GIFTED EDUCATION NEWS-PAGE
VOLUME 9, NUMBER 3
Published by GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS; 10201 YUMA COURT;
P.O. BOX 1586; MANASSAS, VA 20108; 703-369-5017
BOOK NEWS AND REVIEWS
Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century (1999) by Howard Gardner. Basic Books, New York.
Gardner's latest book is based on the premise "that intelligence is too important to be left to intelligence testers." (p. 3). As a summary of his research and analysis during the last twenty years, this book includes his key concepts and a fascinating story of how he developed multiple intelligences theory during his graduate studies at Harvard University. His primary influences while a graduate student were Eric Erikson, Jerome Bruner, Nelson Goodman and Norman Geschwind. In Chapter 1 - "Intelligence and Individuality" - he states that psychologists and educators must design a better concept of intelligence -- one that takes into account the variety of human abilities which can be used productively in schools and the world. Gardner also emphasizes that we must address the relationship between intelligence and moral values to improve individuals and society.
This book discusses many topics that provide the reader with contemporary and historical overviews of the study of intelligence. Chapter 2 - "Before Multiple Intelligences" - provides a description of the controversy involving Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's book, The Bell Curve (1994), and the interesting ideas of Daniel Goleman described in his book, Emotional Intelligence (1995). This chapter also examines the seminal work of Binet, Terman, Guilford and Sternberg, the approaches of anthropologists concerning cultural influences on intellect, and the research conducted by neuroscientists on brain functions and intellectual capacities. Gardner concludes his historical summary by stating that intelligence is no longer the domain of psychology. Instead, many fields will help to define and measure intelligence in the new millennium.
In Chapter 3 - "The Theory of Multiple Intelligences: A Personal Perspective" - the author presents a fascinating account of how he became interested in studying intelligence and how he started developing his own theory. His background in music and the arts motivated him to study other types of abilities (e.g., those shown by painters, writers and musicians) than the traditional verbal and mathematical abilities. He also describes his research on brain damaged individuals while a graduate student in the late 1960's and during the next twenty years. This research gave him insight into the unique faculties and distinct information processing features of the brain. In this chapter, Gardner says that his conception of intelligence has changed from "the ability to solve problems or create products. . . ." to the "biopsychological potential to process information. . . ." (with emphasis on the word, potential). (pp. 33-34). He reviews eight criteria for establishing the validity of a particular intelligence from "The potential isolation by brain damage," and "An evolutionary history and evolutionary plausibility" to "Support from experimental psychological tasks," and "Support from psychometric findings."
Gardner concludes Chapter 3 by emphasizing that MI theory makes two important claims: (1) it applies to all human beings and represents a new definition of human nature; and (2) the various intelligences blend together in unique ways to produce different types of human beings. But they should not be confused with moral values, although their interplay with such values can result in human beings who are either constructive or destructive in using their abilities.
Chapter 4 - "Are There Additional Intelligences?" - and Chapter 5 - "Is There a Moral Intelligence?" - discuss the validity of adding new intelligences to the original seven. Here, Gardner presents a detailed discussion of the following candidates: naturalist, spiritual, existential and moral intelligence. By applying his eight criteria to analyzing the evidence, he concludes that the naturalist area is a valid eighth intelligence, while the existential area is a strong tentative candidate (no. 8 ½). However, he rejects both the spiritual and moral areas as not being distinct intelligences according to his criteria. What is very important for educators and parents to realize about this analysis is that Gardner accepts or rejects a candidate intelligence by applying his eight criteria in a logical-empirical manner.
Chapters 6 - "Myths and Realities about Multiple Intelligences" - and Chapter 7 - "Issues and Answers Regarding Multiple Intelligences" - address many misconceptions regarding Gardner's theory. Chapter 6 is his critique of numerous myths about MI theory such as the need for tests to measure each intelligence, whether intelligence is similar to a domain or a discipline, and whether it is the same as a learning style, a cognitive style, or a working style. In Chapter 7, he addresses many questions typically posed by teachers and parents; for example -- Is intelligence a product, a process, a style, or all of the above? Is multiple intelligences really a theory? Could it be confirmed or disconfirmed by experiment? Does brain research continue to support MI theory?
Gardner summarizes his study of highly creative individuals and outstanding leaders in Chapter 8 - "The Intelligences of Creators and Leaders." It should be noted that his conclusions regarding both of these topics are different from those of Paul Torrance on creativity and Warren Bennis concerning leadership. Gardner emphasizes that the most creative individuals have specific cognitive abilities that affect a particular domain of knowledge in a unique and innovative way; whereas great leaders apply their cognitive abilities to communicating a particular story about their vision of society, work or politics.
