Multiple Intelligences (Part 1): Welcoming the new guy

Saturday, June 9, 2012

            When I finished graduate school in education over a decade ago, Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences was already a pillar of education.  However enough  time has passed since then, that I felt the need to freshen up and read the revised and updated (2006) version.  It was well worth the read, as there is more to his theory than I’d realized.
            First, a review of the intelligences:
  • Musical
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic
  • Logical-Mathematical
  • Linguistic
  • Spatial
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal
  • Naturalist
             Those of you with a better memory than I, will note that naturalist was not in the original list.  Gardner holds up Charles Darwin as an example of someone with this sort of intelligence and describes it as an ability to distinguish between members of the same species.  Bird watchers, bug collectors, and dinosaur hunters unite!
            Gardner points out that there are two types of intellectual profiles:  searchlight and laser.  Those with a laser profile tend to be off the charts in one intelligence and show significant weaknesses in others.  Think Einstein.  In the long run, it is the achievements of people with laser intelligences that society most values.  Not to be dismissed, however, those with searchlight profiles are essential to keep society functioning.  They have strong intelligences in several areas and their weaknesses are less significant.  They make great politicians and CEO’s.
            More significant than the list, which most educators already have a handle on, and the profiles, which are interesting, are the educational implications of multiple intelligences.  When faced with a weakness in one area of intelligence, educators are left with the philosophical question:  Should we give up on the weak intelligences and instead hone the students’ strengths, or should we use the strengths to bolster the weaknesses?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.