Brian McCarthy

Howard Gardner on Learning, Philosophy and Communication.

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In the LaVanguardia newspaper today there is a fantastic interview with Howard Gardner (author of multiple intelligences theory).

It’s in Spanish, but here are the best quotes (in bold) with my thoughts underneath:

“I have discovered that there are some people who are very good at solving problems, but bad at explaining them. And there are other who are the opposite“. This is why training in communication is so important at school and it’s so baffling why students don’t get it. We are taught how to solve problems, but we are not taught the skills to talk about them.

“Bad people cannot become excellent professionals. There will never be so. They might have technical expertise, but they won’t be excellent…..You cannot achieve excellence if you don’t go any further than satisfy your ego, your ambition or your avarice….Without ethical principles you become rich or technically good, but not excellent.” If Gardner uses the word excellent to describe a global understanding of a person, in terms of their morals, intelligence, skills relationships etc., then I agree with him. But the problem is that the word “excellent”, when applied in a professional context, doesn’t usually refer to all these things, which is a shame. Which is why we need everyone to learn philosophy. Which bring me to his next quote:

“You can live without philosophy, but worse. In an experiment with engineers from MIT we discovered that those that hadn’t studied humanities, when they reached age 40 and 50, showed more propensity to suffer crises and depressions….Becasue engineering and technoloigical studies end up giving you a sensation of control over your life that is, in the end, false: you only concentrate on what has a solution and on the questions that have answers. And for your years you do work on them. But, with age you discover that in reality it is impossible to control everything, and you get disorientated”
. I would add to this that the widespread use of technology also gives us this mistaken sensation of being in control. The philosopher and economist Matthew Crawford writes about this very provocatively in his book “The World Beyond Your Head; On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction“. Furthermore, this is why I believe that teaching improvisation skills to professionals is so important. Improvisation teaches you how to deal with the unexpected, with those questions that have no clear answers.