri delle diversità (Theatre of diversities). From your unique vantage point, how has the concept or definition of “diversity” changed over the last 50 years? What types of diversity has the research traditionally focused on and what are the new horizions for educational research today? What role could theatre play in regard?

A: In the United States these days, ‘diversity’ is a big word and a buzzword. Sometimes, it refers primarily to racial diversity (primarily, black and white); often it refers to any kind of ethical or cultural diversity; but it can also refer to political diversity (left/right) or to sexual diversity (gay/straight).

There is no question that diversity is much more on the radar screen than it was when I went to school over fifty years ago. When I went to Harvard College, nearly everyone looked alike (white male); there were few individuals who were openly gay; and most of us had middle-of-the-road politics. Today, our campus could not be different in every respect.

Being aware of diversity is important, and we as a society (both national and global) have made important progressive strides in the last half century. The civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the gay rights movement have been amazingly successful in many places, though there is still much more that needs to be done.

At the risk of sounding a bit off-key, I think that we need to pay as much attention to ways in which, despite these differences, we share our humanity. This is not only because our genes are virtually identical; but because, as a planet, we are at risk of destruction (for example, gradually by the warming of the planet; or rapidly, by nuclear war or a pathogen that gets out of control). And these threats require us to work together, and not just to announce our diversity.

The wonderful thing about the theater is that it can emphasize BOTH our diversity AND our common humanity. In many ways, the world of Shakespeare (or Aeschylus or Racine) is totally different from our world; and yet any human being can look through the differences in dress and mores and discover our common problems, passions, and potentials.

Categories: Blog

Gardner Speaks with “Bridging the Gaps”

August 3, 2015 - 7:30am

The Irish podcast program “Bridging the Gaps” has released its interview with Howard Gardner!

Speaking about the development of multiple intelligences theory, the concepts behind the book Five Minds for the Future, and his most recently published text The App Generation, Gardner gives an overview of some of the key research that has compelled him over the past three decades.

Click here to listen to the podcast via the “Bridging the Gaps” website.

Categories: Blog

Tapping into Strengths Through MI

July 21, 2015 - 9:13am

The Parent Toolkit blog, a website devoted to helping parents navigate the educations of their children from pre-Kindergarten through high school, has released a post by Thomas Hoerr, Head of the New City School, about how to use Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences to tap into potential and boost performance.

Hoerr, who has been working with MI for decades, offers a few tips for how parents can improve their children’s problem-solving and critical thinking abilities through the eight component intelligences:

  • Learn about the different intelligences and what they mean
  • Know your own intelligence strengths
  • Use hands-on, active learning techniques to allow your child to nurture their own strengths
  • Expose your child to the full range of intelligences
  • Encourage diversity through MI

By providing the tools to learn in more than one way, parents can equip children with the building blocks for future success.

Click here to read the article in its entirety and discover more about using MI to unlock potential.

Categories: Blog

Disinterestedness in the Digital Era

July 9, 2015 - 11:46am

Howard Gardner’s chapter “Reclaiming Disinterestedness for the Digital Era,” about the modern importance of maintaining disinterested and impartial behavior in the professions, has been included in the recently published book From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in a Digital Era, edited by Danielle Allen and Jennifer Light.

A full description of this newly-released text is below:

How have online protests—like the recent outrage over the Komen Foundation’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood—changed the nature of political action? How do Facebook and other popular social media platforms shape the conversation around current political issues? The ways in which we gather information about current events and communicate it with others have been transformed by the rapid rise of digital media. The political is no longer confined to the institutional and electoral arenas, and that has profound implications for how we understand citizenship and political participation.

With From Voice to Influence, Danielle Allen and Jennifer S. Light have brought together a stellar group of political and social theorists, social scientists, and media analysts to explore this transformation. Threading through the contributions is the notion of egalitarian participatory democracy, and among the topics discussed are immigration rights activism, the participatory potential of hip hop culture, and the porous boundary between public and private space on social media. The opportunities presented for political efficacy through digital media to people who otherwise might not be easily heard also raise a host of questions about how to define “good participation”: does the ease with which one can now participate in online petitions or conversations about current events seduce some away from serious civic activities into “slacktivism”?

Drawing on a diverse body of theory, from Hannah Arendt to Anthony Appiah, From Voice to Influence offers a range of distinctive visions for a political ethics to guide citizens in a digitally connected world.

In order to find out more, and to order, please click here.

Categories: Blog

Is the “app mentality” killing creativity?

June 30, 2015 - 12:38pm

Katie Davis and Howard Gardner’s 2013 book The App Generation has been featured in an article from T.H.E. Journal (Technological Horizons in Education).

In the detailed piece, Davis and Gardner outline the most salient points gleaned from the research that led to the book, including the tendency of today’s youth to see their lives as a series of apps, termed “app mentality,” which creates an expectation for immediate answers to life’s questions and a one-track life trajectory. The authors also explain the study that demonstrated a decrease in language creativity but increase in visual creativity in the work of young people over the past two decades.

