“Education is inherently and inevitably an issue of human goals and human values.”
These words are found in the introduction to Howard Gardner’s Five Minds for the Future. He places before us five critical uses or “muscles” of the human mind if we are to live well in the days ahead.
These five, a pentad, are made up of Disciplined, Synthesizing, Creative, Respectful, and Ethical. Each is a separate but integral part of a collective whole that Gardner argues we need to intentionally shape, fashion, and influence. Think of your hand with five fingers. Each is separate and distinct. But each is also meant to function properly in and as a collective whole.
Gardner, perhaps in keeping with his own name, turns to gardening for his metaphor. These five aspects of a single mind are meant to be intentionally cultivated.
What I like about Gardner is that his amazing intellect enables him to write with such simplicity and clarity. This book is readable and understandable, not dense at all. He seems to be a master at offering simplicity on the other side of complexity. And for that I say, “Thank you.”
With an educational offering that could enable the reader to get lost in the five forms of mind being offered, an idol if you will, Gardner keeps bringing us back to the main thing when it comes to this business of education. It’s really not about minds. Rather it’s about being human. Human goals. Human values.
Said another way, mind is only a means to a greater end. And the greater end is being human.
He follows up his bumper sticker, noted above, with these words, “One cannot even begin to develop an educational system unless one has in mind the knowledge and skills that one values, and the kind of individuals one hopes will emerge at the end of the day.”
I don’t know about you, but I find in myself a great tendency to drift. Drift from what matters. Drift from what an original purpose might be. It’s like that moment when you walk into a room and think to yourself, “Now why was it that I came in here?” Is drifting just another word for early symptoms of Alzheimer’s? I hope not!
When we think about the culture here at NMC, let’s apply some of Gardener’s priorities.
What, is the knowledge that we value?
What are the skill sets we want our students to have?
As a result of a stakeholder’s NMC experience, what kind of person do we hope will emerge?
These are hard but good questions. Certainly each of us is responsible for how we show up and the effort we put forth. I teach my accounting students that when it comes to assets, they need to think about the reality that management is responsible for stewarding assets that have been entrusted to their care. Management has a fiduciary responsibility to the stakeholders of their organization. Management is not a power trip. Rather it is a responsibility bestowed for which there is accountability.
At the end of the day, these are questions of applied ethics. It’s meant to be held lightly as one comes to realize the tremendous weight they carry.
I actually believe that successful management is like successful fathering. It’s about entrusting and empowering others to become all the person they can and were meant to be, to live out of all the fullness that is available to them. It’s about helping others to realize their full potential. To be successful, you have to lay down your own life for the life of the others you are serving.
Any father who does not get this is not living worthy of his calling. He has mistakenly believed that his family exists for him rather than the opposite, that he exists for his family.
If NMC were not so dependent upon both federal and state dollars for our funding model, would things change? How might we answer these three powerful questions? What is the knowledge that we would value? What would be the skill sets that we want people to have? What kind of people would we like to see emerge as a result of brushing shoulders with our campus and culture? Hmm…
I have not been charged with the culture of the campus. But I have been charged with the culture of my classroom. I owe it to my students to create an environment for learning which is being informed by Howard Gardner’s questions. I have a fiduciary responsibility to them, the students, as the primary stakeholders in my focus. I am ethically implicated.
As one who is prone to drift, I need a constant reminder to keep first things first, and to let the bigger questions and realities inform what I am doing on a daily basis. The questions of the campus become the questions of the classroom; my classroom.
When and as we get it right and are consistent at all levels, a campus synergy will begin and spread. One and one will no longer equal 2. It just might equal 4. And if and when it does, we will know that God is engaged and active and teaching us His first lesson in Math.