In Five Minds for the Future Howard Gardner sets out the personal capabilities and abilities that everyone will need to thrive in the complex and globalized future. After an introduction the author sets outs out the five minds:
Requires mastery of an area of expertise whether it is a branch of science, the humanities or other field of knowledge. The disciplined mind has to go beyond simply knowing the facts but understanding the thinking and concepts so that the discipline can be applied in related situations.
The synthesizing mind is the ability to make sense and connect the increasing flow of information available to the individual. A synthesizer is then able to use, present or explain it in an effective manner. Synthesis may take many forms such as a narrative or the creation of structures that enable sense of the rapidly increasing volume of knowledge and information.
While creativity has not always been valued it is an essential part of progress. Creativity is now more welcomed and can take many forms. It is often built on individual mastery of a discipline (the disciplined mind), the cultural domain in which the individual live or works and the social environment. Five Minds for the Future explores the current view of the creative person, their personality and how education can encourage creativity.
The respectful mind argues that the ability to respect differences will play an important part in increasingly interconnected world. However in this area Gardner grapples with the balance between free speech and not being respectful to other views – for many he will have come to an unacceptable conclusion.
Succeeding in the globalized world will require the ethical mind to produce good work of whatever form. Whether it is good work in the sense of original or high quality work or good work as in the sense of contributing to the greater good Five Minds for the Future explores how that will be brought about by the ethical mind.
The basic concepts make sense but to the general reader who has read around this discipline they may well feel it is a synthesis of many well established ideas. Any creativity that exists would seem to be in the bringing together this thinking into one place and relating it to educational approaches.
Five Minds for the Future makes points about mastery of a discipline and having the ability to make sense of it in a different context. It then immediately gets its illustration wrong by saying that students should apply the laws of acceleration: “absent friction, all objects accelerate at the same velocity”. That is meaningless and wholly incorrect. Acceleration is the rate of change of velocity, all such objects achieve the same rate of change of velocity. One cannot use “acceleration” in a definition of the “laws of acceleration”. This sets the tone for the rest of the writing.
Howard Gardner expresses admiration for the work of Bill Bryson but he does not seem to have learned in his own writing from Bryson’s clarity and artistry. For the general reader several sections of the book seem to be filled either with academic psychological jargon or to be merely pretentious. The ideas are lost in the complexity of the text and many readers will give up.
In the later sections of the book the language improves enormously almost to the extent that one wonders whether it was written by a different author. By that point one suspects that most general readers will have given up on Five Minds for the Future.
Five Minds for the Future is a disappointment especially for a book from such an eminent writer. Howard Gardner is well regarded as Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education and is a best-selling author.
Five Minds for the Future (ISBN: 978-1-4221-4535-7) by Howard Gardner is published 2009 in paperback by Harvard Business Press at $14.95.
First appeared on Suite101