Saturday, October 01, 2005

Multiple Intelligences

Every teacher has been compelled to worship at the altar of Gardner's "Multiple Intelligences". They're a crock, but we must pay homage or we do not pass Go, do not collect our $200.

Here's an essay, one I've received permission from the author to reprint here. All bolds are mine.

Multiple Alternatives
Will Fitzhugh


It has been said, with some justice, that if one is to criticize the novel curricular suggestions and philo-sophical positions of others,there is a duty to offer alternatives. In the case of Multiple Intelligences, what seems to be called for is Multiple Alternatives.


The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, at least as filtered through the curriculum development processes in the most Social of Studies, requires attention to the Mathematical, Bodily/Kinesthetic, Visual/Spatial, Interpersonal, Verbal/Linguistic, Musical/Rhythmic and Intrapersonal Intelligences of Today’s Youth.


It should be remembered in this context, that Professor Gardner of the Harvard School of Education, called these qualities Multiple Intelligences, because, as he has said, if he had called them Talents, he would have attracted much less Attention.


While a truly sophisticated debate about the endless varieties of classroom innovation might not be out of place at what has become of our Schools of Education, it is my view that in the classroom a very different set of talents deserve cultivation.


In keeping with that view, I offer the following suggestions of Alternative Multiple Intelligences whose development should be most likely to contribute to the education of the majority of our students.


Perhaps the most important is Paying Attention Intelligence. Without paying attention, it is truly astounding how much instruction even the average student is capable of ignoring on any given day, and as the word suggests, ignoring is the primrose path to Ignorance.


Memorization Intelligence is seen as old fashioned, except when it applies to the names of music groups, sports or movie stars, and clothing or soft drink brands. Nevertheless, if students don’t remember anything, that is pretty close to the same thing as their not knowing anything. If a student is asked for the dates of the United States Civil War or the name of the first female Secretary of Labor, and she says, “I don’t remember,” that is the functional equivalent, for all practical purposes, of admitting, “I don’t know.”


Of course there is a storm of debate among professional educators, or rather between professional educators and the rest of the country, over the importance of knowledge as such, with the educators coming down on the side of correct sentiment fueled by general ignorance and propaganda, but let us put that aside for the moment.


If one can accept, at least provisionally, that some knowledge may be useful for some purpose as an outcome of education, then Recognition Intelligence and Recall Intelligence, so useful on tests of knowledge, become central as well.


When it comes to writing, I would argue, in the face of the united opposition from the National Council of Teachers of American English, that Punctuation Intelligence and Spelling Intelligence are also essential.


Another often neglected but vital talent for students is Hard Work Intelligence or Diligence Intelligence. We have so often in recent decades taught students that creativity is far more important than work, and that if they are not the smartest student in the class they should give up trying to do their academic work and fall back on their innate creativity and capacity for having fun instead. A return to emphasis on Hard Work Intelligence, where it has been tried, has led to some astonishing academic results. Jaime Escalante’s success in teaching Calculus at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles is not the only example.


It might be noted in passing that it seems very likely that if Mr. Escalante had spent more time on Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence, Intrapersonal Intelligence, and other Gardner Intelligences, his students would have done quite a bit less well on the AP Calculus Test.
But then, he was not a Social Studies Teacher.


There are many other neglected Intelligences not supported by Professor Gardner, such as Courtesy Intelligence, Time Management Intelligence, Turning in Homework Intelligence, Papers in on Time Intelligence, Seeking Extra Help Intelligence, Taking Personal Responsibility Intelligence, Asking Questions Intelligence, etc. In these cases, at least, it seems Tradition still Knows Best...

2 comments:

Suzi said...

I'm really liking the courtesy intelligence, especially after the email I got today. I wish my son had the "don't complain every time you're told to do something" intelligence. And I'd like the "always do the right thing" intelligence.

Darren said...

Write a book about them, Suzi, and your name can be written on the pantheon with Gardner's!