Thursday, June 3, 2010

Five Minds

Earlier this week I wrote a post about bringing two minds, or in this case IT and Library, two areas of the school, together. Today I had a day off school as it is a public holiday here in Switzerland, and I started to do a general tidy up - finishing off writing up the IT integration curriculum documents I started earlier this year and also sorting out some of the things lying around on the desktop of my computer and putting them into folders. While I was doing this I came across a list of professional books that I would like to read, and a graphic based on one of these books, Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner. I therefore decided to have a look and see what I could find out about these five minds.

About two years ago, Howard Gardner came to Switzerland and spoke at the International School of Geneva about these five minds:

The Disciplined Mind - Howard Gardner talked about 3 types of discipline: regular and steady practice in order to improve on things, mastering different disciplines or different ways of thinking, and becoming an expert in one thing. He said that if you are not an expert you will either not be able to find work, or you will end up working for someone else who is an expert, as in the knowledge age expertise is the only thing that has value. He makes a clear distinction between subject matter (information and facts which can be passed on to people) and disciplined thinking which is the way that historians, or artists or scientists approach their work. Gardner says it is the responsibility of schools to encourage disciplinary thinking in order for students to make sense of the world.

The Synthesizing Mind - is very necessary today because we are all inundated with information and it is therefore important to be able to put all this information together in ways that make sense to you. It's also important to be able to communicate this synthesized knowledge to others.

The Creative Mind - Gardner says that being creative is coming up with new ideas that eventually get accepted. If something gets accepted right away it's probably not creative. Creative people and their works change the way people think and behave. He also says that you cannot be creative unless you have mastered one discipline. Interestingly he also goes on to say that personality is as important as cognitive powers in the area of creativity as people who are truly creative are risk-takers and not afraid to fail as they can learn from their mistakes. He spoke about how schools sometimes kill creativity by insisting that there is only one right answer.

The Respectful Mind - This is important because of the great diversity of people in the world - they think differently, look different, have different values and beliefs. For the future it's important to understand different people and their points of view.

The Ethical Mind - asks questions about how we should behave and what our responsibilities are. The ethical mind is not just about thinking, but about action - how we fulfil our responsibilities. Howard Gardner talks about the three Es - excellence, engagement and ethics and he mentions that they don't always co-exist, though the challenge is to intertwine them all. Unfortunately many young people have a problem with ethics and say that to be successful in the world today you have to compromise your values. He quotes from Martin Luther King Jr who said "Intelligence plus character - that's the goal of education" and says that of these character is actually the most important. He said we don't need more people who are better and brighter, but we do need more people who have good characters.

So I'm off to Amazon to order the book now. I hope I can get a group of people together who want to read it with me next school year.

Photo Credit: Catching the Rain by Pandiyan


  1. A group of us at my school read this book together last summer. It generated deep and thought-provoking discussion about how we view ourselves and our students, and how focus our expectations for learning. I, too, hope you can share it with your colleagues.

  2. Maggie, you have done a beautiful job of summing up the 5 minds that Gardner writes about. I read the Five Minds of the Future last summer and really enjoyed it. I hope you can find some to join in with you!

  3. I just downloaded the book myself, I appreciate your summary. Looking forward to reading it myself and thinking about the impact.