Gardner Personal Story - One Way of Making a Social Scientist

Gardner Personal Story - One Way of Making a Social Scientist

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One Way of Making a Social Scientist By Howard Gardner The fields of corporate law and social science research share one curious feature: Almost no child dreams of joining their ranks someday. A career as an athlete, movie star, physician, or even president is much easier to envision. If law is appealing, it is likely to be trial law; if research proves seductive, it is likely to be cutting-edge biology or physics. Yet here I am, at age sixty, a research psychologist for over thirty-five years who has investigated cognitive development in normal and gifted children; cognitive breakdown after brain damage; the nature of intelligence, creativity, and leadership; and the fate of professional ethics in a market-drenched society. If I had not at one point taken an academic turn, I would probably have joined a large law firm and now be contemplating retirement. What insights can I provide about my personal path? Hitler’s mission of ridding Europe of Jews had effects he could not have anticipated. I am part of the third wave of immigrants from Nazi Germany, the first two being those who fled as adults and those who escaped as children. My parents, born in Nuremberg before the First World War, came to the United States in 1938, arriving on November 9, the date of the infamous Kristallnacht in their hometown. They soon moved to the small coal-mining city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, where I was born in 1943 and my sister Marion three years later. Two events cast large shadows on my childhood. The first was the Holocaust. Like many victims of the Nazi regime, my parents did not talk about it much to my sister and me , or to acquaintances. But their perennial preoccupation was clear from the many stories I heard about individuals lucky enough to escape beforehand, the few relatives who managed somehow to survive the death camps, and the less fortunate who did not. Just recently, I came to realize that my father had led a small brigade that traced the fate of every family member in Europe or elsewhere in the Diaspora. He provided whatever aid he could. Many relatives spent many nights at our small apartment in Scranton and some even lived there for a while. The second event was the death of my older brother, Eric. Born in 1935, he arrived in America three years later without knowing any English, emerged as a precocious student, and then died before my mother’s eyes in a tragic sledding accident. My mother was pregnant with me at the time. My parents thought they had lost everything; indeed, many years later they told me they would probably have committed suicide if my mother had not been carrying me. Strangely, almost
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inexplicably to those of us living in the United States in the twenty-first century, my parents did not tell me about Eric. Probably they were just unable to. When I asked about the identity of the child whose photograph was prominently displayed around the house, I was told that he was a child “in the neighborhood.” Of course, like all children, I eventually arrived at the truth myself. There is no
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Gardner Personal Story - One Way of Making a Social Scientist

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