Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Purpose of Schools, Intellectual Development

If we say that schools are meant to provide intellectual development, then we only mean a narrow band of intellectual development.  Schooling is dominated by what Sir Ken Robinson calls logico-deductive reasoning and memorization of an agreed-to body of knowledge.  These two skills he calls “academic intelligence.”  They are the skills that dominate our schools and are the ones which monopolize our standardized ways of testing if children are learning.  While we may agree with Sir Robinson, that academic intelligence is a very important part of intelligence, we should also agree with him that it is not the end-all and be-all of intelligence.

There are lots of other types of intelligence.  Unfortunately, these alternate forms of intelligence are given short shift by schools and valued far less than academic intelligence.  Ponder for a moment what happens in school to kids who are really good at inter-personal intelligence.  These are the ones who can talk to anybody and engage then in deep dialogue.  We punish those children for disrupting class.  The children with high levels of intra-personal intelligence (our deep ponders) most often quietly slip through the cracks and fail.

Physical intelligence may get celebrated at Friday night’s game, and this kind of intelligence may be highly honored in the social pecking systems of students, but if the athlete isn’t maintaining a “C” average in academic intelligence, then she is ineligible for the team.  Frankly, we teachers will say, “What’s the purpose of school anyway?  Athletics are extra-curricular.”  “Extra-curricular” is a great word for the way physical, musical, and artistic intelligence are both honored by schools and relegated to second-class status.  Sure, we think these talents are great, but we don’t think kids should focus on them to the detriment of academic or “real” skills that will help them get a job one day.  Art, music, sports; these are extras.