"In view of globalization, which is here to stay, and the events of September 11and its aftermath, which were a shock to most of us, do we need to make fundamental changes in our educational goals and methods?"

Precollegiate education has been remarkably consistent over the decades: literacy in the primary years, initial mastery of a few major subject areas (math, science, history, language, perhaps in the arts) in middle and secondary school. We could take the position that we know how to do this and should just stick to our guns. I don't agree.

Because of globalization, the capacity to think across disciplines, to synthesize wide ranges of information efficiently and accurately, to deal with individuals and institutions with which one has no personal familiarity, to adjust to the continuing biological and technological revolutions, are at a far greater premium. And because of the events of September 11, we need to think much more deeply about the nature of democratic institutions and the threats to them, the role and limits of tolerance and civil liberties, the fate of scarce resources, profound gaps across religions and cultures, just to name a few.

The time has come where we need to rethink what we teach, how we teach, what young people learn on their own, how they interact, how they relate to mass culture, etc. The question we must then ask is: Do we have to continue to be reactive or can we plan proactively the education that is needed for our progeny in this new world?

Howard Gardner is Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard University at the co-author (with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and William Damon) of Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet.

John Brockman, Editor and Publisher
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