From the time they can talk, children ask a multitude of questions about the world and the people around them: Why is the sky blue? How can a tree grow from a seed? Are God and Santa Claus the same person? Around age 5, many parents hand off their children to schools for 12 years of academic oversight. At this time, kids stop asking so many questions, which Educator Neil Postman summarizes: “Children enter school as question marks and leave schools as periods.”
Our educational system focuses on particular types of intelligence: writing, reading, numbers, some science and history, and somewhat limited music, arts, and physical education. A standardized curriculum guides learning, which is assessed by standardized tests. School encourage convergence: right answers instead of challenging questions. Are standardized results any surprise?
“School’s like a factory where they make these little cell phone accessories called people.” Sam Lipsyte
The three Rs (reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmatic) may provide a good baseline, but it takes more to thrive in a complex world. These days getting information and obtaining answers are easy. What’s hard is applying information and solving problems. According to Yuval Noah Harari, author of 21 lessons for the 21st century, schools should teach the 4 Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
Based on their curriculum and assessments, schools sort children. They decide: Are you intelligent? But that’s a limited question. The better question is: How are you intelligent? Even what we call an IQ (intelligence quotient) test evaluates a narrow range.
Everyone favors certain types of intelligence, a dominant approach or innate skill set, with other aspects less developed. Schools mostly focus on verbal and mathematical skills. What happens if your dominant type doesn’t match school’s focus? A child may be labeled and marginalized as a slow learner.
Harvard professor Howard Gardner challenges the single IQ idea. He proposes a theory of multiple intelligences, each representing different ways of processing information. Verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical correspond to the ways most schools expect students to learn, but Multiple Intelligences theory recognizes different aptitudes. If you want to test your multiple intelligences, you can find free self-assessments online for yourself or children.
- Verbal-linguistic intelligence refers to an individual’s ability to analyze information and produce work that involves oral and written language, such as speeches, books, and emails.
- Logical-mathematical intelligence describes the ability to develop equations and proofs, make calculations, and solve abstract problems.
- Visual-spatial intelligence allows people to comprehend maps and other types of graphical information.
- Musical intelligence enables individuals to produce and make meaning of different types of sound.
- Naturalistic intelligence refers to the ability to identify and distinguish among different types of plants, animals, and weather formations found in the natural world.
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence entails using one’s own body to create products or solve problems.
- Interpersonal intelligence reflects an ability to recognize and understand other people’s moods, desires, motivations, and intentions.
- Intrapersonal intelligence refers to people’s ability to recognize and assess those same characteristics within themselves.*
What is your superpower? It may not be something that is emphasized in elementary and secondary education. Failing to discern or ignoring our specific intelligence or learning styles can result in a human resources crisis.
This is part three of a multi-part series on education.
© Joan S Grey, 31 MAY 19
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