Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dr Howard Gardner says Mahatma Gandhi has something to teach us

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Imagine students going to school with gene chips, which contain their entire genome, and asking teachers to analyse their genes and impart education that best suits their genetic make-up.

This genetic revolution can happen “within all of our lifetimes”, says Dr Howard Gardner, father of the theory of multiple intelligences. The day is not far off when young students will tell teachers “these are the genes that are inactive, these are the ones that are working – teach me effectively”.

Dr Gardner, one of the most influential educators of modern times, told this correspondent that his “more images of the future” include mega cities, machines that do thinking, carry out tasks, which used to be done by human beings, and virtual realities like “second life”. Elaborating on “second life”, he said people can learn lot of things through virtual reality like performing surgery, dissecting animals or learning to drive an aeroplane.

The Harvard University professor was in the city on Friday as part of his India tour aimed at reshaping the Indian education system, which he believes will need at least 50 years to be fully reformed. His visit to India is sponsored by iDiscoveri and Soma Educational Trust. Dr Gardner has revolutionized the concept of education and learning through his theory of multiple intelligences, which challenges the basic notion that there is only one standard kind of human intelligence.

According to him, there are at least eight intelligences including verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist. Dr Gardner’s child-driven education links itself to the multiple intelligences theory. He argues that since there are different kinds of intelligences, different children learn differently. Thus, teachers should mould their teaching methods to suit the individual students. He argues that intelligence cannot be quantified and a person’s intelligence cannot be judged by the marks he or she gets in a traditional examination. “If a child is doing well, do not test him,” Gardner points out.

Gardner also identifies five kinds of minds that would need to characterise future human society for it to flourish and sustain. Of these ways of thinking and acting, three are related to intellect (disciplined, synthesizing and creative minds), while two emphasise character (respectful and ethical minds).

Referring to the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, he said “Gandhi has something to teach us. He used intelligences to move people towards a good cause while Goebbels used them for the negative cause. Emphasizing the need for using intelligence for good purpose, he said “India, China and United States have a tremendous focus nowadays on test scores in doing better in comparison but perhaps not enough focus on what’s it all for, what kind of place we want to live in, what kind of people we want to be, what kind of a world do we want to live in”.

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