Minds for the Third Millenium

At the beginning of the third millennium, lots of changes have taken place– changes seemingly so epochal that they may well dwarf those experienced in earlier eras. We may speak about these changes in a period dominated by the power of science and technology and the inexorability of globalization. These changes call for new educational forms and processes, enabling students to become the creators of their own lives.

In this complex and everchanging context, the traditional view on initial education and vocational training, as providing all the skills required for an entire lifetime has become obsolete. In its place, there is an ongoing need for individuals to upgrade their skills on a continuous, life long basis. Therefore, we, as educators, face a new task: preparing students for a society in which knowledge and information have a new status and in which the digital technologies have a core place.

Thus, I feel that the students should be given the opportunity to go beyond the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical approach to teaching and learning and they should be exposed to more various experiences that allow them to express what they genuinely know. This variety of learning experiences as well as the multitude of assessment possibilities, give the students the chance to show their strengths, and this is a huge boost in their self-confidence and their motivation for learning a foreign language.

Multiple theories and approaches have emerged in psychology, concerning the human mind and how to use it effectively in education. Many schools of thought have sprung, following the principles established by renowned psychologists, such as the Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, who challenged the commonly held belief that intelligence can be objectively measured and reduced to a single number or “IQ” score. Saying that intelligence has been defined too narrowly, he proposed in the book Frames of Mind (Gardner, 1993) the existence of at least eight basic intelligences. More recently, he has added the possibility of a ninth one (Gardner, 1999), namely the existentialist intelligence, concerned with the “ultimate” issues, such as the meaning of life and the nature of existence. But Gardner doesn’t include this intelligence in his list, speaking, thus of “eight and a half intelligences” (Gardner, 1999).

Thus, Garner speaks of eight basic intelligences, namely:

  • The linguistic intelligence, which he describes as the capacity to use words effectively, whether orally or in writing;
  • The logical-mathematical intelligence, which refers to the capacity to use numbers effectively) and to reason well;
  • The spatial intelligence, which encompasses the ability to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately and to perform transformations upon those perceptions;
  • The bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, which can be viewed as the expertise of using one’s whole body to express ideas and feelings and facility in using one’s hands to produce or transform things;
  • The musical intelligence, which translates in the capacity to perceive, discriminate, transform and express musical forms;
  • The intrapersonal intelligence, which deals with the self-knowledge and the ability to act adaptively on the basis of that knowledge. This intelligence includes having an accurate picture of; awareness of inner moods intentions, motivations, temperaments, and desires; and the capacity for self-discipline, self-understanding, and self-esteem;
  • The naturalist intelligence, which relates to the expertise in the recognition and the classification of the numerous species – the flora and the fauna – of an individual’s environment;
  • The interpersonal intelligence, which is the ability to perceive and make distinctions in the moods, intentions, motivations, and feelings of other people. This can include sensitivity to facial expressions, voice and gestures; the capacity of discriminating among many different kinds of interpersonal cues; and the ability to respond to those cues in some pragmatic.

This well-documented and justified belief in the existence of multiple intelligences or ”minds”, as Gardner calls them, has opened the door for so many modern approaches to teaching, with many representatives, especially in the U.S.A., such as Thomas Armstrong, James Bellanca, Herbert Puchta, Mario Rinvoluci, who wriote books based on this revolutionary theory. In his books, dr. Thomas Armstrong criticises the established view of ranking children’s performance according to the grades they get at school and he states that every child is a genius, as each person has a dominant intelligence, which he/she has developed well enough to get good results based on it. There are numerous examples of people who didn!t do well in school, but made it due to the fact that they managed to take their developed intelligences to a proficiency level, which allowed them to get outstanding results.

As the twenty-first century advances, so do the theories related to the human mind, bombarded with an explosion of information, in an era dominated by computers and robots, with technology at our fingerprints. Having established the idea of a plurality of minds, Howard Gardner goes further and postulates the necessity of mastering five minds for the future, i.e. those kinds of minds which an individual needs to nurture if he/she wants to be successful, both on a personal and a professional level. But he claims that the cultivation of these minds doesn’t fall on the shoulders of educators only, as the entire society – parents, the community, friends, and the media – must play an equally important part in the cultivation of these minds. Thus, the five minds that are necessary in the third millennium are:

1. The disciplined mind
This type of mind allows individuals to approach different fields of activity in an orderly manner, but also gives them expertise to do so. In order to successfully operate with notions and concepts pertaining to a specific field, students need to study that domain thoroughly, to approach it from different perspectives and to make pertinent judgements based on the acquired knowledge. Gardner claims that achieving a disciplined mind is an arduous process, but it no longer suffices, as more and more knowledge now lies in the space between, or in the connections across, the several disciplines. In the future, individuals will need to synthesize knowledge and how to extend it in unfamiliar and creative ways.

2. The synthesizing mind
This type of mind is absolutely essential in the maze of information readily available, creating an ability to knit information from disparate sources into a coherent whole. Gardner gives the examples of narratives, taxonomies, rules and aphorisms, metaphors and themes, complex concepts, as ways of synthesizing information. Having so many sources of information at our disposal, it is of utmost importance for students to make sense of it, to put it together in a logical way, to make connections and to ultimately link them into a whole.

3. The creating mind
Creativity is a sought after, cultivated, praised value in our globalized world. It is a concept which has been long debated upon, both in school and in society in general. Whether we speak of science or the humanities, creativity is more and more encouraged and valued, as it is the one which has the most potential for breakthroughs. Major discoveries over the years would not have been possible without this kind of mind. But there are also threats to consider, as creativity can easily be misunderstood and can lead to destruction if not used in a respectful and ethical way.

4. The respectful mind
While the first three kinds of minds deal primarily with cognitive forms, the last two deal with our relations to other human beings. In this respect, an individual needs empathy to understand how others feel, how they relate to certain actions. This kind of mind is especially important nowadays, in a world dominated by pluralism, be it racial, cultural or political. One must respect the other’s political or religious views, as differences in ideologies can often lead to conflict and chaos. Students must be well taught in these values, so as to prevent such derailings from the normality. The cultivation of emotional and social intelligences is essential in creating respect for the other’s emotions and feelings and in bridging the gap between cultures and ideologies.

5. The ethical mind
This mind ponders the nature of one’s work and the needs and desires of the society in which one lives. This kind of mind conceptualizes how workers can serve purposes that go beyond their self-interests. This is the most abstract form of mind and it incorporates such concepts as morality and good work, defined by Howard Gardner as “work that is excellent ethical and engaging for all the participants”. (Gardner, H, 2008). The cultivation of the ethical mind is, to Gardner’s view, the most difficult, as it operates with complex concepts and it touches upon the basic human characteristics.

To conclude, the human mind (or minds), is a vast territory which has been much pondered upon. Whether we are talking about developing the students’ multiple intelligences or the nurturing of the five minds for the future generations, such endeavors are worth taking as they are preparing the path for a successful life and a brilliant professional career.


Armstrong, T. 1998: Awakening Genius in the Classroom. Alexandria,Virginia: ASCD.
Bellanca, James 1994: Multiple Assessments for Multiple Intelligences. Illinois: Skylight Publishing Inc. Palatine.
Bellanca, James 2009: 200+ Active Learning Strategies and Projects for Engaging Students’ Multiple Intelligences. California: Corwin Press.
Gardner, H., 2004: Fames of Mind. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences – Twentieth Anniversary Edition. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. 1993: Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. 2008: Five Minds For The Future. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business


prof. Elena Munteanu

Colegiul Național Mircea Eliade, Reșita (Caraş-Severin) , România
Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/elena.munteanu2

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