Friday, September 29, 2006

Multiple intelligences: lifelong garments woven on the loom of youth

Intelligence is, they say, a matter of reaching sensible conclusions on the basis of incomplete evidence, but intelligence is surely also a matter of creating. This creating may take the form of drawing a picture, writing a poem or story, writing a song – anything in fact that involves the seven multiple intelligences posited by Dr. Gardner, and many others since.

These intelligences may well have been ‘woven on the loom of youth’ – encouraged by caring parents and insightful teachers, but they may well have been ‘woven in the womb’ that is to say that some may be innate characteristics. I suppose it depends on whether you subscribe to the ‘nature’/’nurture’ view of the origins of personality traits and abilities.

Let us here subscribe to both and say that those talents that were God-given should be encouraged and added to, and those that a person has developed since childhood, possible the products and fruits of such encouragement should be further nurtured until they blossom.

Education is surely about both of these activities – encouraging what is innate and bringing on what is learned. It is about something else too – helping a child to search and find new potential intelligences.

At school, I hated Art classes, mostly because of the teacher who sat at the front of the class and only seemed to like those pupils who showed some aptitude or willingness. I mustn’t have shown any of either and so I was both ignored and ostracized, which shows a terrible failing in any teacher – only teaching those who he thinks he can teach.

In these days of talk of human rights, democratic values and universal education, it seems quite horrible that a teacher would do such a thing.

However, who can truthfully say that they never concentrate on the better, more attentive students in class? Human nature militates against it being any other way, but most teachers are aware of their failings and try to be fair in allotting their attention.

I think we must go farther than merely being fair with our time – we must create classrooms in which the young can explore in any direction rather than in ones that we teachers lay down paths to. It is in the laying down of directions, and banning others or at least not encouraging others to be followed that we do the most damage to the discovery of students’ potential multiple intelligences,
Robert L. Fielding


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