Multiple Intelligences Newsletter, Vol 32, No 2
November 20, 2022
Greetings MI Fans,
This newsletter presents two perspectives on MI. First, I write about the hierarchy inherent in the terms “gifted” and “talented,” and argue that we need to expand how we think about “gifted” to include all of the intelligences. Special thanks to Megan Roegner, teacher of gifted students at Lindbergh High School (MO), for helping me ponder this issue. Any errors or misinterpretations, though, are mine.
The second perspective is on the value of using MI in preparing physicians, written by father-daughter team Bahram Ghaseminejad and Yasmin Ghaseminejad, in their article, Embracing Personal Intelligences through Art and Literature At the Faculty of Medicine. Yasmin, a medical student in Turkey, and her father, Bahram, the head of Kourosh Elementary School in Mehrshahr, Iran, look at the valuable role of the personal intelligences in training physicians. This article describes how many intelligences and – should – be brought into the curriculum in medical school. It is wonderfully thought-provoking (and applies to other kinds of schools and training too). Thanks to both of them for this contribution!
How is your school year going? What are your thoughts on intelligence? I would be delighted to hear from you.
Embracing all of the MI,
Thomas R. Hoerr, PhD
Facilitator of the ASCD MI Network
Gifted versus Talented???
There are eight intelligences, but usually only a couple count when “giftedness” is identified. Too often, “gifted” means smart linguistically and logically-mathematically, but “talented” means skilled in another area, one that has little to do with being smart. That is because in most U.S. K-12 educational systems, a child is identified as “gifted” based on an IQ test score, usually 130 or higher. This limits the “gifted” identification to those who are highly proficient in the scholastic intelligences. Yes, these students are gifted, but what about students who excel in the other intelligences?
Michelangelo, a phenomenal artist who possessed amazing strengths in the spatial and bodily-kinesthetic intelligences, is my avatar for this disparity. He sculpted the Pieta and David statues, painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and was an architect of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. But Michelangelo wouldn’t qualify for a gifted program today in most schools if he also didn’t have a high IQ.
To be fair, as Megan pointed out to me, most high schools provide opportunities for those who excel in other intelligences: sports teams, choir or symphony, art exhibits or dance performances, and student council, for example. But these students are termed “talented” instead of “gifted,” and that implies a lesser status. Further, too often these enrichment pathways are not available in elementary school, though “gifted” programs are present.
Contrast that exclusive scholastic definition of giftedness with the real-world talents we see soaring around us. We all know a few folks whose talents take our breath away (and likely cause some envy!). That’s the case for me, for sure.
Personally, I know Kevin, whose spatial intelligence is extraordinary, Kacy, whose personal intelligences result in amazing leadership, Chris, an excellent naturalist, Diane, a music maven, and John, who dominates every athletic endeavor he enters. But these folks’ visible and valuable talents, alone, wouldn’t give them entry to a K-12 “gifted” program. Other friends, Barbara and Terry, are characterized by their strong character and making a positive difference in the world. The lack of a “gifted” designation in school means that these talents are less likely to be formally identified and cultivated by educators.
Sure, I also know people who possess amazing strengths in the scholastic intelligences, Sarah, a published author, and Ed, a numerical master, for example. These people were identified as “gifted” in school and given challenges that increased the likelihood that they would realize their potential.
That range of ability among intelligences is typical. Most of us excel in only one or two intelligences. For example, Alex Rodriguez, a future member of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, says, “I’m a terrible singer. I feel lucky to play baseball. You can’t be gifted in everything.” Yet too many gifted programs ignore that reality by allowing access only through skill in the scholastic intelligences.
The National Association for Gifted Children doesn’t explicitly mention IQ as a criterion for “gifted,” but it says, “One test at a specific point in time should not dictate whether someone is identified as gifted.” That’s a good thing. More tests at more times would clearly work for them, and these should measure skills in every one of the intelligences. Assessments should inclusively go beyond paper & pencil tests, and include performances, presentations, and portfolios.
