Howard Gardner: What is Good in Education

good work

Reposted from the Washington Post:

Academic and other forms of intelligence are clearly important. But in recent years, it’s increasingly recognized that other human capacities are also relevant, and they have been dubbed “non-cognitive skills.” Typically included on the list are such valued capacities as empathy, kindness, and imaginativeness. Topping the list these days is the capacity dubbed “grit.” Brought to public awareness by psychologist Angela Duckworth and journalist Paul Tough, grit denotes perseverance, stick-to-ited-ness, and the daily, weekly, and yearly accumulation of valued skills and personal traits.

Clearly, grit alone is not enough. We need to encourage grit that is directed, honestly and publicly, to positive societal ends; and to unmask grit that has been mobilized in damaging directions, whether en route to a pointless war or to unfairly rewarded manipulators of facts, figures, and fuel fees. As part of our research endeavors, my colleagues and I have created “The Good Project” and “The GoodWork Toolkit.” These efforts, along with those of many individuals, groups, and organizations around the world, seek to modify the value-neutral term “grit” with the adjective “good.” Indeed, a multiple intelligences school in Manila, Philippines, has a curriculum which deliberately melds good work to the use of each intelligence. It also awards citizens who exemplify good work in one or other of the several intelligences.

I’ve left room for one other element in my opening question: what does it mean to “succeed?” Of course, it is crucial to unpack this word, and to indicate whether success means accumulated wealth and/or worldwide fame and/or personal pleasures; or whether it entails caring for family and friends, or helping to build a better, fairer, more sustainable community, society, or planet. Few individuals are going to frankly announce a purely selfish definition of success; only disinterested others can judge how each of us actually conceptualizes and pursues success. My own hope: success lies in serving well the several communities in which we live.

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