Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Howard Gardner, fully Howard Earl Gardner

American Developmental Psychologist, Professor at Harvard School of Education

"Young children possess the ability to cut across the customary categories; to appreciate usually undiscerned links among realms, to respond effectively in a parallel manner to events which are usually categorized differently, and to capture these original conceptions in words."

"In the conventional [intelligence] test, the child is confronted by an adult who fires at him a rapid series of questions. The child is expected to give a single answer (or, when somewhat older, to write down his answer or to select it from a set of choices). A premium is placed on linguistic facility, on certain logical-mathematical abilities, and on a kind of social skill at negotiating the situation with an elder in one's presence. These factors can all intrude when one is trying to assess another kind of intelligence -- say, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, or spatial."

"For many children, the start of formal musical instruction marks the beginning of the end of musical development. The atomistic focus in most musical instruction - the individual pitch, its name, its notation -- and the measure-by-measure method of instruction and analysis run counter to the holistic way most children have come to think of, react to, and live with music."

"If you have some respect for people as they are, you ought to be and could be more effective in helping them to become better than they are."

"Stories are the single most powerful tool in a leader's toolkit. "

"I think tolerating a certain degree of failure-not because it's good for you but because it's a necessary part of growth-is a very important part of the message the leadership can give."

"We are natural mind changing entities until we are 10 or so. But as we get older…then it is very hard to change our minds"

"Now intelligence seemed quantifiable. You could measure someone's actual or potential height, and now, it seemed, you could also measure someone's actual or potential intelligence. We had one dimension of mental ability along which we could array everyone... The whole concept has to be challenged; in fact, it has to be replaced"

"In the course of heir careers in the American schools of today, most students take hundreds, if not thousands, of tests. They develop skill to a highly calibrated degree in an exercise that will essentially become useless immediately after their last day in school"

"A lot of knowledge in any kind of an organization is what we call task knowledge. These are things that people who have been there a long time understand are important, but they may not know how to talk about them. It's often called the culture of the organization."

"A wide range of factors ? constitute the world view of the young child. There are her? theories of mind, matter, life and self; the various scripts and stereotypes that she has absorbed, andthe aspects of esthetic standards, values, personality, and temperament? For the purposes of summary, I find it useful to consider all these factors as constraints or biases, which influence, guide, or restrict the child in any kind of subsequent educational experience."

"A major biasing factor stems from the simple schemes about human behavior that were developed in early childhood on the basis of interactions with others in the environment."

"After early childhood it is indeed appropriate to master literacies and the disciplines. However, even during periods of drill, it is vital to keep open alternative possibilities and to foreground the option of unfettered exploration."

"Anything that is worth teaching can be presented in many different ways. These multiple ways can make use of our multiple intelligences."

"Being fast and not very spatial doesn't make you any better in spatial kinds of things; you probably just get the wrong answer more quickly."

"Broadly speaking, the milieus in which children spend their early years exert a very strong impact on the standards by which they subsequently judge the world around them? Closely related to standards? are an emerging set of beliefs about which behaviors are good and which values are to be cherished. In most cases, these standards initially reflect quite faithfully the value system encountered at home, at church, and at preschool or elementary school. Values with respect to behavior (you should not steal, you should salute the flag) and sets of beliefs (my country, right or wrong, all mommies are perfect, God is monitoring all you actions) often exert a very powerful effect on children?s actions and reactions? Even? when children are not conscious of the? controversy surrounding these beliefs and values, unfortunate clashes may occur when they meet others raised with a contrasting set of values. It is no accident that Lenin and the Jesuits agreed on one precept: Let me have a child until the age of seven, I will have that child for life."

"By nature, I am not an optimist, though I try to act as if I am."

"But if you really focus on science in that kind of way by the time you go to college -- or, if you don't go to college, by the time you go to the workplace -- you'll know the difference between a statement that is simply a matter of opinion or prejudice and one for which there's solid evidence."

"By the age of five or six, children have developed robust senses of three overlapping realms: theory of matter? theory of life... a theory of the self."

"Contrasting cultural practices and expectations accumulate over time to yield children and adults who are characteristic of their own culture and who may appear dysfunctional in a culture that embraces a divergent or opposing set of assumptions."

"Early understandings of mind and matter are a crucial part of the mental equipment that children bring to school... They represent the ways in which children think about scholastic topics unless deliberately instructed to conceptualize them in a different manner."

"Early science education need not directly address the students? misconceptions... It should await the time when the child has been thoroughly immersed in the phenomena that science addresses."

"Framers of experience make a positive ally out of their asynchronies and thereby advance where others might fall by the wayside."

"Freud never deviated from a belief in his abilities and in his potential to make important contributions."

"From an early age, children develop stereotypes that seem to be especially flagrant in the area of sex roles and that prove quite resistant to change. Not surprisingly information that conforms to these stereotypes is readily assimilated, but where the stereotypes are countermanded, students may either miss the contrary clues or even deny their own perceptions."

"Here, in brief, is why most standardized measures of learning are of little use; they do not reveal whether the student can actually make use of the classroom material ? the subject matter ? once she steps outside the door."

"I align myself with almost all researchers in assuming that anything we do is a composite of whatever genetic limitations were given to us by our parents and whatever kinds of environmental opportunities are available."

"I am knowledgeable enough about the world of prizes to realize that there is a large degree of luck - both for the recognitions that you receive and those that you did not."

"Emile Zola was a poor student at his school at Aix. We are all so different largely because we all have different combinations of intelligences. If we recognize this, I think we will have at least a better chance of dealing appropriately with many problems that we face in the world."

"Extraordinary individuals can focus their attention for many hours at a time, screening out even the most dissonant of stimuli."

"Excessive focus on science and technology reminds me of the myopia associated with ostriches or Luddites."

"Finally, I think there has to be a political commitment that says this is the kind of education that we want to have in our country, and maybe outside this country, for the foreseeable future. And as long as people are busy bashing teachers or saying that we can't try anything new because it might fail then reform will be stifled as it has been in the past."

"I believe that current formal education still prepares students primarily for the world of the past, rather than for possible worlds of the future."

"I believe that the brain has evolved over millions of years to be responsive to different kinds of content in the world. Language content, musical content, spatial content, numerical content, etc."

"I have been through this wringer. Synthesizing massive amounts of data, intelligence, slants, opinions, tactics, and trying to maintain a strategic big picture was a challenge. You feel it creeping up into your brain like a numbing cold and you just have to choke it all down, sift faster, and stay with it. [It's] challenging to be sure, but if you practice it, you develop a good tool for the leadership toolbox."

"I need to add that my work on multiple intelligences received a huge boost in 1995 when Daniel Goleman published his book on emotional intelligence. I am often confused with Dan. Initially, though Dan and I are longtime friends, this confusion irritated me."

"I often find that entrepreneurs think my theory is great. My interpretation is that they are people who weren't considered that smart in school because they didn't have good notation skills-you know, moving little symbols around."

"I think for there to be long-standing change in American education that is widespread rather than just on the margins, first of all people have to see examples of places that are like their own places where the new kind of education really works, where students are learning deeply, where they can exhibit their knowledge publicly, and where everybody who looks at the kids says, "That's the kind of kids I want to have." So we need to have enough good examples."

"I think that we teach way too many subjects and we cover way too much material and the end result is that students have a very superficial knowledge, as we often say, a mile wide and an inch deep. Then once they leave school, almost everything's been forgotten. And I think that school needs to change to have a few priorities and to really go into those priorities very deeply."

"I want my children to understand the world, but not just because the world is fascinating and the human mind is curious. I want them to understand it so that they will be positioned to make it a better place."

"I'd rather see the United States as a beacon of good work and good citizenship, rather than as #1 on some international educational measurement."

"If I know you're very good in music, I can predict with just about zero accuracy whether you're going to be good or bad in other things."

"If we all had exactly the same kind of mind and there was only one kind of intelligence, then we could teach everybody the same thing in the same way and assess them in the same way and that would be fair. But once we realize that people have very different kinds of minds, different kinds of strengths -- some people are good in thinking spatially, some in thinking language, others are very logical, other people need to be hands on and explore actively and try things out -- then education, which treats everybody the same way, is actually the most unfair education. Because it picks out one kind of mind, which I call the law professor mind -- somebody who's very linguistic and logical -- and says, if you think like that, great, if you don't think like that, there's no room on the train for you."

"If we know that one child has a very spatial or visual-spatial way of learning, another child has a very hands-on way of learning, a third child likes to ask deep philosophical questions, the fourth child likes stories. We don't have to talk very fast as a teacher. We can actually provide software, we can provide materials, we can provide resources that present material to a child in a way in which the child will find interesting and will be able to use his or her intelligences productively and, to the extent that the technology is interactive, the child will actually be able to show his or her understanding in a way that's comfortable to the child."

"If we were to abandon concern for what is true, what is false, and what remains indeterminate, the world would be totally chaotic. Even those who deny the importance of truth, on the one hand, are quick to jump on anyone who is caught lying."

"If, on the other hand, somebody has carried out an experiment himself or herself, analyzed the data, made a prediction, and saw whether it came out correctly, if somebody is doing history and actually does some interviewing himself or herself -- oral histories -- then reads the documents, listens to it, goes back and asks further questions, writes up a paper. That's the kind of thing that's going to adhere, whereas if you simply memorize a bunch of names and a bunch of facts, even a bunch of definitions, there's nothing to hold on to."

"In school, assessment is mystifying. Nobody knows what's going to be on the test, and when the test results go back, neither the teacher nor the student knows what to do. So what I favor is highlighting for kids from the day they walk into school the performances and exhibitions for which they're going to be accountable."

"Individuals without creative capacities will be replaced by computers and will drive away those who do have the creative spark."

"In my own view, there are clear differences between child and adult artistic activity. While the child may be aware that he is doing things differently from others, he does not fully appreciate the rules and conventions of symbolic realms; his adventurousness holds little significance. In contrast, the adult artist is fully cognizant of the norms embraced by others; his willingness, his compulsion, to reject convention is purchased, at the very least, with full knowledge of what he is doing and often at considerable psychic cost to himself. As Picasso once remarked, "I used to draw like Raphael, but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like a child."

"I'm a writer and initially I had to have a lot of feedback from editors, including a lot of rejections, but over time I learned what was important. I learned to edit myself and now the feedback from editors is much less necessary. And I think anybody as an adult knows that as you get to be more expert in things you don't have to do so much external critiquing, you can do what we call self-assessment. And in school, assessment shouldn't be something that's done to you, it should be something where you are the most active agent."