I had the privilege of listening in to Howard Gardner today. Any person who has been remotely connected with education will know influential his work on Multiple Intelligence(MI) has been. His today's lecture was a second one is a series of three, in which he spoke about Multidisciplinary education and learning for understanding(LFU).
Some of the sticky comments he made during the talk which excited me -
1. "MI theory is just a means to a publicly stated goal"
Too often policy makers, educators and other social scientists focused on education use performance on a standardized test as the publicly stated goal. However, standardized tests do not test for interdisciplinary(ID) ability or MI.
Therefore, It is essential to articulate the public goal of education which incorporates MI and ID ability.
2. "The scholarly disciplines are important but not intuitive, often counter to common sense"
Sciences, mathematics, social studies unlike arts are counter intuitive. For e.g. we would have to learn why the earth is spherical against our intuitive understanding of flat structure around us. We would have to understand the biology behind theory of evolution to demystify creationism we intuitively respond to. One of the goals of education is to develop the ability is to train to use these disciplines appropriately and flexibily.
In short, wisdom is about knowing when and how to use the knowledge. We need to train and test for it.
3. "The unschooled mind endures in us all..."
The objective of schooling is to train one's mind to be disciplined, i.e to distill the important theories of a discipline, uncover them using MI if not single intelligence and develop an ability to perform/synthesize that understanding about our worlds. An unschooled mind is filled with powerful, but often flawed theories about the world. A narrowly disciplined mind in sciences, mathematics and humanities is also prone to traps like misconceptions, rigidly applied algorithms and scripts/stereotypes. The objective of schooling is therefore to answer fundamental questions about the world using our MI and ID ability.
What is important --> How to uncover it --> reconstruct a wise understanding of the world
Finally, the talk prompted thought on how to school in digitalized world with a complex set of problems. The quotes of the day however had to be the following which are equally applicable to India in some sense:
" US education reforms is like rearranging chairs on the deck of Titanic"
"It takes 15-20 years to bring about education reforms. How do you achieve that in country which runs on quarterly profits and biannual elections?" - Singapore Education Minister on US education reforms