Davis and Gardner conclude by recommending that we all need time away from our devices in order to reflect. During such “down time,” the brain enters a kind of “default mode” and make larger connections between concepts and events, which is especially key to the development of self-awareness and empathy in children.

Click here to read the article in full via T.H.E. Journal.

Categories: Blog

Changing the Mindset of Education

June 23, 2015 - 9:44am

An article in the Huffington Post‘s Education section has referenced Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences in a call for greater empowerment of students’ abilities.

Columnists Arina Bokas and Rod Rock draw on Carol Dweck’s research to delineate two mindsets about success in education: 1) a fixed mindset where people believe that their achievements are due to inherent intelligence; and 2) a growth mindset in which intelligence can be cultivated and enhanced due to hard work. According to the authors, too often, the fixed mindset, reinforced by a belief in biological origins of intellectual capacity, wins out in education. By assuming that intelligence is not malleable and cannot be expanded, the minds of children cannot grow.

By embracing the alternative growth mindset, which is supported by neuroscientific evidence, learning can be better fostered. Gardner’s MI theory holds that students have different strengths in many separate areas. The multiple intelligences can be employed to step away from “one-size-fits-all” education and move towards personalization and individuation.

To read the article in full, please click here.

Categories: Blog

Gardner Speaks at Arts Summit

June 10, 2015 - 8:40am

On May 16, 2015, Howard Gardner delivered an address on the topic of arts education at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., as a part of the Aspen Institute’s Arts Summit “The Road Forward.” Summarizing the history of education in the arts over the past decades, Gardner surveys the current state of the field and concludes that the arts continue to be crucial and may even provide the key to bridging the humanities and sciences. 

Watch the video of the talk, available via YouTube. The text of the remarks has also been reproduced below.

Remarks by Howard Gardner
Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Senior Director, Harvard Project Zero

“Arts Education: Then, Now, In the Future”

As you can see for yourself, I have been around for a long time, and I’ve been working in arts education for decades. As a youngster, I sat at home and watched a conductor named Leonard (Lenny) Bernstein introduce me, and millions of other youngsters, to orchestral classical music. That was arts education, circa 1955.

Then as a graduate student, 48 years ago, I was a founding member of Harvard Project Zero, a group that has long had a focus on education in the arts. Shortly thereafter, I was a witness in front of a panel assembled by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund that issued a report called “Coming to our Senses.” The report focused sharply on what can and should be done in the schools. That was arts education, circa 1975.

It’s forty years later. What would happen if the proverbial visitor from another planet—who had not been here for 40 years—were to come to the United States to look at education in the arts? Let’s say that he was a journalist, from the planet Mars… or, if you prefer, she was a journalist from Venus. Alas, no longer can that journalist descend from a planet named Pluto! The journalist would come equipped with the classic journalistic questions, and here are the answers I’d give… in approximately 9 minutes.

WHY  education in the Arts? For those of you gathered at the Kennedy Center in 2015, that question would be easy to answer. You know, as audience members, as creators, and as facilitators, the qualitative transformational differences that a life in the arts can make; how art enriches your experiences and the experiences of those with whom you come in contact; how it captures the greatest and most powerful meanings of human existence. That has not changed. The Romans knew: Vita breva, ars longa.

As for the journalist, I’d say that there may be ancillary benefits of the arts as well—perhaps more motivation to work hard in school, perhaps economic benefits for your community. But I’d add this: no individuals that I know in the arts engage in artistic practice primarily to raise their IQ or primarily to increase the tax base of their community.

WHO? They used to primarily be an elite pursuit—but now, the arts are really and readily accessible to everyone (through work by Damian Woetzel, Yo-Yo Ma, Jacques D’Amboise, and many others, we have witnessed the differences that arts can make for young persons). The Rockefeller Brothers Fund knew that. Today, older persons are a large and growing audience. They are much more likely to visit a museum or attend a performance in their later years if they were involved in the arts when they were young, through creating works of art or through courses in school or college—an important reason that our artistic endeavors should cover the demographic waterfront and entail lifelong learning.  

WHERE? Arts education used to be primarily in schools. Alas, despite the valiant efforts of those gathered here, the role of arts in schools in America has steadily diminished since the Bernstein 1950s, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund 1970s. The Common Core dominates the education radar screen, and STEM is ubiquitous, not, alas, STEAM.

On the positive side, the arts used to be housed primarily in certain institutions and at certain hours. Now you can find the arts everywhere: in community centers, in public places, in the traditional media, on the web, and in social media. We have access to the greatest works of all time in multiple media, at the touch of a tablet, and we can edit, mix, match, and mash 24/7.

Which leaves: HOW?

As a scholar in psychology and education, answering this question is my day job. Howard Gardner circa 1975 would have talked about the arts as engaging and developing the full range of human intelligences–not just language and logic, but musical, bodily, spatial, and personal/emotional intelligences. As Nelson Goodman, founder of Harvard Project Zero liked to quip, “We don’t want education to be half-brained.”

Not only do we want to use the full range of capacities, but we want to be able to connect the intelligences in new and unexpected ways, tangibly and virtually, in school and in the park, on the ground and in cyberspace. No need for the arts to hug traditional boundaries.

