Book Review

Truth, Beauty and Goodness Reframed

Educating for the Virtues in the Twenty-First Century

by Howard Gardner, Basic Books, New York, N.Y., 2011, 244 pp. with index, $25.99 hardcover


In his latest work, Truth, Beauty and Goodness: Educating for the Virtues in the Twenty-First Century, Howard Gardner addresses the question of whether certain historically accepted virtues are still valued in our society even with the growth of technology and digital media.


Gardner, the Hobbs professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, proposes that the virtues of goodness, truth and beauty remain relevant even though our current age of technological development and digital media presents an “unending diet of objects and events” to understand and evaluate.

In terms of goodness, he cites John Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Lyndon Johnson, who points out that increasing access to the latest technology might improve the ability to learn and absorb rapidly, but it does not substitute for clear vision, purpose or method. It is important to interpret the vast wells of information we can now access within the context of what is important and valuable and how we can use this knowledge positively.

Howard Gardner believes digital media poses new challenges to our conception of truth. For societies to function healthily, individuals must be able to trust one another. This means presenting information to others that is credible and factual. But with the amount of misinformation being spun in today’s media, it is, he says, a “challenge to make trustworthy judgments” about which information is truthful.

As for beauty, digital media can be used to create beautiful works of art on computers, but files can be reworked continually. The notion of a work of art remaining the same forever is no longer a given, but beauty’s prevalence remains intact.

Even though there are those who agree that truth, beauty and goodness are in a state of change, Gardner argues that, though fluid, they remain building blocks of our society and will continue to be in the future.

Reviewed by William J. Leary, professor, Ross College of Education, Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla.