Multiple Intelligences Newsletter, Vol 29, No 8

June 13, 2020

Hello to MI Friends,

We are experiencing two pandemics. COVID-19 has changed our lives for months, inhibiting our actions and causing illness and death. And now a racial pandemic engulfs us. The Coronavirus is a relatively new phenomenon; it has been around less than a year and has spread exponentially for months. The racial virus, “a harmful or corrupting agency,” is even more pernicious. Racism in this country goes back 400 years; the first slaves arrived in the USA in 1619, and the protests occurring today are the result of centuries of ignorance, discrimination, and injustice.

The encouraging news in the racial pandemic is that both blacks and whites are protesting against the racist status quo. An article in the June 16 New York Times notes, “As crowds have surged through American cities to protest the killing of George Floyd, one of the striking differences from years past has been the sheer number of white people” (p. A19). Let’s hope that the outcries and protests aren’t evanescent, and that they continue as a force on reconsidering not just policing, but the expectations, rules, and laws that govern our society.

Last month I wrote about COVID-19 and I talked about the importance of formally teaching the personal intelligences and developing social-emotional learning (SEL) in schools. That’s still the case. Now our long overdue focus on diversity and equity further increases this need. We educators have an obligation to develop better people, not just stronger students, so we need to focus on teaching children how to manage their emotions, manage relationships, and solve interpersonal problems. That includes teaching them how to Embrace Diversity, one of my Formative Five success skills.

As a first step, in every school, regardless of its location, demographics, or history, there needs to be dialogue about race in society and race in schools, including your school. This won’t be easy but it’s essential. We cannot only focus on the 3 R’s and raising test scores. Before the day when students arrive, faculty members must have talked about race, done a deep dive into their current practices and attitudes, and begun to plan to talk about how issues of race, privilege, and equity can be addressed in PD session and in classrooms with students. This is a big challenge! It cannot be done in three or six hours; I suggest beginning now by convening a book group and maybe adding a day of meetings when teachers return. A valuable resource to begin this faculty discussion might be to read Robin DiAngelo’s book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. If you’re a school administrator, recognize that you cannot solve this problem alone. Consider a faculty Diversity Committee and a faculty leader as well: Why You Need A Diversity Champion. Another good resource is Avoiding Racial Equity Detours.

Finally, empathy must be at the center of our diversity efforts. We need to understand how others see and feel the world. Some of my thoughts on empathy were captured in a short video in early February at the Microsoft headquarters for their Teaching Happiness program: Tom On Empathy.

Hang in there! Our efforts are even more important in these times of tumult. Enabling students to use MI to learn and developing their personal intelligences, their SEL. will position them for success in an ever-changing world.

Thanks for reading. I’d be pleased to hear from you!

Thomas R. Hoerr, PhD
Emeritus Head of the New City School
Scholar In Residence at UM-St. Louis


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