Just the questions, ma’am

And, not for the first time, there’s Howard Gardner.

‘In his new book Five Minds for the Future, he argues that the 21st century will belong to people who can think in certain ways.’ One of the five is ‘the respectful mind, which shows an appreciation of different cultures.’ Why is that called the respectful mind? Why isn’t it called the appreciative mind? Or why isn’t the explanatory phrase ‘which shows respect for different cultures’? (Because minds can’t show things, for one reason. Okay but besides that.) I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that it’s because unconditional respect for (undefined, unspecified) different cultures is slowly but steadily being made mandatory. Which is stupid, in a way – if it’s mandatory, it’s not really respect, is it, it’s just obedience or obeisance or slavishness. Extorted or required respect isn’t respect. It’s also not a kind of mind. It may be an idea or a way of behaving, but it’s not a mind.

Gardner believes that the education policies of today, which still revere rote-learning, are preparing children for the world of yesterday. He points to my digital recorder, the size of a cigarette lighter: “Something that small can contain every fact that you ever need to know. So what a waste of time it is to sit around learning facts! All the premium in the future is for people who can do things that machines can’t do yet. So, the capacity to ask a good question, rather than getting the right answer from a machine, becomes so much more important.”

Really. How can people ask good questions if they don’t know anything? What can their good questions be about? How can they even dig facts out of ‘machines’ if they don’t know anything?

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