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FIVE MINDS for 2008
       and beyond

(Article published in the Jan 9, 2008 issue of Manila Standard Today)  

If committing to follow Benjamin Franklin’s advice to “be at war with your vices; at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man” too demanding of a New Year resolution for you, as it is for me, I suggest a benign one from Howard Gardner.  The Harvard Graduate School’s professor of cognition and education submits that cultivating in oneself  five “minds” is essential for anyone who hopes to thrive in the years to come. 

 Howard Gardner’s main claim to fame, as he admits, is his espousing the theory of multiple intelligences (“MI”) that establishes that everyone has different and separate ways of knowing which are called “intelligences”.  The understanding of these cognitive approaches of the human mind has since their exposition enabled many educational institutions to teach their pupils more effectively and deliver their message in ways more suited to their  students’ individual mental make-ups.

The MI theory’s major practitioner here is the Multiple Intelligence International School Foundation, Inc. located at Loyola Heights, Quezon City.  Its fidelity to the principles  of the theory was attested to by the visit of Gardner in February, 2005 at the invitation of the school’s directress, Mary Joy Canon-Abaquin, Ed.M. About a year later, Harvard published his “Five Minds for the Future.”

 It is consensual wisdom to hold that the world we live in is marked by changes, unprecedented in both magnitude and velocity, directly affecting our lives.  To name just a few: unceasing development in science and technology; outpouring of data and information, beyond surfeit and often in surpluss; what some call the devil of “globalization” in its many forms sometimes apparent, often insidious; as well as cultural commixtion, if not clashes and confrontation.
 










     

 To cope with, perhaps to even just survive in, this confusing milieu, one needs, according to Gardner, to cultivate five “minds”, or more accurately, uses of one’s mind. The first three are skills-based: the disciplined mind, the synthesizing mind, and the creative mind; the other two are values-oriented: the responsible mind and the ethical mind.

 A Disciplined Mind employs ways of thinking associated with the major scholarly disciplines, like math, the sciences, as well as with the professions, like medicine or management. The challenges of Metro Manila’s traffic, for instance, cannot be effectively met by the trial-and-error method of eliminating today, restoring tomorrow, the concrete barriers directing the U-turns on the Libis portion of C-5 or on Katipunan Road fronting Ateneo, Maryknoll, and La Vista.  In the same vein, methods of research, sociological and even medical, need to be employed to find out why custodians of high profile inmates are flat-footed enabling Senator Trillanes and former Congressman Jalosjos to walk away from them freely. 

 Proficiency in a major discipline, except for the unusually gifted, requires about ten years of practice.  That, by itself, is an argument why Lakas should seriously consider the Presidential aspirations of Bayani Fernando.  After all, the political couldron will be heating up soon and we can all benefit from a comic moment or two.

 But one cannot be so mentally disciplined as to be narrowly compartmentalized and hemmed in by one’s science.  There is need also for the Synthesizing Mind, to recognize the contributions that can be made by other sources of skills and knowledge.  Not haphazard inclusion of everything but, instead, selective integration.  Thus, it will not do to simply look, as the president seemed to suggest in her historic call to Garci, for the dagdag.  What is needed is Garci-like selectivity, knowing where and whom to tap for the needed resources. 

 The third habit that the mind of today must cultivate is creativity which ought to be the fruit of discipline and synthesis.   The Creative Mind goes beyond the existing knowledge of a science as well as the cummulation of the findings of the sciences, and seeks out new winning ways.  The likely victor (or “victress,” if there is such a word) in the 2010 presidential or (in the event of a shift to parliamentary form of government) prime ministerial derby is one who will find not just the winning combination of tactics and strategies of the past but,  more important, the new and gripping story that will appeal to the voters of today.

 What that story is, I am not in a position to say, but, with a measure of certainty that we lawyers are unofficially licensed to lawyers, I venture to predict that sufficient will be neither, on the one hand, guns, goons, gold, glitter or good looks, nor, on the other, the appropriation of the label “bago” and its cognates.  Integrity yet unknown to many politicians, I venture to guess, just might be it.

 The Respectful Mind, not merely a tolerant one, is the first of the two remaining values-oriented requirements.  One needs to respond sympathetically and constructively to differences among individuals and among groups, to seek understanding and to work with those who are of divergent views and contrary beliefs.  “Respect”, which we often treat with no more than lip service as we do “motherhood,” is not being merely  “politically correct” in speech or simply attaching “Honorable” when writing to a legislator.  Its opposite is the best explanation of what the Respectful Mind is.

 An example of a disrespectful mind, in fact an insulting one, is the insistence of some, be they, native or alien, on weilding the power to approve or disapprove other people’s judgment on matters which are clearly beyond their competence to understand and, in fact, none of their business, simply because, at the end of the day, they have the power of the purse. 

 Finally, there is a need for the Ethical Mind, thereby excluding, of course, the minds that gave birth to the presidential “Hello” and the loyally responsive Garci math.  Being ethical involves two interior movements.  An ethical mind constantly reminds itself of the proper role that a person is to fulfill as an individual, as part of a group, as citizen of his country, as a transient inhabitant of the globe. In addition, it continually criticises one’s personal conduct and behaviour against the standard of that role, for the purpose of achieving integrity, used here in its root, “integer,” meaning whole, or without parts.  To eliminate the variance between one’s talk and one’s walk.  To be made of the same staff all throughout, sincere in all things; again, used in its root meaning of “sin cerus,” relating to a piece of stone sculpture without the use of fired clay in place of marble.

 Howard Gardner maintains that we could “deem as wise the person in the society who cultivates these minds in timely fashion and deploys each when and where it is needed.”  The survival of homo sapiens just might depend on the cultivation of those minds.  For, as he concludes, “perhaps members of the human species will not be prescient enough to survive, or perhaps it will take far more immediate threats to our survival before we make common cause with our fellow human beings. In any event the survival and thriving of our species will depend on our nurturing of potentials that are distinctly human”. 

            Cultivating the five minds is one new year resolution none of us can afford to break.

 

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