The Unschooled Mind

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In THE UNSCHOOLED MIND: HOW CHILDREN THINK AND HOW SCHOOLS SHOULD TEACH, Howard Gardner, an expert on intelligence and creativity, offers an in-depth discussion of different ways of understanding the world. Young children develop intuitive ways of understanding, but schools teach subject matter in rote, ritualized manner. As a result, students fail to use new material when presented with problems outside a scholastic context. Instead, they fall back on their intuitive understandings. Only when students become disciplinary experts do they use new knowledge in other than school settings. Gardner believes that schools could teach students to be disciplinary experts but that they fail to do so.

Students have a number of intelligences, Gardner argues, but schools focus on only two, language and numeracy. He therefore sees it as unsurprising that young children enjoy learning, and even treat it as a game, but at the same time complain of boredom in school. Schools should teach concepts in ways that show applicability to the real wold and in ways that challenge students’ intuitive understandings of the world and show where they are deficient. The creativity and resourcefulness of young children should be preserved while their false understandings are corrected. Gardner discusses modified apprenticeships, meaningful projects, and process portfolios as means of achieving this goal. National educational standards are coming in the United States, he says, as they have arrived in much of the rest of the industrialized world. These standards can incorporate testing profitability, but testing should be based on understanding rather than on rote memorization or application of formulas to standardized problems.