Friday, April 21, 2006

Re: From Howard Gardner

----- Original Message -----

From: "Dean Lawrence R. Velvel"
To: "hgasst"
Sent: Tuesday, April 18, 2006 12:05 PM
Subject: Re: From Howard Gardner

April 18, 2006

Dear Howard:

Thanks for the email.

I have some reactions to a few points you made.

1. The overwhelming importance of the media -- which remains the case despite blogs -- makes one wish it were possible to have work done in that field, especially because the media are so largely inadequate. Perhaps people like Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach, who are very familiar with the various pros and cons, could point to others who likewise are deeply concerned. Politics is equally of importance (although, as Lincoln said, the media is even more important, since it will ultimately influence what the pols do). I can appreciate the first-blush hopelessness of finding honest, suitable pols to participate, however. (Even Diogenes might be stumped.)

2. Ever since reading Karabel's book (which I intellectually plundered for a two hour interview on MSL's Sunday morning book show on Comcast), I have been meaning to get Kabaservice's work, which Karabel mentions in several footnotes. Your email reminded me of my desire to read Kabaservice's book -- for which I thank you -- and I immediately put in a request for the book with our librarian.

3. I had no idea what the Scandinavians had done. Is there something I can read on this fascinating subject -- a book, an article, a plural number of either? You know, I come from Chicago, where there were a lot of Scandinavians, and there are those of us who, to this day, feel that when we were growing up the middle west in general, and Chicago (which we especially knew) in particular, were different in crucial ways than what we have lived with in the east for the last four decades. (Ira Berkow, the Times sportswriter, whom I knew a bit in high school, likely would be one of those who feels this way.) One wonders whether we are right and, if so, what role the Scandinavian influence might have played.

4. Despite believing that total disinterestedness is not a possibility, I nonetheless agree that disinterestedness, to the maximum extent one can achieve it, is a crucial factor. To reach maximum disinterestedness, one must, I think, have a high sense of fairness and a real desire for social justice. Our problem today is that, at least since the so-called Reagan revolution, our society has been in the grip of devil-take-the-hindmost, unregenerate, even barbaric capitalism, a capitalism that makes no allowance for the common guy, or the less fortunate person, and applauds the concept of getting every nickel you can even if your workers get precious little. This is a recipe, ultimately, for social -- and economic -- disaster. In the final analysis, Milton Friedman and his school of unregenerate capitalism have done us no favors.

I am very happy that you were willing to let me post your revised initial email and my response, and I would like to post your email of April 14th plus this response. Let me know if this is alright with you. It is an amusing thought that perhaps, if we keep this up, we might have something that in a way is tantamount to the Gary Becker/Richard Posner blog at the University of Chicago. Ours, it is humorous to think, would in a way be the liberal answer to their far more conservative work.


Larry Velvel

----- Original Message -----

From: "hgasst"
Sent: Friday, April 14, 2006 1:32 PM
Subject: From Howard Gardner

> April 14 2006
> To Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
>>From Howard Gardner
> Hi and many thanks for your communications of April 7 and 11. I must say
> that I marvel at your ability to keep up your blog and your no doubt
> extensive correspondence, in addition to running a law school and
> participating in a trial. I have all that I can do to keep up with my
> teaching, my email, and my family.
> Here are some thoughts, spurred by your notes:
> l. I agree that it will be much more difficult to introduce (or, to
> reintroduce, let's not forget Aristotle) ethical and good work
> considerations into politics than into other spheres. In our GoodWork
> Project, we have looked at nine different professional spheres. The only
> one where I remained skeptical about the value of the interviews was in
> the area of business-I felt that the CEOs whom we interviewed were so
> slick that I did not find many of them credible. I would not say the same
> about the physicians, journalists, educators, etc in our study.
> We've been encouraged to expand our study to include athletics, the media,
> and politics. I have hesitated in all three spheres, because of my
> skepticism about candor on the part of participants-a necessary component
> of our studies. I note, with some embarrassment, that these are three of
> the most powerful areas in our society, and three about which my own
> knowledge is meager and my intuitions are inadequate. Note that Arnold
> Schwarzeneger belongs to all three spheres, which probably accounts for
> his prominence.
> 2. As you probably remember, I started out as a supporter of President
> Summers, but eventually became a critic, including (to my discomfort) a
> public one. I have an analysis of his tenure, in terms of the framework
> developed by the GoodWork project. Summers came in, declaring that
> Harvard was misaligned, and that he was going to align it better. (No
> doubt he received this impression from the Corporation and was only to
> happy to amplify it himself; as he stated publicly, innumerable times,
> Harvard had not changed since the time of Charles William Eliot (sic)).
> In fact, Harvard has been pretty well aligned for a long time, for better
> and worse. In the process of his chosen mission, Summers introduced so
> much genuine mis-alignment that in the end, he had to be eased out. Dean
> Harry Lewis' analysis, both in the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION and in
> his forthcoming book, seems on the mark to me.
> 3.On trustees: I agree that it is an error to romanticize the trustees.
> They came from a narrow gamut of society and were, in various ways,
> parochial and prejudiced. Of course, I can't defend their position on
> college admissions-neither I nor many of my closest friends would have
> been admitted to Harvard College in 1961, were it not for the beginnings
> of the thaw. Still there was a certain 'disinterest' and 'concern for the
> public good' with which the best of the 'wise men' were identified, and
> its loss is a detriment for all. To Karabell's painstaking and painful
> study, we must add Kabaservice's convincing portrait of The Guardians, who
> in admirable fashion elected to weaken their own class hegemony and to
> open up the ranks to you, me, and our compatriots.
> In Alan Wolfe's forthcoming book on democracy, he talks about the
> importance for democracy of 'disinterestedness' and I agree with him. If
> no one thinks beyond his/her selfish interests, one can't have a viable
> society. A colleague whom you may know, Russell Pearce at Fordham Law,
> argues that the big change in law in the past fifty years has been the
> steady diminution of concern with the public sphere and the public good.
> And so, I am speaking more and more about 'trustworthiness'-who earns
> trust, and how can that be affirmed, lost, regained.
> 4. You may well be right that Progressivism occurred on the heels of the
> work of Grangers, William Jenninigs Bryan, etc. It is odd how the middle
> West Plains State are at the heart of what is best and worst about our
> society (see Thomas Frank on What's the Matter with Kansas? Or the issues
> that led to the Civil War) In Scandinavia, poor and freezing 100 years
> ago, barely literate farmers met at night to talk about politics, to read
> and debate Rousseau, Marx, Saint-Simon, etc., and from these modest
> beginnings the modern welfare state emerged-as I understand it.
> Good to be in touch.
> With best wishes.
> Howard Gardner
> Hobbs Professor of Education and Cognition
> Harvard Graduate School of Education
> 14 Appian Way
> Larsen Hall 201
> Cambridge, MA 02138
> Voice: 617-496-4929
> Fax: 617-496-4855
> e-mail:

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