Origins of Intelligence

What makes a person intelligent? In Intelligence Reframed, Gardner tells us that “In traditional schools, the intelligent person could master classical languages and mathematics, particularly geometry.” (1) (Uh oh, I’m in trouble.) While in the business world, someone who finds opportunities and isn’t afraid to take risks could also be considered intelligent. (Phew, what a relief…..)  Back in the day, if you could follow orders you may have been regarded as intelligent. More recently, we’ve identified “symbol analysts” who can decipher codes, and “masters of change” who solve problems and seem to adapt well to changing environments. Apparently, we’ve been trying to figure out this intelligence thing for quite some time.

Surprisingly enough, intelligence tests have been around for thousands of years! From Chinese officials to church leaders, people have been looking for ways to determine who’s “got it.” Gardner makes a wonderful point, explaining “Despite the strong possibility that intelligence testing will remain with us indefinitely… intelligence is too important to be left to the intelligence testers.” (3) He goes on to remind us that “We must figure out how intelligence and morality can work together to create a world in which a great variety of people will want to live.” And that “… a society led by ‘smart’ people still might blow up itself or the rest of the world.” (4) Gardner completes his thought (by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson): “Character is more important than intellect.” Wow! I’m inspired!

The Bell Curve versus Emotional Intelligence provided an interesting comparison. The former seemed to focus on data that wasn’t really new (at the time of publication) and pinpointed genetic factors for intelligence differences between races, while the latter demanded recognition of people’s emotions as having an direct impact on intelligence. The first had negative connotations while the second took a much more positive approach. People’s preferences were obvious. Positivity won out.

Gardner shares three questions he feels are key when it comes to intelligence:

1) “Is intelligence singular, or are there various, relatively independent intellectual faculties?”

2) “Is intelligence (or are intelligences) predominantly inherited?”

3) “Are intelligence tests biased?”

Different groups have different opinions of course, but these questions do get you thinking. My opinion? 1) People are stronger in some ares and weaker in others. 2) You are predisposed to some extent but no doubt in control of your own actions. 3) Absolutely!

Heavy stuff guys……. And it’s only week one……

Work Cited:

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York, NY: Basic Books.


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