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What is the theory of multiple intelligences (M.I.)?
How does this theory differ from the traditional definition of intelligence?
What do multiple intelligences have to do with my classroom?
How has M.I. theory developed since it was introduced in 1983?
Who are the critics of this theory and what do they say?
What are some benefits of using the multiple intelligences approach
in my school?

How can applying M.I. theory help students learn better?
How can I find out more about M.I. theory?



Who are the critics of this theory and what do they say?

E.D. Hirsch Jr., author of CULTURAL LITERACY: WHAT EVERY AMERICAN NEEDS TO KNOW (1988), and others have argued that multiple intelligence theory doesn't encourage educators to teach "core knowledge" -- a common collection of "essential facts that every American needs to know."

Hirsch and Gardner most recently "debated" the state of education today in the New York Times (9/11/99). Each submitted an article responding to the issue of what and how students should be taught. You can find information about the article in the M.I. Resources section of this workshop.

Responding to advocates of core cultural knowledge, Gardner proposes that the K-12 curriculum be organized around the most fundamental questions of existence. Possible courses of study that he recommends would examine in depth profound topics such as Darwin's theory of evolution and the Holocaust. In his book THE DISCIPLINED MIND: WHAT ALL STUDENTS SHOULD UNDERSTAND, Gardner writes, "students should probe with sufficient depth a manageable set of examples so that they come to see how one thinks and acts in the manner of a scientist, a geometer, an artist, an historian."

Advocates of psychometric evaluation who criticize M.I. include Linda S. Gottfredson, Richard Lynn, Hans Eysenck, and Charles Murray. Linda Gottfredson, a sociologist by training, is currently professor of educational studies at the University of Delaware. She states that most mainstream psychologists have concluded that there is such a thing as "g", or general intelligence. In other words, Gottfredson argues that all of us do differ in intelligence and this difference can be scrupulously measured.

Critics of the theory say that:

  • It's not new. Critics of multiple intelligence theory maintain that Gardner's work isn't groundbreaking -- that what he calls "intelligences" are primary abilities that educators and cognitive psychologists have always acknowledged.

  • It isn't well defined. Some critics wonder if the number of "intelligences" will continue to increase. These opposing theorists believe that notions such as bodily-kinesthetic or musical ability represent individual aptitude or talent rather than intelligence. Critics also believe that M.I. theory lacks the rigor and precision of a real science. Gardner claims that it would be impossible to guarantee a definitive list of intelligences.

  • It's culturally embedded. M.I. theory states that one's culture plays an important role in determining the strengths and weaknesses of one's intelligences. Critics counter that intelligence is revealed when an individual must confront an unfamiliar task in an unfamiliar environment.

  • It defeats National Standards. Widespread adoption of multiple intelligence pedagogy would make it difficult to compare and classify students' skills and abilities across classrooms.

  • It is impractical. Educators faced with overcrowded classrooms and lack of resources see multiple intelligence theory as utopian.
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Workshop: Tapping Into Multiple Intelligences
Explanation | Demonstration | Exploration | Implementation | Get Credit

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