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Education for All: Learning in the 21st Century

By March 20, 2015 February 12th, 2016 No Comments

This spring, backlash against standardized testing will reach a fever pitch as parents across the U.S. pull tens of thousands of children out of exams and make themselves heard at top levels of government. At the heart of the rebellion is an argument renowned cognitive psychologist Howard Gardner champions: intelligence cannot be measured by a single test.

This message underpins Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which revolutionized the fields of psychology and education more than 30 years ago. Every one of us possesses at least eight intelligences – from linguistic and logical to spatial and interpersonal – that work together, some stronger than others. It explains why we each think and learn in numerous and different ways, and why everything can, and perhaps should, be taught in more than one way.

Just as smarts are measured by much more than a test, education is much more than school, says Gardner, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Yet, around the world, discussion of education – its issues and opportunities – is traditionally bound to the cognitive realm (knowledge, perception, problem solving) and even specific disciplines.

“Education is a far broader endeavor,” he argues. “It encompasses motivation, emotions, and social and moral practices and values, and unless these facets of the person are considered and incorporated into daily practices, ‘education’ is likely to be ineffective.”

Gardner, who was recently named the 2015 recipient of the Brock International Prize in Education for his significant contributions to the practice and understanding of education, believes education in the 21st century must be deeply rooted in two contrasting yet complimentary considerations: what we know about the human condition and learning from history, and what we know about the pressures, challenges and opportunities of today and the future.

It’s his theory of “truth, beauty and goodness” – explaining that we learn chiefly by observing others: what they value, what they spurn, how they conduct themselves day-to-day, and especially, what they do when they believe no one is looking – that will be pivotal not only to the future of learning, but the future of society. The implications for life and business are vast.

You might be interested in reading a summary of articles responding to Gardner’s recent three-part Harvard lecture series, “truth, beauty and goodness, reframed” based on his 2011 book of the same title.