Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Disciplined Mind

(Author of Multiple Intelligences)
2000 Penguin Books, New York, USA

The best way to accumulate a lot of information is to learn to read and to love to read; to become curious about the world, to ask questions, and to experiment in an effort to find the answers; that is, to become a constructivist at an early age.

The New York Times Book Review
A must-read for every educator, parent or anyone who cares about our children's future. (Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence)

Book Description
In The Disciplined Mind, Howard Gardner argues that K-12 education should strive for a deep understanding of three classical principles: truth, beauty, and goodness.

Such an understanding requires mastery of the major disciplines that human beings have created over the centuries. As powerful examples of his approach, Gardner describes an education that illuminates the theory of evolution, the music of Mozart, and the lessons of the Holocaust. Far from the standardized test mentality that has gripped both policy makers and the public, Gardner envisions an education that preserves the strengths of a traditional humane education while preparing younger generations for the challenges of the future.

Education in the Future
1. Artificial Intelligence and virtual reality are two computer-related technologies that may cast a large shadow on education. Much of school planning may be done not by human agents but by programs created by human agents; and much of what was once accomplished by textbooks and occasional field trips will now be performed in virtual reality.
2. Acquisition of credentials from accredited institutions may become less important. Individuals will be able to educate themselves and to exhibit their mastery in a simulated setting. Why pay $120,000 to go to law school, if one can "read law" as in earlier times and then demonstrate one's legal skills via computer simulation? Or learn to fly a plane or conduct neurosurgery by similar means, for that matter?
3. More and more people work in the sectors of human services and human resources, and especially, in the creation, transformation, and communication of knowledge.
4. The media of communication will be a dominating agency of education throughout the world. Radio, television, movies, magazines, advertising materials will continue to proliferate and to convey powerful messages about roles and values around the world.
5. Important discoveries are now known all over the world within days, courtesy of the Internet.
6. Distance learning makes it possible to pursue even advanced coursework without moving to a college or university setting. Virtual environments may allow talented or determined individuals to demonstrate proficiency without lengthy and costly certification processes.
7. To function in hypermedia, to read and design Web pages and embark on computer-based projects, one must orchestrate a fresh amalgam of graphic, linguistic, and even auditory literacies.

Successful Families of Schools
1. Steiner "Waldorf" schools
2. Montessori schools
3. Comer schools
4. Networks like the International Baccalaureate and the Coalition of Essential Schools
5. Catholic and other sectarian schools

The Singapore Miracle
Forty years ago, Singaporeans were so poor that many children went to bed hungry each night. Singapore has virtually no natural resources, just the minds and energy of its three million citizens. Today, Singapore ranks among the top nations in the world in productivity and income, and students regularly occupy the number one slot in international comparisons.
Singaporean students follow a carefully prescribed curriculum in mathematics, science, and technology. Teaching occurs in English, which reflects not only the colonial history of the region but also the fact that English has become the lingua franca of commerce worldwide. As in Germany, education is tracked, with those in the academic tracks having to master more challenging curricula and also more languages. Students work assiduously, on the average doing four to five hours of homework each evening. Parents study with their children, as do tutors and special teachers, and there is little tolerance for sloth in this authoritarian society. It is assumed that graduates will work for the success of the society, in general subordinating individual goals to the wider good.
At least as successfully as the Japanese, the Singaporeans have succeeded in wedding Confucian practices and values to knowledge of how to succeed in a competitive international environment. Other "little tigers" (Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea) have also forged an effective blend of once rival traditions -- though the recent economic downturn may reveal limitations in the system. There is a strong belief in the efficacy of study, and high value is placed on devotion to learning, and on showing improvement each day; rather than being directed toward individual success (as in the case of the Protestant culture described so memorably by the German sociologist Max Weber), these virtues are yoked to the success of the society as a whole.

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