Wednesday 9 November 2016

In the bin

A while ago, I reported that Howard Gardner found his concept of Multiple Intelligences a bit of a mill stone round his neck. He is a smart guy, has had lots of ideas, and wanted to move on; indeed he had moved on, but people just wanted to interview him about MI. I'm a bit like that because,some years ago, multiple intelligences gave me a significant and validating insight into Me.  At an early meeting of the Home Education Network, someone had the bright idea of inviting a facilitator who did workshops on MI. We were put into pairs and given a quiz, similar to this one, which suggested that I had a high musical intelligence . . . because I whistled on the way to work, could recognise a bum note when one was played, could spell Dvorak. That was a revelation because, at school, I was labelled and self-labelled as crap at music largely because I couldn't coordinate my left hand when playing the piano.  My brother and sister were musical Naturals: able to pick out a tune on the piano after hearing it once; so I guess someone in the family had to be the musical nebbish. I've written about how I owned a musical identity after only after I left home.

Multiple Intelligence is a perennially annoying phrase because intelligence is the wrong word - talent, skill, ability would all suit better. But the idea that we are all multifacetted and different each one from another is important, if different skills are given parity of esteem. Success in school and college, which in many democracies leads to success in business or politics or the Arts, is largely predicated on being good at Maths or Language or both.  Sir Ken Robinson's famous TED talks unpicking these assumptions were made in an attempt to redress this imbalance and bow the knee to dancers and musicians as well as quants and writers. Do Schools Kill Creativity has garnered 41 million views and even the follow-up Bring on the Learning Revolution has been watched 6 million times. But even after ten years and 40 million views, I am willing to bet that Top of the Class is still defined as Best at the 3 Rs.

I am at pains to recognise The Other in my students at the Institute. It would be wholly surprising if any of them had an education more expensive than mine. But my 'know a lot' education is mostly fit only for Pub Quizzes whereas the 'intelligence' of some of our students is of practical utility both for themselves in the quest for work and for the country in its aspirations for a future as a technological nation. So the talent bins of musical, visual, verbal, numerical, dance-ical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic have utility in a way that Aries, Capricorn and Gemini emphatically do not. As Dara O'Briain has it Racism is Waaay Better Than Astrology! . . . at putting folks into bins of common ground.

Over the weekend Dau.I more or less insisted that I have a go at the Briggs-Myers personality test . . . "and get a 'freakishly accurate' description of who you are and why you do things the way you do". Well I did the test, asking petulantly "are we nearly there yet" a couple of times and had them e-mail me the results. I am, it seems, an 'Advocate' INFJ-A because of the following scores: Introverted – 54%, Intuitive – 63%, Feeling – 51%, Judging – 56%, Assertive – 55%. This means I have a lot in common with Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa . . . but also with Jon Snow, Aragorn and Galadriel.  That's nonsense. I have a lot more in common with Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Alanis Morrissette, who are, like me, all Gemini . . . and musicians.

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