Life Desk :
Most of us have read the book 'A Beautiful Mind', or seen the movie, where a brilliant John Nash makes 'hogwash' of his personal relationships. Nash's schizophrenia was an excuse, but his aberrant brain did not stop him from formulating the 'game theory', which eventually fetched him the Nobel Prize. There are several such 'deviants' who are acknowledged for their outstanding contributions. Einstein, Edison, Da Vinci, Rodin and Graham Bell, who are also known dyslexics, are just few of the famous ones!
The theory of Multiple intelligences is a salutation to the different types of intelligences that are inherent in humans. It was conceived by Howard Gardner as an educational theory wherein he proposes that every individual exhibits a different set of intelligences and, therefore, has a unique 'cognitive profile'. This theory initially found its feet in Gardner's book, 'Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences', published in 1983.
Gardner's theory contends that the conventional definition of intelligence does little justice to the scale of human abilities.According to him, a little boy who recites the multiplication tables with precision and ease may not necessarily be more intelligent than a child who battles with it. The second child may display strength at a different level of functioning and, therefore, may learn faster through diferent methods, or he may be outstanding in a field, other than mathematics.
Gardner's Intelligence Categories
Gardner has categorized intellignce based on eight criteria:
Individuals who have a high level of this intelligence are exemplerarily good at physical activities, such as dance or sports.They learn things physically rather than through words or images. Some of the career options which best suit these people include athletics, acting, surgery and dancing.
This area deals with interaction with other people. Individuals who are bestowed with this intelligence in abundance are extroverted and will shine in team work. They communicate effectively and enjoy debates and discussions. They learn best while in a group. People with this type of intelligence excel as politicians, social workers, diplomats, managers and teachers.
This type of intelligence deals with words, either written or spoken and people who harbor this intelligence are very good at remembering words, dates and vividly telling stories. They are skilled at teaching and oration, besides mastering foreign languages with surprising ease, as they have a great verbal memory and recall, and are very good at manipulating structures and syntax.
Careers which suit people with this type of intelligence are journalism, philosophy, writing, legal affairs, teaching and politics.
This area deals with logic, numbers, deduction and reasoning. Individuals who belong to this category are very good at mathematics, computer programming, chess and a whole lot of other logical and number-related activities.They are also adept at scientific reasoning and dealing with the abstract. Careers which best suit individuals with this intelligence include scientists, doctors, engineers, mathematicians, and economists.
This intelligence deals with introspection and introverts. Those who have a high degree of this intelligence are self-reflective and are likely to indulge in thought-based pursuits, such as philosophy.They do not opt for company and often prefer to work or study alone. Writing is an excellent option for them.
This intelligence deals with vision and spatial judgment and individuals with a higher level of this intlligence are capable of visualizing and mentally manipulating objects. Their visual memory is impeccable, they boast of a great sense of direction and a commendable hand-eye co-ordination. They also have an inclination towards art.The best career options include artists, architects and engineers.
This intelligence has to do with a sense of music, rhythm and hearing and allows a person to sing, play different musical instruments and also to compose music. These people learn best through hearing. Careers that best suit these individuals include singing/muscician, music composers, instrumentalists and disc-jockeys.
This is the eighth and newest of the intelligences which was added to the original theory in 1999, but is not as widely accepted as the original ones. This area has to do with nature and nurturing. Individuals endowed with this kind of intelligence exhibit a greater sensitivity to nature and its elements.
Critics point out that this intelligence is a mere 'interest' rather than an 'intellect'.But on the other side it has been upheld as an instinct which ensured the survival of pre-historic man.
Those who have an abundance of this intelligence will do well as naturalists, scientists, conservationists, farmers and gardeners.
Gardner drew strength from cases of Autistic Savants who despite their mental handicap possessed skills involving memory, mathematics, arts or music.
It is believed, by some in the scientific world, that there is a genius in each of us which, for reasons unclear, remains latent as a result of our 'normal' intellect. In the case of these savants, exceptional skills emerged as a result of disrupted brain functioning.
Impact on Children
Schools have, traditionally, laid emphasis on the enhancement of logical, mathematical and linguistic intelligence. While the majority sail through this system without a great effort, there are those who find the going difficult. Many children, who are tagged 'learning disabled', are, however, endowed with natural gifts that allow them to excel in their 'chosen' field.
The theory of multiple intelligences strives to reform the way our schools function. It proposes that teachers step outside the norm and educate their students through music, art, outdoor activities, field trips, group learning, multimedia, introspection and so on. In this way, children learn through methods that are in harmony with their personalities.
It makes sense to realize that the theory validates what is widely known-that students learn in their own sweet way.
Impact on adults
Throughout the history of mankind there have been innumerable number of artists, musicians, designers, dancers and several others who were labeled underachievers in school. It is not often that these people were credited, for their unique way of thinking, by our traditional society.
The articulate are always highly appreciated and it is seldom that a differently-abled person is even addressed in a befitting manner.
Gardner's theory has strong implications for adult lifestyles too. Many adults find themselves wading in sub-optimal jobs that under-utilizes their best-evolved intelligences. Needless to say, if an artist was to work as an architect for a livelihood, can anyone doubt the misery of the individual? If a sea- loving man worked as a simple clerk, can hell be far behind?
The theory of multiple intelligences provides a different perspective to individual lives and allows them to utilize forgotten talents in order to lead more fulfilling lives.
Gardner's theory has not been accepted by many academicians or educationists. Some of the criticisms levelled at Gardner's theory are listed below-
· The most common criticism says that the theory is based on intuition rather than on empirical data. Intelligences, as seen by Gardner, are just talents
· Inferior performances by children in school may be justified based on the theory
· Some say that the theory is misleading in that it gives forth the impression that all humans are equally, but differently, intelligent
· A few argue that it is inappropriate to say that some people are good in some kind of intelligence and not the other. It is because popular multiple domain IQ tests (Stanford-Binet IQ test, Wechsler Adult intelligence Scale) have reaffirmed that all areas of intelligences are correlated. A person who excels in one area is often found to be good in other areas too.
Despite staunch criticisms, the theory has found favor among teachers and educators the world over. It has provided the scientific world with matter to mull over. Gardner himself refutes that all people are equally gifted; he says that there are different grades within a category of intelligence. However, he points out that the conventional definition of intelligence is not adequate to encompass all personalities. So the next time we come across a 'woolly' person, let us remember that he too could be gifted...but in a different way!