Howard Gardner

 

On his book A Synthesizing Mind: A Memoir from the Creator of Multiple Intelligences Theory

Cover Interview of February 03, 2021

A close-up

As has become the practice these days, the book’s preface summarizes the book’s aims and content, as I have just done. No need to repeat those 1000 words here. But when I am asked to read aloud, I pick out passages like these:

p ix, the time in the fall of 1984, when I gave a talk about “the theory of multiple intelligences” and realized that from then on, I would be a ‘public figure’ and might also come to be known thereafter as the ‘MI guy’.

pp 3-4, my early childhood and the secrets that my parents kept from me;

p 5, the parts of my ‘child mind’ that remain today;

pp 12-13, my visual problems and how I compensated for them;

pp 19-21, my ease with standard school testing along with my growing skepticism about what psychological tests can actually reveal about cognition and personality;

p 46, when I fell in love with the study of psychology, sociology, and anthropology;

p 53, why I loved college;

p 64, how, as a beginning doctoral student, I was viciously attacked by social psychologist Stanley Milgram and no one came to my defense—I still shudder when I think of this experience 55 years ago;

p 68-69, why I hated graduate school and almost quit—the balance sheet that I drew up;

p 70, how I was ‘saved’ by my encounter with Nelson Goodman, a philosopher interested in the arts, who started a research group called Project Zero, which has been my principal intellectual home since 1967! (I was the co-director for 28 years and now chair the Steering Committee);

pp 82-83, how I retained my sanity in graduate school by shutting my office door and working on three quite different books;

p 99, my first days as a full time ‘soft money’ researcher, (I had to raise my own salary, chiefly from government sources), and how I spent my days—studying brain damaged veterans each morning and studying children with various gifts each afternoon;

p 117-118, how, as a consequence of this immersion with two distinctive and revealing populations, I came up with “MI theory”;

pp 133-135, my responses to the principal criticisms of MI theory;

pp 159-160, how an unfortunate experience with MI theory in Australia changed my life’s work (one Australian state was classifying racial and ethnic groups on the basis of their putative profiles of intelligences!);

pp 184-185, enter: the study of ‘good work’, to which I have now devoted more than a quarter of a century—see thegoodproject.org;

pp 197-198, why and how I have researched and written about so many different topics;

pp 216-217, the five most needed minds in the future, and where synthesizing fits in (to be specific: the disciplined, synthesizing, creating, respectful and ethical minds);

p 232, human vs computer synthesizing—what we should download to algorithms, what should continue to be undertaken by human minds (individually and collectively).

AND IN THAT HYPOTHETICAL TRIP TO THE BOOK STORE, PLEASE LEAF THROUGH THE PICTURES OF MY FAMILY—FIVE GENERATIONS; MY TEACHERS; MY LETTERS FROM GROUCHO MARX, JEAN PIAGET, CLAUDE LEVI-STRAUSS, EDMUND WILSON, ETC…. AND A PHOTO OF ME WITH TWO-TIME U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ADLAI STEVENSON.