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Multiple Intelligences Revisited

January 26, 2010

I’m taking a class at the University of Hawaii-Hilo this semester that requires reading Stephen Covey’s The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness.

I admit, I tend to be just a bit of a cynic about books/websites/conferences that tend toward the self-help or “power of positive thinking” genre, so I wasn’t particularly excited when I realized that this book was part of the curriculum for this class.  But, I decided to keep an open mind and give it a try.  We’re a couple of weeks in, and so far, so good.  I’m still reading, and I’m definitely being challenged.

In Chapter 4, “Discover Your Voice,” Covey’s concept of the “four intelligences” is presented.  He puts it this way:

Corresponding to these four parts (of our nature:  body, mind, heart, spirit)…are four intelligences…that all of us possess.  Our physical intelligence, our mental intelligence, our emotional intelligence and our spiritual intelligence (adapted from The 8th Habit, pg 50).

This reminds me of a list of intelligences I had to learn many years ago for an educational psychology class.  The list was created by Dr. Howard Gardner and, at the time, included seven categories of intelligence.  (Covey mentions Gardner, but does not expand on his idea of multiple intelligences.)  A quick web search today revealed that Gardner has added (or is considering adding?) an eighth category.  Here’s his list:

  1. Bodily-kinesthetic
  2. Interpersonal
  3. Verbal-linguistic
  4. Logical-mathematical
  5. Intrapersonal
  6. Visual-spatial
  7. Musical
  8. Naturalistic

I realize that there is an ongoing debate about Gardner’s views.  But, I think that there is too much good in these approaches to let that good get lost in an academic quagmire.  Simply put, both of these perspectives (Covey’s and Gardner’s) remind us that it’s not enough to be “book-smart.”  Not enough to “master the material.”  Not enough, if the other intelligences are ignored or neglected.

I take two lessons away from the “multiple intelligences” approach.  First, I’m reminded of my own need to find balance, giving each part of “me” an appropriate amount of attention.  Second, I’m reminded to be very careful about judging other people when their strengths (or struggles) lie in a different area than I might expect.  That was a great lesson for me when I was teaching…and I’m glad this reading assignment has brought it to my attention again!

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