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The Disciplined Mind

by Howard Gardner

 

Howard Gardner argues for "depth over breadth" but Disciplined Mind contains a huge breadth of mind-numbing rhetoric. When did vague, verbose arguments become synonymous with deep?

 

Despite the millions of existing arguments with clashing conclusions, there should be room to give this work an award.

 

Gardner argues that we should teach truth, beauty, and moral goodness by telling the stories of evolution (truth), Mozart's ''The Marriage of Figaro'' (beauty), and The Holocaust (moral goodness). And that is it--the stories. You could, I suspect, get a similar education by watching Amadeus, Shindler's List and Walking with Dinosaurs.

 

Dueling ultraconservatives and neoprogressives both think narratives are the road to truth and character. You find truth not by being a knowledgeable creator and analyzer of arguments, but by some vague wisdom absorption during stories. Children already grow up immersed in thousands of stories where the hero or anti-hero wins and the others get punished, what the world needs, allegedly, is more of these stories to transform character, as if being amused while watching wicked witches get their due will increase beneficence, though they offer no evidence supporting the moral goodness of story telling.

 

The education battle pits the trivial cultural knowledge of E.D. Hirsh against neoprogressive lack of knowledge. What about utility theories, deontological rules, principles of weighing arguments, and so on? They are cultural knowledge, too.

Anti-argument educators end up assuming ethics is a jumble of competing opinions with no accurate organizing principles.

 

It is hilarious watching neoprogressives claim standardized tests are automatically shallow when they continually publish rubbish. My concept of shallow and their concepts of shallow must be on separate planets. It is difficult to read this book and not have your chin slip off your hand and your head hit the table--hard.

 

Book review article by J.T. Fournier, last updated July 26, 2009

 

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