I have chosen to discuss Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner says that intelligence is the ability of a person to understand the world around them and also to solve all kinds of issues including environmental, cultural social ones. According to his theory, "we have eight different forms of intelligence, each relatively independent from the others: musical, bodily, kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, linguistic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic"(367). There is also the 9th intelligence that he presents. It is the ability to be sensitive to have a deeper devotion to understanding the tenets of human existence. This intelligence goes on to think about issues revolving around life, the meaning of it and where it originates. Other educational and psychological fields do not agree with Gardner in totality because they argue that his definition on “multiple intelligence” is too broad. Others say that the eight intelligences merely show talents that people possess. Even so, it is true that different individuals exhibit different levels of intelligences and, therefore, different ways of reasoning and doing things.
After recently including the naturalistic intelligence (ability to connect with natural objects and sensitivity towards environmental issues) between the different shades of intelligence, Gardner is considering a ninth: "the existential intelligence", intended as the human tendency to rise and reflect on fundamental questions favoring only the rational aspect of the individual and his skills in identity and understanding the meaning of life as: bodily, imaginative, intuitive, ethical and spiritual, which makes the complex totality of our being. The 9th intelligence seeks answers for questions that are beyond human definition. The answers to these questions are rather personal because every person finds an answer to what they perceive life to be because of the way they understand or view it. Through the 9th theory of intelligence, Gardner offers an insight into the rational characteristic of the human mind. One thing that stands out is the fact that this intelligence offers an open ended perspective to issues that do not have definite answers.
There are many view points from which to look at Gardner’s ideology on the 9th intelligence. Her, I will present my view point
The majority of schools always emphasize the linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence (reading, writing, mathematics and English). How do we then assess students who have developed other intelligences? I often saw parents who do not know what to think of their children who continue to get bad grades in school. When I see bright young boys and girls bored try to find their way and be accepted, not judged. Who knows what intelligence they have developed? They are judged as incompetent and with time they will also believe to be hopeless. If we can all develop our various intelligences, if we put in the appropriate conditions, it will mean that today's education system needs to be revolutionized.
Gardner insists on the fact that his theory only provides a frame of reference for education, which needs to be adapted to different contexts and cultures and it is necessary to find a sustainable application consistent with the different environments.
There are some people who feel that the theory leaves some doubts about the consistency of the term "intelligence." There are questions that come up with regard to this and some of them are, “Are all intelligences distinct from one another? Can we not just suppose people have "talents" rather than multiple intelligences?”
In this respect Gardner's explains: "I can identify a number of crucial turning points in this investigation [on the optimal classification of human abilities, Gardner investigation leads to the formulation of his theory]. I do not remember when it happened, but at some point I decided to call these abilities "multiple intelligences" rather than abilities or gifts. This seemingly minor lexical change proved to be very important and I am sure that if I would have wrote a book called "The Seven Talents" would not have received the attention of Frames of Mind. "(Gardner 2003).
But the education community has thrown in their criticism on the credibility of Gardener’s sentiments. Some educationists argue that the MI theory is set to dumb down the set curriculum and instead makes all children believe that they are naturally smart. The feel good attitude will make most children loose the need to put an extra effort in studying (Barnett, Ceci & Williams 2006). Others also say that there is no solid research has been conducted on the whole issue and, therefore, there is no specific way that one can support that multiple intelligence exists in the classroom. It has not yet been proven that it exists.
Psychologists, on the other hand, have not agreed in totality to the assumptions put forth by Gardner in support of his claims. They claim that the theory lacks the empirical data that can support it. No tests have been conducted to ascertain that there indeed exist eight autonomous intelligences. I believe that there is no enough evidence and studies that can prove, beyond reasonable doubt that indeed, MI exist.
Traditional psychology sees intelligence as a set of skills. As the ability to solve problems (i.e. the capacity to reason using logical processes, establish connections, be flexible), verbal ability (the ability to speak clearly, have a good vocabulary) combined with a good social competence. Individuals are assessed based on these factors.
Individual's "abilities" or "intelligences" are diverse, and they should not only be recognized but valued. Individuals should be stimulated to make the best use of their skills. In this context, the assessment of intelligence should then respond to the question: "How smart are you? I think far more productive and motivating.
In this paper I have considered the theory of multiple intelligences as defined by Howard Gardner, in particular to reflect on the validity and practical applicability. It seems that, in spite of the enormous success among educators, very little scientific evidence was found to support the validity of this theory. Much of the studies that have been conducted on the same point to one hindrance, that of lack of enough prove and data to show that indeed the intelligences exist. He favors rational thinking something that he has not fully found factual claims to support.
However, educators and psychologists need to put the theory to test to prove the claims, and if it fails to prove Garner’s sentiments right, then their judgment will become agreeable. Until then, it remains a theory that should be put to test to check whether it stands the test of time. On matters empirical data, it is good that it is tested in an effort to find out its applicability.
Individual's innate abilities do not translate into actual intelligence without stimulation from the environment, and therefore an environment devoid of stimuli can inhibit growth. Education, according to Gardner, should be "shaped" and accustomed to different intelligences and instead of ignoring diversity and demand that all individuals have the same kind of mind, efforts should be made so that everyone can get the right education to maximize their own potential.
Everyone exhibits different levels of intelligences and, therefore, different ways of reasoning and doing things. So if we want everyone to have the same opportunities, it is necessary to put aside the belief that we are all equal and consider the diversity and uniqueness of each individual. Unfortunately today's schools would not be able to withstand such evolution.
Gardener, H. (2011). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Third Edition. New York: Basic Books.
Barnett, S. M., Ceci, S. J., & Williams, W. M. (2006). Is the ability to make a bacon sandwich a mark of intelligence? and other issues: Some reflections on Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. In J. A. Schaler (Ed.), Howard Gardner under fire: The rebel psychologist faces his critics (pp. 95- 114). Chicago: Open Court.