And the same is true for us. If we are going to talk about “gifted,” let’s apply what we know about MI and use that value-laden term when we identify extraordinarily talented musicians, athletes, gardeners, artists, and leaders, people who excel in any of the intelligences.
(Here’s an article that captures the difficulties in defining who is “gifted.” “How do you find a gifted child?” is quite interesting despite the fact that it doesn’t refer to MI.)
Embracing Personal Intelligences through Art and Literature At the Faculty of Medicine
By Bahram Ghaseminejad and Yasmin Ghaseminejad
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
– Emily Dickinson
No one can deny the importance of scholastic intelligences for success in school. Indeed, academic life strongly depends on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences to a great extent. No doubt about that, but the question is: what about the importance of personal intelligences? Are they not equally, if not more, important for success in life?
There’s much more to life and professional career than that. Success in any profession is extremely complex and requires “soft skills” in addition to the “hard skills” one works so hard to accomplish.
Medical Humanities approach is becoming an important issue in the health curriculum today. This topic is addressed at the Medical School of Izmir University of Economics, where personal intelligences and empathy are especially stressed alongside the routine specialized medical courses. (Izmir University of Economics is an establishment of Izmir Chamber of Commerce Health and Education Foundation.)
It is well-known that self-awareness, empathy, and social skills play a vital role in the life and career of a physician; for this reason, personal intelligences and SEL are covered in the curriculum under the title HSP (Human Society Planet) at this medical school. In this course – which is expanded into several semesters and broken down into one form of art in each semester – relevant works of art and literature are thoughtfully selected and offered to help raise empathy awareness of future physicians following an in-depth analysis of each work.
“We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand,” says Pablo Picasso. In Albert Camus’ words, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” The application of art and literature in medical education is noteworthy due to the personal intelligences involved in humanities. This can be the beginning of a life-long learning experience because once one is enlightened it would be hard to miss the subtle details of a masterpiece. This is carried out as part of the HSP program at the Faculty of Medicine of Izmir University of Economics.
An introduction to select novels, plays, paintings, and movies, fosters such awareness to better understand human nature and the dilemmas where a physician needs to make existential choices. Novels and short stories like The Plague (Albert Camus), The Country Doctor (Honoré de Balzac), The Sound and the Fury (William Faulkner), A Perfect Day for Bananafish (J.D. Salinger), Soldier’s Home (Ernest Hemingway), The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka), and several other world classics – in which either the protagonists are doctors or the stories portray psychological intricacies – are offered as part of the course in order to help medical students mature into physicians with strong metacognitive skills and empathy.
In The Plague, for instance, the protagonist, Dr. Bernard Rieux, constantly has to make moral choices at the time of an outbreak of a disease – a situation very similar to the circumstances during the Covid-19 pandemic. The novel is loaded with thought-provoking quotes for doctors-to-be; perhaps one of the most intriguing utterances is the following one by the protagonist at a critical moment in the life of any physician: “I have no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when all this ends. For the moment, I know this: there are sick people and they need curing.”
In the realm of drama, there are a great number of works worth analysis for medical students. An Enemy of the People (Henrik Ibsen), The Doctor’s Dilemma (George Bernard Shaw), Men in White (Sidney Kingsley), Uncle Vanya (Anton Chekhov), and The Imaginary Invalid (Molière) are only a few plays worth mentioning. In An Enemy of the People, the protagonist, Dr. Stockmann, discloses the fact that the city’s water supplies are contaminated, and is called an enemy of the people because the truth is against the interests of the mayor who has a strong influence on people.
The play reveals a doctor’s bravery against overwhelming odds; he has to make a vital choice for the good of the society though he is in the minority. In the eyes of the public, the doctor is actually the real “friend of the people” whereas he is ironically shown as the “enemy of the people.” Ibsen intends to demonstrate through drama that the decisions of a doctor are not always so easy; thus, a doctor also needs to develop the necessary soft skills to stand strong and make the right moral choices at critical times.
Analyzing visual arts like paintings is a great way to improve spatial intelligence in medical students; however, they can do much more than that if selected wisely. They can also help raise empathy awareness and develop personal intelligences in future physicians. Paintings from great masters which depict aspects of human nature and mental states are truly effective in the medical curriculum.
