Friday, November 01, 2013

Howard Gardner: Beyond IQ

Howard Gardner in 1986 (PDF). By all means, read the whole thing. I'm taking excerpts out of there to make a point.

What is the vision that led to the excitement about IQ? {in the early 1900s} ...Now intelligence seemed to be quantifiable...We had one dimension of mental ability along which we could array everyone.
I want to suggest that along with this one-dimensional view of how to assess people's minds comes a corresponding view of school, which I will call the 'uniform view'.  In the uniform school, there is a core curriculum, a set of facts that everybody should know, and very few electives.   The better students, perhaps those with the higher IQs are allowed to take courses that call upon critical reading, calculation, and thinking skills.  In the "uniform school" there are regular assessments, using paper and pencil instruments, of the IQ or SAT variety.  They yield reliable rankings of people, the best and the brightest get into the better colleges, and perhaps - but only perhaps - they will also get better rankings in life.   There is no question but that this approach works well for certain people- Harvard is eloquent testimony to that....

....Dissatisfaction with the concept of IQ and with unitary views of intelligence is fairly widespread- one thinks, for instance, of the work of L.L. Thurstone, J.P. Guilford, and other critics.  From my point of view, however these criticisms do not suffice.  The whole concept has to be challenged; in fact it has to be replaced. {emphasis added, here and later}

{While naming the seven intelligences - linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal} 

....Although I name the linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences first, it is not because I think they are the most important- in fact, I think all seven of the intelligences have equal claim to priority.  In our society, however, we have put linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, figuratively speaking, on a pedestal.  Much of our testing is based on this high valuation of verbal and mathematical skills.

....These thoughts and the critique of a universalistic view of the mind with which I began, lead to the notion of an individual-centered school, one geared to optimal understanding and development of each student's cognitive profile.  This vision stands in direct contrast to that of the uniform school that I described earlier.

....We now have the technological and human resources to implement such an individual-centered school.  Achieving it is a question of will, including the will to withstand the current enormous pressures towards uniformity and unidimensional assessments. There are strong pressures now, which you read about every day in the national and local newspapers, to compare students, to compare teachers, states, even entire countries, using one dimension or criterion, a kind of a cypto-IQ assessment.   Clearly everything I have described today stands in direct opposition to that particular view of the world.  Indeed that is my intent - to provide a ringing indictment of such one-track thinking.

I believe that in our society we suffer from three biases, which I have nicknamed "Westist", "Testist" and "Bestist"......."Testist" suggests a bias towards focusing upon those human abilities or approaches that are readily testable.  If it can't be tested, it sometimes seems, it is not worth paying attention to.....

....Perhaps if we can mobilize the full range of human intelligences, and ally them to an ethical sense, we can help to increase the likelihood of our survival on this planet, and perhaps even contribute to our thriving.