Which You, Which Intelligence?

In 22703638, Brain, Daniel Goleman, Intelligence, Psychology, Psychology of Success, Success, TED Conference on August 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm


By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

Intelligence: a) ability to learn or understand from experience: ability to acquire and retain knowledge; mental ability  b) the ability to respond quickly and successfully to a new situation; use of the faculty of reason in solving problems, directing conduct c) measured success in using these abilities to perform certain tasks —- Webster’s New World Dictionary

From the title it seems as if I will be talking about probable universes or alternate realities. But I’m not. Instead I will be talking about an issue that is dear to us all. That is, what are our talents and how can we benefit from them?

Sir Ken Robinson, in an very entertaining address to the TED conference, stated that “schools kill creativity.” His main argument was that educators focus so much on reading, writing and arithmetic that other talents children have are left underdeveloped or completely ignored. This is an argument that has gained more weight with the increased shift to standardized testing from 2001 to 2008 in the United States.

Yet, not every child has an interest or motivation to excel in reading, writing and mathematics. Their interests lie elsewhere. This is where intelligence comes into the discussion. There are many academics who have argued that there are more than one type. Psychologist Daniel Goleman is one of them and has made a career of his promotion of social and emotional intelligence and how important they are to overall success in careers and relationships. Another is Howard Gardener whose promotion of multiple intelligences (MI) has helped create a movement of educators pushing for a more well rounded system of education that addresses the different ways in which people can express their intelligence.

Gardner, in an article in the Scientific American,  A Multiplicity of Intelligences, describes 8 major intelligences. They are:

1. Linguistic (Linguist, Writer, Comedian)

2. Logical – Mathematical (Scientist, Engineer)

3. Musical (Musician, Songwriter, Singer)

4. Spatial (Architect, Interior Decorator)

5. Bodily-Kinesthetic (Wrestler, Tennis Player, Coach)

6. Interpersonal (Facilitator, Counselor, Educators)

7. Intrapersonal (Therapists, Psychologists, Communication Experts) and

8. Naturalist (Birdwatcher, Conservationists)

As readers well know, although most schools focus heavily on Linguistic and Logical-Mathematical Intelligences, many people make their living using the other six listed. In fact, many professions or jobs require a combination of two or more types of intelligence.

Academics such as Robinson, Goleman, Gardener and others argue that ignoring our intelligence in different areas is detrimental to our development. My own argument is that our world is enriched by our ability to enjoy sports and recreational pursuits; our ability to converse with others; and to create art, music and beautiful structures for us to enjoy.

Are you ignoring an intelligence that could impact our world and could bring you success?

What are your thoughts?

  1. I agree with schools focusing more on reading, writing and arithmetic. I believe that there are enough opportunities available in the world that schools shouldn’t waste money on the numerous interests that children have. I mean, how do we decide what intelligence would be worthy of being addressed as opposed to others?

  2. JHeron,

    I disagree. There are so many different ways that people will express their intelligence or creativity as adults. I think they and our communities will be well served if they are allowed to develop talents that they are more likely to use and do not have to spend so much time trying to develop them as adults.

    Many of the programs that are currently being cut from school curriculums already deal with some of the intelligences listed in the post. Art classes, P.E. programs and athletics, music programs, drafting classes, etc., were already present in many schools and children took advantage of them.

  3. I almost wouldn’t mind that they focus on reading, writing and arithmetic if it taught them to think rather than memorize and regurgitate.

  4. Great point! We have so much ready access to information as it is. In many cases I would say that educators are following tradition more than anything else. I’m guilty of it at times in the classes I teach but I am always trying to replace that approach with more useful methods.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: