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
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