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Challenging MI Theory

Posted By: Jamin Carson on September 6, 2005
Although the article on MI theory seems encouraging, I am still skeptical. For one, much of educational "research" can be incorrectly interpreted. In reading this article, I was struck by how vague it was. I was never told exactly what the teachers do most of the time. For example, how much instruction is geared toward a given individual's "intelligence?" These questions are crucial if we are to know if MI even exists. Moreover, most researchers in higher education are believe in constructivism--another flawed theory--and would not doubt that they would read their own desires into the "results."

But what I really want to focus on is what is true and what is false about MI theory. I think that the term "intelligences" is a misnomer. I believe that all humans share the same kind of higher level thinking: conceptual understanding. MI should more appropriately refer to the medium in which informatin about reality is taken in to the mind where conception is possible. Some people are adept at physical action so naturally they would feel more comfortable performing actions that are physical. Some are more adept at music so they would be more comfortable in that medium. However, the physical and the musical are limited in their ability to form concepts--a human's highest level of thought. Thus education should probably use the physical and musical to introduce concepts to students but ultimately at some point a student must abandon this rudimentary level of understanding form mediums that facilitate the greatest conceptual understanding.

It does not take a research study, for example, to know that one can form far more concepts with language--the linguistic intelligence--than with physical action. Thus education must aspire to the higher realm of thought that humans need most for survival, which can only come with concepts and the most conceptual medium, language. The physical intelligence, frankly, is limited to the perceptual and thus only a small part of education. Yet advocates of MI theory suggest that education should cater to each individual's preference. It should not. It should only introduce students to concepts through their senses--which include the physical and many more "intelligences"--and move to the abstract as quickly as the student is able, not remain forever on the perceptual level as if the student were a child, idiot, or caveman.

I believe that MI theory is attractive because it is democratizing, which is not a valid reason for accepting it. It is democratizing because it does not see anyone as more intelligent than another. Rather it prefers to see everyone as equally intelligent but in different ways. This is especially true of minorities and the economically disadvantaged who historically have not performed well in school. MI theory explains why. It says education has ignored their intelligence. In all likelihood this is not true. I believe that education in kindergarten begins at a level that assumes most students are on. MInorities and poor people--awho are fully capable of being on the same level as their white and richer peers--are unfortunately not on this level most of the time and thus seem to possess a "different" intelligence. They do not. And to think that they do is racism. They do possess a different level of intelligence which is not innate but culturally influenced. That is, in their culture education is a relatively new concept so their preparation for school is understandably lacking.

What education ought to do is not cater to one's "intelligence" but engage the different mediums of taking in information about reality--the five senses--and then move to the conceptual. After this is accomplished move onto more concpetual mediums like writing, reading, math, yes, the basics, which faciliate conceptual thought most. This will help student's who have historically done poorly in school, not teaching to their "intelligence."
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 Challenging MI Theory by Jamin Carson on September 6, 2005
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