This, I believe, is critical

Published 7:05 am Wednesday, September 9, 2009

“Nonetheless, I believe that current formal education still prepares students primarily for the world of the past, rather than for possible worlds of the future—Churchill’s “empire of the mind.” — Howard Garner

I’m attempting to take on something with a little more meaning. Last week I had an appointment at the new Rochester VA clinic. I wasn’t sure what the appointment was about as I sat there waiting drinking their coffee.

A “nurse” eventually moved me down the hall to a small office with a big screen on the wall where I was told a diabetic nurse from somewhere in the VA system would talk to me about food and diabetes. Pretty soon she was on the screen, and she talked to me.

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I’d never talked to someone on a screen before or listened to someone on a screen talk to me. I knew a few things about carbohydrates, being a diabetic for years, but not as much as I should. I know they raise my blood glucose. The booklet I went through with her stated that many people think that eating table sugar will cause a greater rise in blood glucose than eating other carbohydrates. This is not the case.

I’m also good at not remembering. I think this has something to do with my age. I do, however, listen to what people have to say more than I talk.

From there I drove over by St. Marys Hospital hoping to find the little coffee shop that used to be across the street. It is no more or else I missed it. It had the black and white photograph of the woman walking by several men in Italy.

I then stopped at the Rochester Mall and spent some time in Barnes and Noble, kind of like Tom’s store was to me when I was growing up on the River Road. Tom’s store is not Tom’s anymore, across from the fairground, but betting a Cheerios ice cream bar was what I lived for.

I remember when my cousin was visiting. We were eating lunch, and he said he would walk me down to Tom’s store to get a Cheerio ice cream bar if I finished my mashed potatoes. I used my fork and completely cleaned any trace of the potatoes from my plate. Ronnie came into the dinning room and thought I hadn’t eaten any potatoes. I had to eat another serving before we walked down to Tom’s store. I wonder if they still sell Cheerios there. It’s changed hands so many times. In those days, when I was a kid, they didn’t sell gas. That came later.

Just barely into the door of Barnes and Noble Bookstore, my eye caught Howard Gardner’s new book: “5 Minds for the Future.” After skimming though the first 15 pages or so I thought this was it.

Now you may be wondering as I was what the five minds for the future were. These are they: (1) In the future, individuals who wish to thrive will need to be experts in at least one area—they will need a discipline. (2) As synthesizers, they will need to be able to gather together information from disparate sources and put it together in ways that work for themselves and can be communicated to other persons. (3) Because almost anything that can be formulated as rules will be done well by computers, rewards will go to creators—those who have constructed a box but can think outside it. (4) The world of today and tomorrow is becoming increasingly diverse, and there is no way to cordon oneself off from this diversity. Accordingly, we must respect those who differ from us as well as those with whom we have similarities. (5) Finally, as workers and as citizens, we need to be able to act ethically—to think beyond our own self-interest and to do what is right under the circumstances.

Then he asks, “How do we measure the five minds?”

My partial answer to that was to stop and get some Ginko Biloba, a herbal supplement. It says on the bottle it “may support mental sharpness”—I’ll let you know if it helps.

Jumping ahead in the book Mr. Gardner mentions his reasonable goal: “respect for others.” He tells us students take keen note of how teachers treat one another, and how they treat students—particularly those who come from non-majority groups (e.g., a religious minority or a group of recently arrived immigrants.)  This, I believe, is critical.