Are you intelligent ?

Gordon Bateson

When my son was born, I wanted to give him the best start in life that I could. I searched everywhere for information about educating young minds. I consulted with people I knew, I visited several libraries, and I searched all over on the internet. One system I came across was based on “multiple intelligence theory”. It advised parents to stimulate all their child’s intelligences. That seemed strange to me. I had always thought intelligence was a single thing that you could measure with a single number, called an IQ number. I had never thought that one person could have multiple intelligences. I decided to find out more.

The person who first wrote about multiple intelligences was Professor Howard Gardner, from Harvard University, in his book “Frames of Mind”. He originally identified seven kinds of intelligence:

  1. Linguistic intelligence is your ability to manipulate language
  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence is your ability to manipulate numbers, symbols and graphs
  3. Musical intelligence is your ability to manipulate patterns of pitch and rhythm
  4. Visual-spatial intelligence is your ability to manipulate images
  5. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is your ability to control and move your body
  6. Interpersonal intelligence is your ability to create and maintain relationships with other people
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence is your ability to be aware of, and express your feelings

As I read about these different intelligences, I realized that my job as a father was to try to develop all these intelligences in my children. I tried to think how I could do that.

  1. to develop his language skills, I spoke to my son a lot in Japanese and English. We described things we saw and explained how things worked
  2. to develop his math skills, I challenged him with mental arithmetic problems
  3. to build his musical skills, I played the piano a lot with him. Sometimes he played the piano with me, and sometimes he danced around the room. He enjoyed it when I changed the speed, or the key, or the mood of the music
  4. it was difficult for me to develop his artistic skills , because I am very weak in this area. However, I did what I could, and we did some interesting experiments with the digital camera
  5. to build his physical coordination was simple enough. We went to the park and practiced soccer, baseball and cricket
  6. to build his interpersonal skills I arranged parties and invited friends ad relatives to visit us. This gave him a chance to meet and talk with various kinds of people of various ages
  7. to build his intrapersonal skills I often asked him to explain how he felt. Also, when we read a book together, I would ask him how he thought the characters in the book felt, and why.

The more I found out about Multiple Intelligence Theory and put it into practice everyday with my son, the more valid the theory seemed to become to me.

I started to apply the theory to my own daily life too. Each week I would try to do activities which stimulated each of my intelligences. My weekly schedule became very full – and very interesting!

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences also gave me insight into how I could help my students at university learn. I tried to design classes with activities which would allow all students to use all of their intelligences. I tried to incorporate speaking activities, drawing activities, listening activities,
musical activities, activities which require students to move around the room,
social activities and reflective activities. This gives everyone in a class a chance to use their strongest intelligence, which is always fun to do, while at the same time giving opportunities to develop weaker intelligences.

My son is about to enter Junior High School and I no longer have so much influence over what and how he studies. However, I am grateful for the chance I had to learn, with my son, about Multiple Intelligences, and I am sure it has helped us both to understand ourselves and to those around us better, and to enjoy our lives more fully.

Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind. Basic Books, 1983.

Click here to Japanese edition

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