Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Bizarre MI practice

Ironically, as Howard Gardner is discovering more and more "intelligences," his theory is spawing more and more unintelligent behavior and practices, some bordering on child abuse.

Some time ago, James Traub of the NYT wrote a piece for The New Republic that must surely rank as one of the classics on this questionable theory. Unfortunately, the Traub article is hard to come by but can be found here. [Multiple Intelligence Disorder: Howard Gardner's campaign against logic] (Scroll down a bit).

Here is a brief excerpt on what could be called child abuse by MI:

M.I. has now spawned a burgeoning cottage industry of consultants and manual and videotapes. Several publishers have an entire sideline of Gardneriana, and I sent away for material from several of them. One of the items I received was Celebrating Multiple Intelligences, a teachers' guide written by Hoerr and his staff at the New City School, one of the most highly regarded M.I. schools.

The book consists of a series of lesson plans in the various intelligences, further divided according to the students' ages. In one exercise designed to stimulate the interpersonal intelligence, of students from the first through third grades, children form a circle and throw a ball of string back and forth, each time saying something complimentary about the recipient. The "learner outcome" is: "Children will focus on expressing positive comments to peers who they may or may not know well." Every exercise comes with "M.I. Extensions" designed to stimulate some other intelligence--write songs about the activity; play charades to illustrate the activity, and, above all, talk about how you felt about the activity. The sensitivity toward the variety of children's abilities is connected to a broader preoccupation with diversity.

In order to "look at issues of prejudice and discrimination relating to disabilities, race, gender and religion," the teachers devised an experiment in which "each child spent six hours a day being blindfolded, wearing ear plugs, sitting in a wheelchair, or having limited use of arms and hands." It lasted five days.

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