A Match for Da Vinci?
As a former teacher in the Maryland public schools, I helped to administer the annual IQ tests to hundreds of children in my 14-year-career. “Administered” is somewhat of a misnomer, because I simply monitored the 120 or so 4th graders each year as they filled in the little circles on their answer sheets and “avoided making marks on the test booklets." The tests were then sent out for scoring and back came a form reporting each child’s IQ.
But when I looked over the scores each year, I sometimes questioned the results. Children were not excused because they were not feeling well, or there was a problem at home that was upsetting them that day. Students who were not native English speakers or who had learning disabilities were lumped in with the rest. Group IQ tests, starting with the military in WWII, have a long and illustrious history of sorting folks efficiently and inexpensively for various reasons. These IQ tests were no different, and the results followed the students through their school careers. Among other uses, the magic number was consulted for placement in various programs, rather like the “Sorting Hat” in the Harry Potter books.
My psychology students here at Capitol have been learning about IQ from a new perspective. Many of them recall coloring in those little circles without knowing why, and, in most cases, never finding out what the results were. The psychology textbook discusses IQ as if it were, indeed, a stable attribute, a “given.” IQ is presented as a single number that supposedly defines how “smart” a person is, which can have significant impact on an individual’s education and career path.
However, there is an intriguing paragraph in the text, hinting at a different view of IQ-- the Theory of Multiple Intelligences proposed by Howard Gardner beginning in the 1970s.. I always devote a whole class to Gardner’s theory because I believe it gives us a more complete picture of who we are. While traditional IQ tests focus heavily on language, math, and some spatial abilities, Gardner includes those plus a broad array of aptitudes. His full list of 8 intelligences includes: linguistic, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal (people skills) and the ability to understand the world of nature.
Applying Gardner’s theory, we could agree that Mozart is an outstanding example of musical intelligence. Writing a symphony at age 8 that is still played by major orchestras 200 years later certainly counts. FDR’s and Winston Churchill’s way with words puts them at the top of the linguistic intelligence scale. For an understanding of the natural world, Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel stand out.
So during our class, students like to chime in and add their own examples. One student suggested that the Beatles should be added to the musical intelligence list. Has their music stood the test of time? Well, that depends. They don’t come close to Mozart’s 200 years, but 50 years isn’t too shabby. The 2014-15 Baltimore Symphony season includes a program devoted to Beatles music, alongside the classics. How about Stephen King and Tom Clancy as candidates for linguistic intelligence? Or Dr. Ben Carson and Michael Jordan for bodily-kinesthetic intelligence?
“What about the ‘robber barons’ of the Industrial Revolution? Where would they fit in this theory?” one student asked. Indeed, where would we put Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, or Bill Gates? Certainly, they excel at logical-mathematical abilities, and quite likely in interpersonal intelligence, too. They were masters at getting people excited about their vision and strategic plans.
A frequent question is whether anyone can stand out in all these areas. Well, Leonardo Da Vinci is often cited as a Renaissance man. He was known as an architect, engineer, painter, sculptor, mathematician, musician, inventor, anatomist, and writer. Does anyone have any modern candidates for someone who embodies outstanding ability of all or most these intelligences?