The Howard Gardner of 2015 is engaged in a national study of education in the liberal arts and sciences. For Thomas Jefferson and for those, like David Rubenstein, imbued with his spirit, this is a form of residential education, where the mind, body, and spirit can wander freely, for up to four years—opening up possibilities and transformations at the most flexible, freest period of life. Oh, to be 18 again!

Yet, as you all know, traditional education in liberal arts and sciences is in jeopardy, because of its expense, hypervocationalism, and various challenges on campuses themselves. 

When our journalist was here forty years ago, the academy epitomized C.P. Snow’s The Two Cultures. Students either focused on the humanities (typically English or History) or on the sciences. Now the seesaw has tilted sharply toward the sciences, and because of various factors, the humanities are seen as feeble and on the defense.

But there is a silver lining, perhaps even a golden one. I am convinced that today the arts can provide a unique and powerful bridge between the humanities and the sciences. And that is because the tools available to makers—digital and tangible—can emanate from anywhere and can be applied anywhere. These tools and media do not respect disciplinary boundaries. They are invariably interdisciplinary. Steve Jobs moved seamlessly across art, design, technology. So do Damian Woetzel and Yo-Yo Ma and many contemporary citizen-artists as they work with students and teachers in turnaround schools, parks, centers, labs, even apps. These heroic educators don’t necessarily use the word “art”—they can invoke “design”, “making”, “creating”; but in essence, they are simply human beings, using all of their faculties, to capture what we know, feel, value in powerful, unforgettable form. That is the heartland of the Arts. Perhaps, just perhaps, a renewed focus on the arts in our colleges and universities can powerfully bridge the humanities and the sciences and help to reinvigorate the liberal arts education that so many of us cherish. An education that has been distinctly American, dating back to our founding fathers and still admired the world over. And note well: if colleges and universities value the arts, so will our K-12 system.

For the interplanetary journalist, I even have a headline, a tweet: Arts Education: From Lenny, The Music Genius; To Leonardo, The Universal Genius.

And so, my closing remark to the interplanetary visitor: “You can take back answers. Compared to decades ago, the arts in the US are everywhere, they are for everyone, they make use of the range of human faculties, and they offer a powerful way to synthesize different perspectives on human existence and possibilities. They can, they should, be central to education, spanning humanistic and scientific studies. We’d like to export our knowledge and media to anyone on your planet who is interested in limitless possibilities, improving, in the process, our balance of trade. And if you have products and processes that would fascinate and energize us, sign me up for a visit to your celestial sphere.”

Thank you.

Categories: Blog

Hall Fellow Lecture at Concord Academy

June 2, 2015 - 1:01pm

On April 27-28, 2015, Howard Gardner visited Concord Academy in Concord, MA, to deliver the annual Hall Fellow lectures to the school community.

Speaking to parents and alums on the evening of April 27 and to students and teachers on the morning of April 28, Gardner delivered a talk on “Beyond Wit and Grit” about the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century and how his own work, from MI to the Good Project, has complexified the meaning of those terms.

Gardner concludes that one needs “multiple wits” and “good grit” to contribute to society and to thrive.

Click here to watch a video of Gardner’s evening lecture at Concord Academy.

Categories: Blog

Finland, the Common Core, and MI

May 26, 2015 - 12:29pm

The Huffington Post’s World Post reports that Finland has adopted new standards for its National Core Curriculum similar to those of the Common Core in the United States.

Under the new regulations, Finnish educators would no longer teach subjects like math, science, or history to students; instead, learning will be topical, meaning that lessons will be interdisciplinary and practical in nature. For example, a class on the European Union would combine elements of language, economics, history, and geography. As Finnish students consistently rank at the top of Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests, the new measure has attracted a lot of attention across the world. 

In the US, the same interdisciplinary and real-world criteria have been a part of the Common Core movement to enhance critical thinking and problem solving skills. 

The World Post article points out that the reforms align well with Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences (MI) theory. By catering to different modes of instruction and incorporating various ways of approaching the same issues in the classroom, the standards implicitly acknowledge MI’s relevance to the educational experience.

Click here to read the full article.

Categories: Blog

The Good Teacher Toolkit

May 19, 2015 - 10:36am

Project Zero’s The Good Project, co-founded by Howard Gardner, has spent two decades investigating topics like Good Work, ethics, collaboration, and youth engagement with digital media.

In April 2015, the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Usable Knowledge portal, which provides practical tips, tools, and information for educators, featured the Good Project’s resources most helpful to teachers in the classroom. 

Some of the materials and frameworks available to teachers include:

  • The Good Work Toolkit, a resource available as a free PDF that includes dilemmas and activities that can help students and education professionals alike understand “good work” and ethical nuances
  • A case study about how one school community implemented a Good Work program
  • Books, other toolkits, papers, a newsletter and more!

Click here to read the full Usable Knowledge article today.

Additionally, please visit the Good Project website for the latest news and information about its various initiatives and and free resources.

Categories: Blog

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