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Disciplined Mind: What All Students Should Understand Hardcover – May 5, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0684843247 ISBN-10: 0684843242 Edition: 1st Printing

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Printing edition (May 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684843242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684843247
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Frustrated and disappointed by constraining lists of "core knowledge" and elitist notions of "cultural literacy," renowned Harvard educator and psychologist Howard Gardner demonstrates his own synthesis of what makes the best learning in The Disciplined Mind: What All Students Should Understand. Gardner's profound invention, the concept of multiple intelligences, has shown how each of us has his or her own pattern of intelligence, or modes of learning and talent (for example, one person may do best at logical and musical activities, while another is more socially and linguistically attuned). Armed with an understanding of these intelligences, teachers have been provided a marvelous tool to access and develop the minds of all students better. In this heartening book, Gardner both furthers his vision and reveals his formulation of the "ideal education."

"Deep understanding should be our central goal; we should strive to inculcate understanding of what, within a cultural context, is considered true or false, beautiful or unpalatable, good or evil," he writes. To illustrate learning opportunities in these three realms, Gardner selects some heavyweight topics: Darwin's theory of evolution, Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro, and the Holocaust. After a brief tour of the world's best schools (including Italy's remarkable student-driven Reggio Emilia), Gardner shows how these themes might be taught with a "multiple intelligences" approach to create as many ways as possible to begin study.

At times, Gardner's laments about education sound remarkably like those of fellow progressive Herbert Kohl (especially in 1998's Discipline of Hope: Learning from a Lifetime of Teaching). Each has a bitter pill for us to swallow about the status quo in education, but remains hopeful in his outlook for the future--if we can make some radical revisions to the methods and goals of our system, both men contend, all children can be graciously served by our teachers and schools. --Brian Williamson

From Booklist

Don't expect your favorite politicians to include Gardner's proposals for precollegiate education in their sound bites on education reform: Gardner's proposal is too complex (and too radical) to appeal to the quick-answer set. But readers genuinely interested in what (and how) our schools ought to be teaching will want to see what the co-director of Harvard's Project Zero, who also teaches education and psychology at Harvard, has to say. Drawing on recent studies of how students come to understand and on his own studies of multiple intelligences, Gardner proposes that the content of education should be truth (and falsity), beauty (and its absence), and morality (good and evil). Education, he suggests, should select a limited number of subjects that raise these issues--he uses evolution, Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, and the Holocaust--and approach these "icebergs" of information from entry points using techniques that will, over time, introduce children not simply to these subjects but also to the characteristic methods of such disciplines as science, musicology, and history. Challenging, provocative ideas. Mary Carroll

More About the Author

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By on May 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Since H. Gardner in his introduction describes this book as "a sustained dialectic -- read disagreement -- with E. D. Hirsch," thus co-starring an old adversary, it seems both fair and essential to read Hirsch as well. What you will find are samples of Gardner's old habit of grossly misrepresenting Hirsch's program in order to attack him, but, more interesting, many examples of the degree to which Gardner has come to agree with Hirsch. For instance, he agrees that background knowledge in the traditional disciplines is necessary to an effective education; that lack of a specific, structured curriculum too often results in incoherence, repetition, omission of content and tedium; that progressivism often produces students who "see themselves as creative" but "lack the skills to do a competent job." And sharply deviating from progrssive orthodoxy, he says that to learn to read, children must be taught "interactive processing involving graphic and verbal representations," i.e. phonics. Further he repeats his admission in previous books that progressive education is not for disadvantaged children "who do not acquire literacy in the dominant culture at home," declaring that a core curriculum, even "one by E. D. Hirsch,"helps to provide a level playing field and to ensure ... a common knowledge base." His encouraging conclusion is that the public school system should provide a number of alternative "pathways," including both Gardner-type schools and Hirsch-type schools.'s feature telling us what other related books customers order shows how all too often we read only what we expect to agree with. This is one instance which cries out for going further than this.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By C.A. Ostaff on January 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
While I whole-heartedly subscribe to the notion of multiple intelligences, I do so more with the factually accurate books of Stephen J. Gould than I do with Howard Gardener's work. This book is written for the American public, not for academia, and it shows. There is no citation, no supporting evidence, and no statistical analysis - merely Gardener holding forth his opinions about depth of knowledge being more valuable than breadth of knowledge. This would have been a much better essay than book. His choice of three examples of depth of knowledge is disappointingly eurocentric in an increasingly African-American, Hispanic and Asian American culture. I can quickly think of three other examples - 1) a study of jazz in 1920s Harlem, 2) the 16th century decimation of South America by diseases brought by Cortez's crew, and 3) a study of classical tonal Asian music - that would be equally as valid to study in depth and would help our students to understand both our culture and the rich diversity of other cultures. Why does Gardener see fit to publish this work? Perhaps he is blind to his own eurocentric ivory tower. He gives tidbits of other educational systems as being superior to ours, but then tells us "the Italian school simply cannot be transferred." So then why bother to use it as an example? To frustrate inspired teachers? Or to persuade us to send our children to Italy for preschool? Finally, Gardener stated that he would rather send his children to a school taught in Hirsch's curriculum and run by a cohesive staff than a school with his suggested curricula and run by the "average, harried" U.S. teacher. I find this very troubling. If the teacher is so important, than why bother to emphasize the curriculum?Read more ›
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book because the local school system is experimenting with Gardner's multiple intelligences approach. As an interested parent, but not an educator, I found this book engaging and encouraging. It motivates me to get involved in the local school system and more actively involved in their education so that my two boys can benefit from at least some small part of the enlightened approach to schooling that Gardner describes. Not just the multiple intelligences perspective, but the education for understanding and the emphasis on deep exploration of important disciplines and explicit consideration of truth, beauty and morality. Stressing the learning of powerful ways to think over covering some broad checklist of important facts is great, although Gardner also acknowledges that certain core material on citizenship and basic literacy should be learned by all.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By E. J. Ludwig on May 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Prof. Gardner's book is disappointing. He tries to be all things to all people saying both that he believes in basic competencies but wants to put inquiry first. Also, his language is inflated, and lacking in philosopical specificity. For example, he believes in building up the inner world of "mental representations" [unexplained term] yet insists on "performances of understanding" [another unexplained term].

Also, he has respect for the individual learner and individual differences, yet he is concerned about the "position" or "situation" or social class dynamics in which the learning takes place. Thus, he fails to do justice either to the individual or to class, race, or gender. The role of leadership in learning is wholly ignored; and responsibility is not explored. In short, it is extremely difficult to pin down Prof. Gardner. It would be kind to say he is eclectic. I hope it's just not fuzzy thinking.

However, we can discern that he has a romantic obsession with beauty, truth, and goodness. Imagine -- the Holocaust is reduced to being an illustration of what goodness is or is not! His treatment of these ideas is superficial and banal. I don't like to be so judgmental, but his writing about them does not deserve a detailed analysis.

When attacking E.D. Hirsch whom he calls the main speaker for "cultural literacy," he sets up a straw man. He says that Hirsch's school of thought has an underlying belief in the Lockeian "tabula rasa." Yet, I find nothing in Hirsch's writings to indicate that he believes in a tabula rasa.

Further, is Prof. Gardner really less elitist than Hirsch as some have claimed? I have found that the Harvard elite spend their entire lives trying to achieve and learn everything, and be on top.
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