Multiple Intelligences Newsletter, Vol 30, No 7
June 17, 2021
Dear MI Friends,
Happy summer or winter, depending upon the hemisphere in which you reside. Regardless of your latitude, I hope that you are vaccinated and life is returning to normal. I begin with an apology because this issue of Intelligence Connections, Volume 30 Number 7, is way overdue. My problem (this problem, anyway) is that I switched email platforms – twice! Moving to a new platform and then moving again was a real pain and a technological challenge.
THE POWER OF MI
Recognizing MI is understanding how problems are solved by using different intelligences. In some cases, this is obvious: Solving numerical equations uses the logical-mathematical intelligence, just as kicking a soccer ball or performing card tricks draws from the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. In these examples the problem is pretty clear: determining the correct number, scoring a goal, or fooling the audience. A different kind of problem is presented when we try to stir others’ emotions: How can we inspire? How can we elicit memories? This can be done in various ways through many intelligences, although it may not seem as obvious.
In the last two MI newsletters, for example, I cited how Blind Tom used his musical intelligence to evoke emotions, just as Amanda Gorman did through her linguistic intelligence with her poetry at President Biden’s inauguration. (I incorrectly wrote that Blind Tom composed the music in 1961, when it was 1861. Here, again, is his story: Blind Tom and here is a performance of his work: Battle of Manassas.
Occasionally, melody and words come together to create a powerful song, one that embeds in our mind and can cause us to act. “We Are the World” certainly does this and it is likely the intent of playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events.
Another example of how different intelligences can be used to solve problems is in an amazing article, “Teach Kids to Read the Images They See.” It explains how students can use their spatial intelligence to learn: Using the Spatial. Teachers, performers, politicians and sales people inform and persuade, and those who are successful use MI in communicating, even if they are unaware of the term and concept.
A CRITIQUE OF EQ AND GOLEMAN’S WORK
Over the past 40 years, a few educators have changed how we think about learning. Foremost among them is Howard Gardner and his theory of MI. Each of Gardner’s eight intelligences has equal merit; their relevance depends upon the problem to be solved. That said, I have always valued the personal intelligences because I believe that knowing yourself, tapping into your potential, understanding others, and working well in groups are skills that are integral to success in almost every setting.
The school that I led, the New City School in St. Louis, MO, publicly gave “the personals” (the intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences) our most attention, and they were the sole focus of the first page of every student’s report card. Thus, I was very pleased when Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, was published in 1992. Like Gardner, Goleman also offered a broader and more pragmatic perspective to problem solving and education than simply preparing students to do well on standardized tests. The book sold millions of copies and the term “EQ” has become common in our vocabulary, and many organizations are framed around developing EQ skills, now typically referred to as Social Emotional Learning (SEL). CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning being the most notable (casel.org).
So I was quite taken aback by the critical comments about EQ in an article, “The Repressive Politics of Emotional Intelligence,” by Merve Emre, in the April 12 e-edition of The New Yorker. Emre says, “Goleman’s version of the concept proves endlessly adaptable,” and while I find that a positive, she views it and his recommendations on EQ and leadership, to be problematic. Her comment that EQ “marries the promise of total self-actualization to the perils of absolute social deprivation” is quite telling.
I wouldn’t call learning to master your emotions working to understand others to be social deprivation (and I would absolutely never use the term absolute). She researched some of the examples Goleman cites as demonstrating a lack of EQ to show that other factors in these individuals’ lives as well as social forces had an impact on behaviors. She cites the economic malaise of the 1970’s, the beating of Rodney Hill, and how the congressional hearings on Judge Thomas failed to respect Anita Hill, for example, as examples of the context in which some of Goleman’s accounts occurred. Emre is correct in the impact of these situations, some of which reflect larger trends. But she falls short in using this to grate the ideas of EQ.
I am sure I am biased in valuing the personal intelligences and EQ because my career has focused on what we can do to help children succeed. I know the important role that these intelligences play in schools (and in life). Indeed, my adage, “Who you are is more important than what you know” is the basis for my books, The Formative Five and Taking Social Emotional Learning Schoolwide.
I have seen the power of MI, the ways it has opened up curriculum and skills for students and helped make learning joyful, and I have seen the benefits from developing students’ EQ, their personal intelligences. Emre’s comment, “…the concept of emotional intelligence also renders the emotional lives and the labor conditions of non-service workers wholly irrelevant” shows a misunderstanding of the positive role that these skills – whether call the personal intelligences, EQ, or SEL — can play in our lives. You can see the article here, and I would welcome your thoughts: Repressive Politics of EQ.
ASCD Annual Conference
If you are going to be attending the virtual ASCD Annual Conference, please stop by my session on June 23 at 1:00pm, “SEL: Building Moral and Performance Character in a Time of Uncertainty.” I will be talking about how we need to prepare students to succeed in life, not simply to do well in school. I promise that it will be interesting and useful!
THANK YOU for reading this newsletter. I appreciate your interest in MI and would be delighted to hear from you. Feel free to pass along this newsletter to colleagues or friends, and suggest that they subscribe (it’s free!).
Thomas R. Hoerr
ASCD MI Connector
This network is sponsored by ASCD as part of their effort to improve the quality of education for all children.
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You can learn about ASCD’s networks, publications, conferences, workshops, and the dialogues sponsored by ASCD at www.ascd.org. You can also register for the free, daily ASCD SmartBrief.