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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gardner at the dealership

So I’m waiting at the car dealership in Dorchester while my car is being serviced, and I don’t want to stay in the Service Department’s waiting room because the television is blaring some stupid show and I would like to get some work done. The nice service manager suggests that I take my laptop to a table in the showroom, where I would be surrounded by peace and quiet — and, of course, new Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys — or is it Mercuries?

It was definitely an improvement.

Another customer is sitting at the next table, also waiting for her car to be serviced. And she’s also working, but instead of using a computer she’s intently studying a book. I can’t really see its cover, except that the title seems to start with the word “Five.” She continues to read. I continue to type.

A chatty salesman — is there any other kind? — comes over to her and engages her in conversation. Now we get to the stereotypes: what do you expect a car salesman will talk to a customer about? Well, if it’s a male customer, you’d expect sports or of course cars, although neither would get far with me. With a female — who knows? Television? Movies? Surely not politics. How about the weather? I can’t help listening in, as they’re only 15 feet away, and anyway I’m being nosy. And the answer was...multiple intelligences, of course. Maybe that’s what you would have expected, but it wouldn’t been my guess. It turned out that the woman was a suburban English teacher (apparently another Dorchester reverse-commuter), reading Howard Gardner’s new book, Five Minds for the Future, as an assignment for a workshop. She gave the book a lukewarm endorsement (at that point, to be fair, she was only halfway through). But the interesting thing was the salesman’s extensive and reasonably thoughtful discourse on our education system and on multiple intelligences. It’s always good to bust some stereotypes every now and then.

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