My daughter attends what I consider to be a very open-minded and progressive school. Still, they do something that as a parent has always disturbed me a bit.
They separate kids into an “intellectually gifted” class. Unfortunately, my daughter is not one who made that cut, although some of her friends from earlier grades had.
To boost her damaged self-esteem — as I am sure many other parents do in similar situations — my husband and I explained to her that “Everyone has gifts. Yours are just in different areas, like with your writing (yes, she takes after mommy!) and your artwork, and acting, and dancing.”
As it turns out, these were not just words to soothe her bruised ego. In fact according to Dr. Howard Gardner, a psychologist and professor of neuroscience from Harvard University, there may be as many as nine different and distinct “intelligence types.”
Dr. Gardner developed his theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) in 1983. According to MI, as opposed to the traditional view, human beings actually possess nine different kinds of intelligence that reflect different ways of interacting with the world.
What I find particularly interesting about the theory, is that Dr. Gardner says instead of one single intelligence, or even one of his nine types, we all possess each of the nine in different combinations. No two people have the exact same combination.
It is like our DNA or fingerprints. This would explain a lot to parents such as myself who have often found themselves saying in frustration, “I know my kid is really smart, she just doesn’t seem to do well on those standardized tests.”
GARDNER’S NINE MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES:
- Linguistic Intelligence: Is your ability to use language to express what’s on your mind and to understand other people. Writers, actors, lawyers, anyone for whom using language is important, have great linguistic intelligence.
- Logical/Mathematical Intelligence: Is your ability to understand principles of cause and effect, and work with symbols the way a scientist or mathematician does.
- Musical Rhythmic Intelligence: Is your ability to think musically; to be able to hear patterns and rhythms, manipulate and create them.
- Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence: Is your ability to use your whole body or parts of your body to problem solve. People with a great deal of this intelligence do well as athletes, or in the performing arts, particularly dancing or acting.
- Spatial Intelligence: Is your ability to represent the spatial world internally in your mind, to navigate and relate to the word around you. People with a great deal of spatial intelligence make great pilots, and sailors obviously, but also sculptors, and scientists.
- Naturalist Intelligence: Is your ability to relate to other living things and understand the natural world. Geologists, biologists, botanists, and even chefs, possess a good deal of this intelligence.
- Intrapersonal Intelligence: Is your ability to know and understand yourself; who you are, what you can do, and what your limitations are, are all part of this intelligence. People high in this kind of intelligence can do almost anything, because they are very aware of what they can, and cannot do.
- Interpersonal Intelligence: Is your ability to understand others. Teachers, clinicians, salespersons, or politicians, anyone who deals with other people, benefit from a high degree of this intelligence.
- Existential Intelligence: Is your capacity to ponder and grasp questions about life, death, and ultimate realities. People who are drawn to philosophy or religious pursuits, are high in this type of intelligence.
What is Intelligence?
For Gardner, rather than simply being a measure of cognitive ability, intelligence is:
- The ability to create an effective product or offer a service that is valued in a culture.
- A set of skills that make it possible for a person to solve problems in life.
- The potential for finding or creating solutions for problems, which involves gathering new knowledge.
I like the sound of that. And if my daughter can grow to do those things, then she will surely be “gifted,” and a gift to the world, despite her FCAT scores!