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Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor in cognition & education, is a prolific writer whose works include the 1983 "Frames of Mind".
This book contains virtually every detailed thought Gardner's considered since conceptualizing the idea of multiple intelligences, this edition an update from 1st edition of 1993. We are told his research began in the 1970's, was nearly complete in 1980 and espoused in "Frames of Mind" in 1983, and updated herein, etc. A very brief history of early inquiries into defining and measuring IQ is given, then it extends into diverse outliers: music, bodily-kinesthetics, logical-math, linguistics, inter- and intra-personal intelligences, etc., referencing some notables (Helen Keller, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Babe Ruth, Yehudi Menuhin, Barbara McClintock) as examples and leads to three conclusions: everyone has a full range of intelligences (potentially), person to person intellectual profiles differ based on experiences, and use or abuse of abilities depends on motivations.
Gardner unabashedly claims responsibility for theory of multiple intelligences and of the fame his theory attained. MI theory holds everyone has eight or more intelligences. Gardner is a skillful writer, and delves into the meaning of intelligence (biopsychological potential), then defines giftedness, precociousness, prodigiousness, expertise & expert, creativity, and hesitantly genius, - importantly, all defined within age groups, domains and durations worked.
Gardner provides a nice definition of youth age groups and how education variously embraces their developments; how intelligences can be nurtured in his Project Spectrum. Educational goals should be "understanding": there should be balance of specialized & comprehensive knowledge. Gardner both deftly and subtly, then loudly, puts down value of standardized formal testings, and though agreeing formal testing is now cost effective, his Project Zero would introduce a more qualitatively oriented education and increase costs by 10-15% , saying the U.S. lacks the will. He declares the educational process in other countries is held in higher regard (i.e. Finland), and does not subscribe to some of the worst features of one-dimensional thinking and assessment. "In my...vision...intelligence testing...becoming unnecessary, it's waning unmourned." Gardner states tests of intelligence serve as "traps" and states the purpose of education is to educate the entire population, "for we cannot afford to waste any minds". Some of the author's commentary are futuristic and he describes: "A New Kind of Library" - one open on weekends; organized by intelligence content; allowing children to work in groups; comfortable areas so adults can sit, relax, sip coffee; and read alone or with the children.
All in all, Gardner is a polished writer, well-versed in the sport of IQ testing, and highly pleased with himself for all of his accomplishments and honors which are/have been forthcoming. In my opinion, his goal appears to rid the educational system of tests and to build a core of teaching specifically designed for each individual student (to include mentors and apprentices) so everyone has their innate potential of eight or more intelligences enhanced, and where cost and manpower do not seem to be restrictives. Mention is not made of what to do with students, and their number is increasingly huge, who neither wish nor can be forced to study. I believe encouragement and provision of appropriate learning books and devices and opportunities is very important, but many students will not study & do drop out of classes. Public schooling is not always essential: for some, home schooling is a better choice. Higher learning & graduate school costs are prohibitive to many. In fairness to Gardner we must remind ourselves his theory antedated the recession/depression era that changed a lot of rules.
All in all, this book is a good read and provides some balance to those who find "Bell Curve" racist.
The discipline of psychology, however, has been a bit less enthusiastic. They, much more than educators, demand hard evidence in order for a theory claiming to be scientific is accepted as such. Is Garnder's theory testable? If so, has it undergone such testing? Can these intelligences (including 'musical' and 'naturalistic') be measured by objective standards? If not, is it an adequate substitute to the reigning model of 'general intelligence' which, with all its flaws, IS measurable in such a way?
In this book, Gardner sets out to expand upon his 25 year old theory and, in so doing, answer some of the preceeding questions. Some will be disappointed and some will be encouraged by his answers.
The first section of the book devotes itself largely to questions of MI Theory's methodological standing.
Several chapters - particularly towards the beginning of the book - seek to answer objections to MI theory. As to the question of whether the theory can be called scientific, Gardner reluctantly answers a "no." He writes MI theory "intermediary status" between a philosophy and a predictive science. He suggests, though, that it can be put in a similar category with plate tectonics and evolution, in the sense that neither theory is a predictive sceince in a falsifiable sense (which is mistaken, as both are tested by retrodictions and, in evolution's case, also by predictions). Further, Gardner admits that designing assessments for these intelligences has proved to be more than challenging and that he has given up the search for ways to assess them.
There is, though, a chapter devoted to detailing a promising new study put together by Project Spectrum, to test elementary schoolers on these seperate intelligences. They were tested (a) to see if the intelligences are interrelated or autonomous by investigating whether high scores in any one area correlate with high scores in any other. The reports are that the intelligences are, by in large, seperate - as Gardner predicted they would be. They also tested to see whether the student's strengths on the tests were echoed by parent and teacher reports gotten independently. (There was correlation, but not so much as to be conclusive).
The section that will be most useful to my fellow educators, however, will be the second section. For roughly 80 pages, Gardner expounds on his theory and its possible uses in the field of education.
Gardner is quite famous for his 'value free' stance here. He suggests that there are many, many uses for MI theory in education. He tries both in this book and elsewuere to refrain from too much prescription, acknowledging that educators probably know better than he how to apply the work of a cognitive psychologist to schools.
However, he is passionate about two things educationally in this book. First, he is very displeased at the 'high stakes testing' mentality that has been developed of late. Like the concept of 'general intelligence,' Gardner sees this as being a very 'one-size-fits-all' way of assessing, and probably mis-assessing, knowledge.
Gardner is also very passionate about making sure that we see the 'ends' of schooling as pluralistic. Consistent with the idea of Multiple Intelligences, we must strike a balance between making sure that everyone recieve a common education and making sure that everyone is able to pursue their own strengths, interests, and proclivities to the extent possible.
It is hard to disagree with much that Gardner says, particularly in this and the next section (where he takes a look at MI theory's applicability betyond education). Even as one who is a bit skeptical of whether MI theory can ever be a scientific one (and whether there might be bettter models of Intelligence, like that of Robert Sternberg), it is difficult not to come away with much admiration for Gardner. He obviously cares about education and comes to his conclusions out of balanced and rigorous thought.
This should be read by educators and those interested in the psychology of intelligence alike.