Changing Minds

October 18, 2004 1 min read

The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds
by Howard Gardner
(Harvard Business School, 288 pages, $26.95)

In his latest book, the Harvard cognitive psychologist focuses on how leaders come to change others’ often-recalcitrant minds. As will be no surprise to the many teachers familiar with Gardner’s work, his theory of multiple intelligences—ranging from linguistic and spatial to musical and interpersonal—is the key to changing minds. The skilled leader will, at the very least, know how to persuade with compelling stories (linguistic intelligence) and the sense of a shared mission (interpersonal intelligence).

Gardner describes the teacher as facing the particularly formidable challenge of changing the minds of young people whose “intuitive concepts are deeply flawed.” He or she must start by taking on misconceptions—e.g., history is made by single good or evil individuals—and then by presenting the topic in multiple ways. A teacher of the Holocaust, for example, could use narrative (the story of Anne Frank), aesthetics (artistic representations of concentration camps), and logic (an analysis of the historical events that contributed to the formulation of the “final solution”).

Gardner’s book has many virtues. But above all, it rightfully calls into question the position of those teachers convinced that there is one tried-and-true way of teaching.

—David Ruenzel