kitchen table math, the sequel: Howard Gardner on the liberal arts disciplines

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Howard Gardner on the liberal arts disciplines

JB: How you educate everybody?

GARDNER: I want people at the end of their education to understand the world in ways that they couldn't have understood it before their education. In speaking of the world I mean the physical world, the biological world, the social world ÷ their own world, their personal world as well as the broader social and cultural terrain. I believe that these are questions that every human being is interested in from a very young age. They're questions which kids ask all the time: who am I, where do I come from, what's this made out of, what's going to happen to me, why do people fight, why do they hate? Is there a higher power?


These are also the questions that historically have been looked at in religion, philosophy, science. While it's great for people to ask these questions on their own, and to make use of their own experience, it's crazy for people not to take advantage of the other attempts to answer those questions over the millennia. And the disciplines represent to me the most concerted efforts to provide answers to those questions. History tells us where we come from. Biology talks about what it means to be alive. Physics talks about the world of objects, alive or not.

It's important to emphasize the role of disciplines when you're talking about precollegiate education. Some people think the disciplines are irrelevant, and some people think all the interesting work is interdisciplinary so you can kind of jump right into that. I reject both of these claims. Disciplines are what separates us from the barbarians; I don't think you can do interdisciplinary work unless you've done disciplinary work.

A Talk with Howard Gardner

You'll notice that while ed schools everywhere teach Gardner's unsupported theory of multiple intelligences, one hears nary a word about Gardner's belief that high schools should teach the liberal arts disciplines.

extra credit: Interdisciplinary teaming empowers teacher!

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