In Guernica, Picasso portrays war atrocities during the Spanish Civil War. This painting represents the pain and agony experienced during war. In modern art, it is recognized as “the twentieth century’s most powerful indictment against war.” Guernica is worth pondering for revealing the horror of war and its impact on human life through visual arts; this is another work of art which helps physicians to grasp a better understanding of human nature.
Another inspirational work of art, Edvard Munch’s The Scream, is considered an artistic manifestation of the alienation and anxiety of modern man – a mental state which can be extended to similar conditions experienced by the trauma caused by war, depression, forced immigration and the like. Apart from the intriguing colors and composition of the artwork which are helpful for strengthening the spatial intelligence, the mental state depicted in the painting can foster empathy to better understand similar states of mind which may be encountered or experienced by the stress of work in a physician’s career.
Inspired by seeing an old war veteran, Vincent van Gogh completed At Eternity’s Gate while he was convalescing from a mental breakdown just before his death. The man’s posture in the painting resembles the deteriorating mental health of a man – somewhat like PTSD or other kinds of trauma – another example worthy of discussion for medical students.
Movies are another effective way to help raise empathy awareness. I Am Sam (Jessie Nelson, 2001), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Miloš Forman, 1975), A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard, 2001), Awakenings (Penny Marshall, 1990), Rain Man (Barry Levinson, 1988), Patch Adams (Tom Shadyac, 1998) and Anger Management (Peter Segal, 2003), can be considered as examples of movies with psychological issues for discussion.
In I Am Sam, the dire situation of an autistic single parent – with apparently low IQ but high interpersonal intelligence – is portrayed in a materialistic unfeeling world. The protagonist, Sam (starring Sean Penn), loves his daughter and protects her to the best of his ability; however, he faces numerous challenges in a world that is unable to understand him.
In a dialog with his lawyer, Sam’s simple response is quite interesting:
Rita: “I don’t know what to call you: retarded, mentally retarded, mentally handicapped, mentally disabled, intellectually handicapped, intellectually disabled, developmentally disabled…”
Sam: “You can call me Sam.”
There’s a lot in this short response. It seems as if he means to say: “I’m not defined by my intellectual abilities. It’s not as complicated as you think. Look at me. I am Sam. A human being.”
As Sam’s daughter grows up, the court must decide if he can keep his daughter due to his low intellectual capacity. In a scene at the court, Sam’s lawyer, who seems to be maturing little by little after getting to know him better, interjects as such: “Objection! Motion to strike that from the record. It’s clear that one’s intellectual capacity has no bearing on their ability to love.”
I Am Sam is truly a must-see for any physician to gain a deeper understanding of the ordeal of people with ASD in society. The movie cinematically demonstrates Tom Hoerr’s quote on intelligence and character: “Who you are is more important than what you know.”
Well-developed interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences are especially essential in professions like medicine, which directly involve dealing with humans. As rich resources for incorporating intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences into the curriculum, art and literature are found to be powerful tools to help medical students gain a deeper insight into the complexities of human nature. Thus, while becoming academically competent in the field of medicine, medical students will also acquire the necessary “soft skills” for their career; in short, they surely shall not live in vain as professional caring physicians with solid critical thinking skills, keen powers of observation, and strong sense of empathy through art and literature.
(From Tom: Apologies to Bahram, Yasmin, and readers. Bahram sent me several artistic images to enrich their article – Guernica, The Scream, At Eternity’s Gate – and a photo from the movie, “I Am Sam.” Alas, my lack of logical-mathematical and/or spatial intelligence precluded me from inserting them. Sorry!)
Bahram Ghaseminejad holds an M.A. in English Literature and is the Head of Kourosh Elementary School, in Karaj, Iran. Yasmin Ghaseminejad is a medical student at Izmir University of Economics, in Izmir, Turkey. Readers who wish to continue the dialogue can contact Bahram at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Yasmin at email@example.com.
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