GIFTED EDUCATION NEWS-PAGE
VOLUME 8, NUMBER 6
Published by GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS; 10201 YUMA COURT;
P.O. BOX 1586; MANASSAS, VA 20108; 703-369-5017
BOOK NEWS AND REVIEWS
The Disciplined Mind: What All Students Should Understand (1999) By Howard Gardner. Simon & Schuster, New York.
The author is noted for his ability to synthesize large amounts information from psychology, education, computer science, brain research, the biological sciences, history, the arts (particularly music and painting), literature, and popular culture. There have been few social scientists-educators in the twentieth century with this extraordinary ability -- John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner to name three others. In this book, Gardner has again achieved an extraordinary synthesis for the purpose of designing a rigorous and stimulating educational program for all students. First, it should be noted that this is a complex book which should be carefully studied individually and in discussion groups of educators and parents. Each chapter contains such a rich mixture of ideas and concepts that a cursory or light reading would be no better than leaving it unread on one's bookshelf. The Disciplined Mind requires disciplined study to obtain a thorough understanding of Gardner's educational program. Second, although this book addresses the education of all students, the gifted field has no better model to follow than Gardner's exemplary proposals for the development of a disciplined gifted mind. Third, we highly recommend that the book be read in the context of Gardner's other works -- specifically Frames of Mind (1983), The Unschooled Mind (1991), Creating Minds (1993), Leading Minds (1995), and Extraordinary Minds (1997). These earlier books discuss the origins of multiple intelligences theory, the education of children by using a Museum approach, the study of highly creative individuals through examining the development of their cognitive abilities, the analysis of cognitive factors (e.g., life stories) in the development of great leaders, and the analysis of giftedness through the lives of four exceptional individuals.
In Chapter 1 - "Personal Introduction: An Education for All Human Beings" - Gardner emphasizes the study of truth, beauty and goodness at all educational levels. Later, he says, "On my educational landscape, questions are more important than answers; knowledge and, more important, understanding should evolve from the constant probing of such questions. It's not because I know for certain what the true and the beautiful and the good are that I call for their study. In fact, I distrust people who claim that they know what is true, beautiful, or good. . . ." (p. 24). Gardner emphasizes strong support for a rigorous education, contrary to how some critics have misinterpreted his work, and he also states his opposition to E.D. Hirsch's Cultural Literacy curriculum because of its lack of emphasis on understanding and problem solving. It is impossible to believe otherwise concerning Gardner's adherence to educational rigor based on the ideas and proposals contained in his numerous books. This is why educators of the gifted should study The Disciplined Mind in conjunction with his other books. The discussion that follows will highlight many of the ideas pertinent to the education of gifted children as presented in his latest book.
Chapter 2 - "Educational Constants" - He discusses the relationship between the virtues of truth, beauty and goodness, and their origin in ancient Greek and Chinese cultures. He emphasizes that an education based on these virtues is necessary in Western society, and should be obtained through the study of disciplines such as biology, music and history. Gardner concludes this chapter with a section on nine Perennial Choices in education, e.g., breath versus depth, and the accumulation versus construction of knowledge.
Chapter 3 - "Education in the Future" - The author addresses six "forces that will remake schools," e.g., scientific and technological breakthroughs, and the shifting cartography of knowledge. The point of this and the previous chapter is to delineate some of the constants and variables that educators must understand in order to design the best schools.
Chapter 4 - "Perspectives of Mind and Brain" - This chapter shows how the history of psychology has progressed from behaviorism to a cognitive model for studying reasoning, choices and moral behavior. Clearly, Gardner's work on multiple intelligences emphasizes the cognitive areas of development. He also discusses neurological science and how the promise of this area of research should be modulated by a conservative interpretation of the findings, since they do not usually show a close relationship between thinking, problem-solving and education. However, as Gardner points out, there are several parallel findings from brain research and cognitive psychology, e.g., the importance of early experiences, the specificity of human abilities, and the potential influence of early musical experiences on cognitive development.
Chapter 5 - "How Cultures Educate" - He describes outstanding schools visited in various parts of the world to show that different cultures can achieve successful educational outcomes although they use different approaches. He presents interesting examples of preschool and early childhood education in Reggio Emilia, Italy and in Japan (involving the Suzuki method of teaching music).
Chapters 1 through 5 provide readers with the background for educating children in the virtues of truth, beauty and goodness, and they show teachers the types of issues they must study and understand to provide such an education. The remaining chapters provide detailed examples of learning about specific disciplines.
Chapter 6 - "Designing Education for Understanding" - This chapter contains the heart of Gardner's educational approach: Students should thoroughly study a manageable number of examples in science, mathematics, the arts, and history. By engaging in these disciplines, they will learn how to think and act like professionals in these fields. Gardner provides four examples for promoting understanding in each discipline -- using the Museum model, analyzing erroneous ideas, performance and demonstration, and teaching for multiple intelligences.
Chapter 7 - "Disciplined Approaches" - This chapter is the high point of the book. Gardner introduces three superb examples that will facilitate learning the disciplines of science and mathematics, music, and history: (1) studying the evolutionary biology of Charles Darwin; (2) analyzing "The Trio of Colliding Agendas" from the opera, The Marriage of Figaro, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte; and (3) determining the origins of the Nazi's "Final Solution" which produced the extermination of six million Jews.
Chapter 8 - "Close Looks" - Here Gardner focuses more closely on these examples by suggesting entry points ("a clutch of finches, an operatic trio, and the Wannsee Conference") for their study, and then providing a rich variety of details.
Chapter 9 - " 'Multiple Intelligences' Approaches to Understanding" - He gives extensive examples of how MI theory can be used to help students learn the concepts presented in chapters 6-8 primarily by producing "multiple entry points to rich topics," "powerful analogies and metaphors," and "multiple representations of the core ideas."
The final chapters (10 - "Getting There" and 11 - "In Closing") emphasize Gardner's preferences for K-12 education -- a pathway for understanding, and the mastery of specific disciplines before engaging in interdisciplinary studies. He reiterates his vision of education in today's disjointed world as the search for the three virtues which guided the lives of the ancient Greeks and which remain the keys to understanding today.
This book can serve as a model for designing a rigorous curriculum for gifted children. Only Howard Gardner, a psychologist, Renaissance man and humanist, could have produced such an extraordinary synthesis of his own ideas and those other scientists, educators and thinkers. We highly recommend The Disciplined Mind for teachers and parents of the gifted.
A Tribute to Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) on the Centenary of His Birth
By Michael E. Walters Center for the Study of the Humanities in the Schools
This is the centennial year of the birth of Ernest Hemingway. His writing in the American vernacular is equivalent to Shakespeare's writing in the English vernacular. His prose captured the contours and nuances of the American language, and is on such a high linguistic level that the reader is constantly engaged in both the narrative and syntax of his style. Style in fact becomes an integral aspect of his content.
One important area of Hemingway as a writer that needs to be focused upon and appreciated by gifted students is his aesthetic-moral code. He believed the role of the writer was to bear witness to his age by writing with integrity. By integrity, Hemingway meant describing things, places and characters as they really were. Recently, I interviewed the son of the modern American poet, William Carlos Williams. He related an anecdote that explains what Hemingway meant by integrity. His father and Hemingway went on a fishing trip to northern Spain in the 1920's. They spotted a dead animal in the woods, and Hemingway watched and took notes about how the decomposition process was occurring. Williams was a doctor as well as a poet; therefore, he was impressed with Hemingway's clinical observations. There was a significance for this great author to everything he experienced and observed. He wanted to bear witness to life through the integrity of his writing.
Three novels by Hemingway are among the greatest of the twentieth century. These are A Farewell To Arms (1929), For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940), and The Old Man and The Sea (1952). He also wrote several short stories that are masterpieces, e.g., The Snows Kilimanjaro (1936). His descriptions of nature are among the best that have ever been written. The content of his novels and short stories concern the major issues that have confronted the human condition such as war, political ideology, totalitarianism, bureaucracy, ecology, and the need for individual freedom. Gifted students will benefit by studying Hemingway as a writer, and how his writings reflected the aforementioned social issues. Gifted individuals from varied backgrounds have been influenced by his style and content. For example, the African-American writer, Ralph Ellison (1914-94), was influenced by Hemingway, and expressed this influence in his book of essays, Shadow and Act (1964): "Because all he wrote - and this is very important - was imbued with a spirit beyond the tragic with which I could feel at home, for it is very close to the feeling of the blues, which are, perhaps as close as Americans can come to expressing the spirit of tragedy." John Keegan (the British historian and author of the highly acclaimed book, The First World War, 1998) said that Hemingway's novel about that war, A Farewell To Arms (1929), inspired his writing and views.
In the National Geographic (August 1999) there is a photograph of a book burning by the Nazis in 1933. Among the books deemed unworthy were The Magic Mountain (1924) by Thomas Mann, All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) by Erich Maria Remarque, and Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms. It is noteworthy that the content of Hemingway's books was perceived as morally corrupt by the Nazi Minister of Culture, Joseph Goebbels. Truly, Hemingway was in the pantheon of the speakers of truth.
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, August-September 1999