Developing Your Five Minds For the Future

There are some ways of thinking that I keep coming back to. One is what the Harvard educationalist, Howard Gardner, calls the “Five Minds For the Future” These are the types of thinking/minds we all need to develop in the modern post-industrial world. The five minds in his own words are:

  1. The Disciplinary Mind: the mastery of major schools of thought, including science, mathematics, and history, and of at least one professional craft.
  2. The Synthesising Mind: the ability to integrate ideas from different disciplines or spheres into a coherent whole and to communicate that integration to others.
  3. The Creating Mind: the capacity to uncover and clarify new problems, questions, and phenomena.
  4. The Respectful Mind: awareness of and appreciation for differences among human beings and human groups.
  5. The Ethical Mind: fulfillment of one’s responsibilities as a worker and as a citizen.

To me, the first is conventional learning, the second is knowing how to pick the most relevant bits out from masses of information, the third is thinking out of the box, the fourth is seeing things from other people’s perspective and the last one is doing the right thing.

In his book, Gardner describes what techniques one needs to develop each type of mind. For the the synthesising mind, which I’m particularly interested in as today’s world is awash with diverse knowledge, he describes various methods. These include using narratives (like the bible), taxonomies, complex concepts (such as “natural selection”), rules and aphorisms (“think first, act second”) and powerful metaphors (Darwin described evolution as a branching tree). Each allows knowledge to be organised and synthesised. Here’s a mind-map that elaborates on the overall system:

But what I liked the most is that Gardner provides a framework of learning that doesn’t over-emphasise brute force learning (disciplined mind). It gives equal weight to creativity, synthesis, ethical and respectful thinking. This is useful not just for children for adults as well.



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