Chapters 9 - "Multiple Intelligences in the Schools" - and Chapter 10 - "Multiple Approaches to Understanding" - address issues that educators are most concerned with as related to applying MI theory. As Gardner stresses in Chapter 9, the traditional assessment approach of measuring and labeling children's abilities based on standardized tests is not conducive to providing the best educational environment. By applying MI theory in a manner that emphasizes individual differences and unique abilities, children can realize their potential in one, two or several of the intelligences delineated by Gardner. (He gives examples of how the Key School in Indianapolis provides a stimulating environment for developing various intelligences beyond the verbal-linguistic and mathematical varieties.) The chapter also includes an important discussion of the conditions for encouraging the use of MI theory in schools. In addition, Gardner presents the one concept which he believes is most important for a school's success -- individually configured education. (pp. 150-155). This stresses the importance of learning about each child's unique background, abilities and needs, rather than using the "uniform school" approach. Chapter 10 emphasizes teaching for understanding through the mastery of a rigorous, focused curriculum. The teacher should provide several entry points (e.g., narrational, quantitative/numerical, logical, aesthetic and hands on) for studying this curriculum based on abilities and needs. Gardner emphasizes that teaching for understanding represents his core idea regarding children's education. These ideas are described in great detail in his book, The Disciplined Mind (1999).
Chapter 11 - "Multiple Intelligences in the Wider World" - discusses the relationship between MI theory and museums, business and the workplace, while Chapter 12 - "Who Owns Intelligence?" - presents issues of applying concepts of intelligence to the modern world. Chapter 12 emphasizes that assessments of intelligence must encourage individuation. Gardner's theory is light-years ahead of those which emphasize a paper-and-pencil lockstep method for uniformly assessing a child's ability in a uniform school.
There have been many invalid criticisms of MI theory in gifted education stemming from a lack of knowledge or irrational attitudes. Some of the more commonly heard criticisms are that there is no research to support MI theory, it is another name for "learning styles" and preferences, and it represents a "dumbing down" and leveling of human abilities in the name of multiculturalism. This book is an excellent antidote for such unfounded criticisms. If you hear them coming from educators or parents of the gifted, we recommend that they be strongly encouraged to read Intelligence Reframed. Of course, it should also be read by people who want to learn more about this theory, as well as those who need to "brush-up" their understanding of MI theory. l l l
Stuart Little by E.B. White: A Tale for Stimulating the Curiosity and Imagination of Young Gifted Children
by Michael E. Walters Center for the Study of the Humanities in the Schools
"I originally did a draft that was basically a faithful version of the book. The general response from the studio was, wow, it's so literate,. . ." M. Night Shyamalan, Director of the movie version of Stuart Little, The New York Times, Dec. 25, 1999, p. C24.
Enrichment and cognitive stimulation are the main ingredients for the development of the young gifted child. It is interesting that we now have an opportunity to observe the impact of and differences between the cinematic and literary versions of a classic children's tale, Stuart Little (1945) by E.B. White. I recently presented both versions to a group of primary level gifted children. Interestingly, their preference was clear-cut. Despite the ideas of many experts on the immersion of children in electronic media such as television, video and the movies, most of the children preferred the literary-book format.
It obviously helps when a tale is written by a creative genius such as E.B. White (1899-1985). In addition, the version of Stuart Little published by HarperCollins in 1973 is splendidly presented in both the hard and paperback editions. The illustrations are by Garth Williams who also illustrated the other two classics of children's literature by E.B. White -- Charlotte's Web (1952) and The Trumpet Of The Swan (1970). These pictures have a magical quality and are an integral part of the narrative. It is the narrative that shows White's creative genius since he allows the reader to achieve what Edgar Allan Poe called, "the suspension of belief." During the entire story, my primary level gifted students viewed Stuart Little as being one of their peers. This is a modern fable of excitement, wonderment, anxiety, courage and love. It is precisely these sentiments that heighten the cognitive stimulation and enrichment which young gifted students need and seek.
The most impressive result of their reading Stuart Little is that they spontaneously wanted to produce their own story books about this mouse, creating new adventures from their imagination. The children said they found the movie version to be fun but not as exciting and interesting as the book. I believe that my recent encounter with this story should lead to serious research comparing well-crafted books with their translations into movie, video and television formats. Why young gifted children appear to prefer a well-written book should provide more understanding of the role of sensibility in giftedness.
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, February-March 2000