What Keeps Howard Gardner Up At Night

Developmental Psychologist
Given the destructive power of the individual in the global era, Dr. Gardner is more concerned than ever about the necessity of good work.
  • Transcript


Question: What keeps you up at night?

Howard Gardner: What keeps me up. Other than the faucet dripping…Well, I'll give an honest answer. Number one is, I sleep very well. Number two, I'm much more likely to be kept up by family kinds of problems, especially ones which I think that I should be able to solve than I can, than by cosmic problems. But what gets me to work each day -- I think that's the deeper question that you're asking -- is whether there's anything that I can do in any particular role to nudge upward the amount of good work that's done, work that's excellent, engaging and ethical. And I made a big decision five or six years ago to begin to work much more with young students, secondary students, college students, trying to get them to think about ethical issues at a time when they aren't already having to hit a payroll and do what the boss says. And I'm still feeling that way.

I've worked at three colleges, and my team has worked at many, many secondary schools all over the world. And I wouldn't at all say that we've discovered the magic way of doing it, but I'm a great believer that people cannot deal with any kind of complex issue unless they've had to engage and think about it, discuss it, role-play and so on. And when I began the Good Work Project with my colleagues, one of them, Bill Damon, said, "If I could cure cancer," Bill said, "I would." He said, "I can't. I think working in Good Work is the most important thing that I can do." And I agree with him. I think that's the most important thing that I can do, and I try to use every venue, including this one, to raise people's consciousness about it. I mean, the problem prehistorically was, people could be very bad workers, and they could destroy their society, but the rest of the planet would survive.

Now we're in it all together, you know, whether it's, you know, disease or money or human beings. We circulate all around the world. Somebody who wants to do mischief could destroy the planet, could destroy all the people on it. And unless we develop the Good Work muscle regionally, locally, nationally and internationally, there won't be a planet.

Recorded On: September 3, 2009