Top critical review
on 30 May 2012
Ordinarily I would not comment on a book reviewed by many others. However the importance of the author and of the issues he takes up require pointing out serious problems with the exposition.
The gravest one is suggesting education as a main change agent, in some mix with parents, peers, mass media, leaders, grass-root activists etc. Thus, in respect to "respectful minds" the author states "short of peace pills or widespread extirpation of those brain nuclei or genes that support aggressive behavior, the only possible avenue to progress lies in education broadly conceived" (p. 106). This leaves wide open the crucial problem how first to bring about radical changes in teachers, parents and so on, which the book ignores. Without outlining at least half-realistic ways to bring about on a large scale the recommended transformations of minds, the prescriptions of the book are not more than exhortations.
Related is emphasis on changing individuals without taking up transformation of broad societal features as a necessary condition for changing individual minds. Thus, expecting many "ethical minds" in societies dominated by fanatic ideologies, or by greed and consumerism, is a delusion - tied in, inter alia, to misunderstanding of the nature of faiths and cultures and their potentials, in part thanks to effective education, to bring about absolute evil.
Striking is the neglect of politics and politicians. If money is a main factor influencing the outcome of elections, together with unsavory relations of candidates with mass media, but unavoidably politicians are in charge of critical future-shaping choices, including on public education - then, clearly, radical reforms of politics, also in democracies, are a must for achieving the honorable goals postulated in the book. But this imperative is completely ignored by the text.
The most critical issues facing the human species are survival and deciding on possibilities to change itself - such as by "human enhancement." These fateful challenges are radically novel, resulting from the unprecedented capabilities to shape human futures supplied by science and technology. Therefore, the most important "minds" needed for the future include good understanding of science and technology and their possible implications for better or worse, long-term thinking and action in terms of the human species as a whole, pondering and deciding on high-stake future-shaping "fuzzy gambles" in the face of thick uncertainties, and value transformation fitting survival requirements and self-transformation potentials - including counter-conventional ones such as strict regulation of science and technology. None of the five minds proposed by Gardner takes up squarely these pressing requirements.
Nothing said disparages in any way the important contributions of the author on "multiple intelligences" and other subjects. Having learned much from other books by him, I expected much from this book. All the greater was my disappointment that he missed this missed opportunity to make a great contribution to exploring the "minds" really needed for the future and on ways to nurture them.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem