|“Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.” —John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)
Anxiety about career and an established life drives parents to put children through a restrictive and narrowly developed educational system with predefined notions of intelligence and success. If a child succeeds within predefined norms, he is considered intelligent and goes forward. If he has intelligence or skills of other kinds, these are downplayed or even discouraged and he is considered a “problem” child. Intelligence has been the subject of ongoing research and Harvard Professor Howard Gardner proposed a concept of multiple intelligences in human beings. Intelligence, according to him, is the ability to solve problems or create products of value to people in a cultural setting, contributing at a wider scale to society. He proposed a model that shows there are seven basic types of intelligence. These are:
· Visual/spatial intelligence
· Musical intelligence
· Verbal/linguistic intelligence
· Logical/mathematical intelligence
· Interpersonal intelligence
· Intrapersonal intelligence
· Bodily/kinesthetic intelligence
· In addition he also identified and classified naturalistic intelligence.
Most people in life have been conditioned to accept only a few base realities and for them anything that deviates from the norm, anything that is beyond their understanding is dismissed or negated. It takes an open mind to try and make an effort to understand the intelligence of the other person and that such attributes are worthy of respect and of an opportunity to blossom. Teachers, especially, would benefit by having their eyes—actual and inner—opened to these possibilities in the tender children before them. Parents too would benefit vastly by being able to recognize and nurture specific talents in their children according to the type of intelligence they possess.
Labelling, the way it is done today, would go away and a child might possibly feel proud of his particular type of intelligence rather than being shamed for not conforming to stereotypes.
This calls for a revolution to the age old classroom tradition, the established ways of judging individuals as being “fit” for the job and for a place in society. Success and intelligence will have to be redefined to give scope for growth of these various intelligences that might possibly lead to a new order in human society.
There are umpteen instances in Science fiction of such societies and may be with the passage of time, we will learn to accept and appreciate multiple intelligences.
Albert Einstein just about sums it up:“Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices, but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence and fulfils the duty to express the results of his thought in clear form.”