Sunday, October 28, 2007

Minding the Store

Howard Gardner, the prolific Harvard cognitive scientist, has two new books out that deserve a reading by SIS faculty and students. His Five Minds for the Future (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2006) addresses the new ways we need to prepare for the future in education, business, and the professions. He identifies and discourses on five cognitive abilities that we need to develop and nurture – the disciplinary mind, synthesizing mind, creating mind, respectful mind, and the ethical mind. His comments on the disciplinary mind provide a window into his thinking as represented in the book. He argues that it takes a decade to master a discipline, and that education, seen as a lifelong activity, is a key into enabling such mastery. Gardner lays out the steps for achieving the disciplined mind. He argues that “an individual is disciplined to the extent that she has acquired the habits that allow her to make steady and essentially unending progress in the mastery of a skill, craft, or body of knowledge” (p. 40). There is a lot of stuff in this volume that will provide food for thought for how and what we teach in a school like ours. For example, Gardner at one point notes that the “ability to knit together information from disparate sources into a coherent whole is vital today” (p. 82), a statement nearly all of us will acknowledge without trouble but then one that we will counter by our own resistance to cooperate disciplinary, professional, and political boundaries within our own school.

His other new book is his edited Responsibility at Work: How Leading Professionals Act (or Don’t Act) Responsibly (San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons, Jossey-Bass, 2007). Another volume in the GoodWork© research project, the various essayists explore issues of ethics, responsibility, and accountability in a number of professions (such as journalism, law, medicine, and education). Needless to say, there is a lot to offer us about both how we teach about ethical and related issues and how we ourselves act in our own school.

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