Monday, July 28, 2014

Celebrating Howard Gardner's Extraordinary Mind, Life, and Work (with a free book download)

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Howard Gardner has been identified by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines as one of the 100 most important public intellectuals in the world today.  His work has fundamentally changed the way many people (and institutions) think about intelligence (with his theory of Multiple Intelligences), creativity, and education (to name just a few of the areas he has touched).

Happy Birthday, Howard!

Howard turned 70 last year.  To celebrate, his wife (Ellen Winner) and one of his former students (Mindy Kornhaber) hosted a Festschrift in his honor.  (A Festschrift – derived from the German for ‘celebration writing’ – is a collection of writings published in honor of a scholar.) They invited Howard’s teachers, peers, colleagues, and former students to contribute essays inspired by his work and his relationships with them.  One hundred and sixteen of Howard’s close colleagues contributed to the two-volume work, entitled Mind, Work, and Life: A Festschrift on the Occasion of Howard Gardner’s 70th Birthday. Each contribution includes a personal note from the contributor and a personal response from Howard.  Running 605 pages in length, this is quite a remarkable work, providing a unique and intimate portrait of this extraordinary man and his profound influence on some of the people who have worked most closely with him.

Mind, Life, and Work: A Festschrift on the Occasion of Howard Gardner's 70th Birthday

The complete two-volume Festschrift is available for free download as a PDF here, or if you prefer physical books you can buy it at cost from Amazon here.  Other options, including kindle versions of the two volumes, are listed here.

My contribution (starting on p. 223) is entitled, There’s More Than One Way to Bridge a Gap: On the Promise of Computational Neuroscience for Education.  I wrote it as a doctoral student in Education, soon after I took my first class with Howard.  At the time, I was just beginning to wrestle in earnest with the question: “How can scientific insights about the brain and mind help us make education better?”  As reflected in this essay, Howard’s teaching was instrumental in helping me frame the key issues in a new and more productive way, which I have continued to build on to this day.  If you are interested in the relationship between the brain and mind, or in how we might go about leveraging insights about the biology of learning to improve educational practice, you might find it interesting.  I look forward to reading your comments on that or anything else in the book.



  1. Thank you for posting this. It is rather coincidental that within a few hours time I finished reading Ron Berger’s “An Ethic of Excellence” and received this post. Ron is also one of the author’s in this book. In the context of how to measure impact, what kind of data to collect, Ron poses these questions (2033, p. 154): “How do I really know what I have done for these students? How do I know what my school has done for students in the long run? How does one measure something like this?...There may not be numbers to measure these things.” He continues to say that what he sees as relevant is taking pride in doing one’s best; an ethic of excellence. (p.154)

    We can never know the impact we have on our world. We do know we have an impact, for good or naught. It is impossible to put a number on how many lives have been changed by Dr. Gardner (or by those whose work is included in this book). I am grateful, however, for their work because it impacts me and the students I teach, those at risk, and their families. So to those of you who read this blog, thank you for the work you are doing, in whatever context. Do not become weary in the work you do, have faith that you are bringing about positive change, change you may never see.

    1. You're welcome, RG.

      That is an interesting coincidence.

      "Ethic of excellence" is an interesting phrase. Howard and his colleagues have been working on the "Good Work" Project (which may now be called the "Good Project"). The project purpose is:

      "The Good Project is a large scale effort to identify individuals and institutions that exemplify good work – work that is excellent in quality, socially responsible, and meaningful to its practitioners – and to determine how best to increase the incidence of good work in our society."

      Berger's notion of an Ethic of Excellence seems to fit right in there.