TO OPEN MINDS: Chinese Clues to the Dilemma of Contemporary Education by Howard Gardner

TO OPEN MINDS: Chinese Clues to the Dilemma of Contemporary Education

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Ebullient, energetic, prolific Gardner (The Mind's New Science, Frames of Mind, etc.) provides more than insights into Chinese-style education in this latest volume. A goodly portion is autobiographical and sheds light on Gardner's stance that intelligence is not a unitary concept. Rather, he posits the existence of multiple ""frames of mind"" that tap into nonverbal and nonlogical skills. Gardner grew up in the 1940's as a child of German-Jewish refugees living in Scranton. He is colorblind and lacks depth perception but showed musical talent at an early age. He personally decided not to pursue the arduous training to become a professional musician. A born achiever, he wound up at Harvard and came under the influence of Erikson, Bruner, Roger Brown, and others. Gardner's postgraduate years involved him in one project after another, working with brain-damaged veterans, developing experimental elementary-school programs in suburban Boston, investigating arts education. The last led to grants to explore the Chinese approach--celebrated in all those marvels of performance of song and dance, calligraphy and drawing of preschool and early graders. What followed were a series of trips throughout China, on one of which Gardner was accompanied by his wife and an adopted Taiwanese child. When the little boy was encouraged to drop the hotel room key in the slot provided, he made the usual trials and errors to his and his parents' amusement. Invariably, a Chinese adult would observe and gently guide the boy's hand to the proper position and place. That, Gardner explains, is emblematic of the Chinese approach to education--skills and practice before exploration and creativity, the direct opposite of the approach of liberal, child-centered educational philosophy. This theme is elaborated in discussions of Chinese Confucian philosophy and the long history of the hierarchical ordering of society. In the end, Gardner suggests a middle road for American education, one that could benefit from greater emphasis on skills and on learning appropriate classroom deportment, while allowing for exploratory do-it-yourself behaviors that encourage individual cognitive styles and creative productions. An approach that may, in time, lead to more incisive thinkers who can write more incisive books like this one.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1989
Publisher: Basic Books