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Howard Gardner

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Video: Five Minds for the Future
HGSE Professor Howard Gardner

Video 1: Howard Gardner describes three minds:ádisciplined, synthesizing, and creative

HOWARD GARDNER: So I speak, in speaking of The Disciplined Mind, of three separate senses of the word 'discipline', first of all, the kind I learned from my parents working steadily in improving, hopefully improving, but working regularly at things. And it's no longer the case in any profession that you can, you know, go to school till 21, and then rest on your laurels. Discipline means working steadily on your craft as long as you want to be in the game, so to speak.

As an academic, as a scholar, when I use the word 'discipline' I'm focusing particularly on the major disciplines which we handle before we go to college. And for my nickel, the ones I focus on are history, math, science, and one or more art form. These are the disciplines which I think we should be mastering in school.

But there's also a third and very important connotation of discipline, and that's having some profession, some art, some craft, in which you are truly an expert and remain an expert by continuing to be trained and to come to the Ed School and get advanced degrees and go to the executive training programs and so on. Because unless you have an area where you're an expert, you will either be out of a job, or you'll work for somebody else who is an expert. So the third notion of discipline is be prepared to be an expert in something.

What is the synthesizing mind? I'm going to first say, I got the idea of studying this from Murray Gell-mann, Nobel Prize winning physicist, who, as an offhanded comment to me 15 or so years ago said, "In the 21st Century, the most important mind would be the synthesizing mind." And I began to think about that and I've been thinking about it ever since, because we're all inundated with information. You look up any word, any concept of any degree of notoriety, and you could spend the rest of your life in any search engine without ever coming to the end of it.

So we're inundated with information. But it's largely undigested and unevaluated. The synthesizing mind says, what should I pay attention to? What should I ignore? What are the criteria for that? How do I put it together? What methods and strategies do I use so that it makes sense to me and I can retain it? Because if I can't hold onto it, the synthesis is worthless. But then, since, unless you're a hermit, you have to communicate to other people – teacher, worker, leader, whatever. The synthesis has to be able to be conveyed to other people.

And this is a job which has certainly always existed, but now it's more important than ever. And people who can't do it are going to be at enormous disadvantage. And you would think that because synthesis is so important that my field of psychology, my discipline, would have something to say about it. But a survey that I conducted in cognitive psychology about synthesis says that we have very little to say about this as psychologists. So, in Five Minds, I lay out some of my notions about what synthesis is and how we could help people to become better synthesizers.

The creating mind is the third kind of mind. And I have some images here, too. This is one great creator, Einstein of course, another great creator, Virginia Woolf. The creating mind needs to have mastered at least one discipline. And in cognitive psychology, we claim it takes about ten years to master a discipline. It cannot be done much quicker than that. You have to master the discipline. You also need to synthesize what's known. As I put it, if you want to go beyond the box, you've got to have at least one box. And if you're gonna be synthesizing across disciplines, as so often is the case, you've got to have more than one box.

I probably should say something I've taken for granted. When I use the word 'creative' as many people in the field do, what I mean is, something which actually changes a domain in some way. And the domain can be small. And we all do what my colleague Csikszentmihalyi calls little 'c' creativity, you know, the nice dinner party, you know, that has touch of originality, but the kind of creativity that I'm talking about needs to be at least what we call middle 'c' creativity. It really has to have some influence in an area, whether it's an area of scholarship or it's in a profession or craft or so on. And, again, that's gonna be a big premium in the future because the stuff that is just rule-governed, you're not gonna need human beings to do.

Video 2: Howard Gardner describes two more minds: respectful, and ethical

HOWARD GARDNER: The respectful mind is relatively easy to explain. And it's not all that hard to cultivate if you've got the right atmosphere. The respectful mind says, we live in a world of all kinds of people. Many of them don't look like us, don't have the same kinds of background. They may not think the way we do. We can try to ignore them. We can try to disrespect them, dis(?). But the respectful mind accepts diversity as a fact of life and makes every effort to try to get to understand and work with people, whether or not one happens to come from the same clan, so to speak.

Respect should begin shortly after birth. And it does in a sense that infants notice how adults treat them, how adults treat one another, how kids treat one another, so on and so forth. And if the tone is disrespectful, that's picked up and presumably emulated. If it is respectful, then that becomes kind of the coin of the realm. Certainly in schools, the air of respect is terribly important. And I have pretty much confidence as somebody who's visited a lot of schools that you can tell very quickly when you go into a school whether there's a patina of respect, whether there's genuine respect or whether there's just disrespect. And very hard to do any kind of learning in a disrespectful atmosphere.

I also think that it's-- disrespect is not very productive in a profession or in a business either, though perhaps traditionally it was more tolerated than it should be.

The last kind of mind is the ethical mind. And that's the mind I actually have been studying with close colleagues Bill Damon, Mike Csikszentmihalyi and many other people over the last ten or twelve years.

Now in lay language, morality, respect, ethics may all sound like the same thing. But in talking about ethics, we have a quite specific meaning, which I will try to convey. The ethical mind proceeds at a much higher level of abstraction than the respectful mind. The respectful mind is just, how do you treat other people and it's something which we can tell our two year-olds and work with them on.

The ethical mind steps back from ourselves as a person, and even other people as just folks and says, "I'm a worker." Could be a journalist, lawyer, teacher, assembly line worker, CEO. What are my responsibilities as a worker? What makes me a good worker? And how can I forfeit that epithet through compromised or bad work?

Similarly, the citizen, and just as almost all of us are workers we're all citizens, the citizen says, "I am a citizen of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Americas, the globe." I'm only gonna stop there. Some people think about the universe or beyond. "What are my rights and responsibilities as a citizen? What should I do because it's the right thing to do, even though I may not personally profit from it, in fact, even though it might sometimes go against my own self interest," because good workers and good citizens are people who proceed in ethical ways.

Copyright © 2009 The President and Fellows of Harvard College