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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Multiple Intelligences

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EasttoWest commented on the post A Vision to Die For earlier about leadership and spoke about complacency and interacted with me a bit on how those of us who are leaders help people to move from being hirelings to being owners. He mentioned something he calls Multiple Personalities Theory.  That reminded me of some thinking that I’ve done around the whole idea of what is being called Multiple Intelligence Theory.  A lot of books have now been written on this idea, but very few people have really worked to integrate it into areas where it would be helpful.  I’ve personally thought a lot about it in terms of styles of communication, particularly in worship.  Not everyone responds to a didactic style of preaching as the way of gaining knowledge.  In fact, some theorists would argue that most people don’t learn that way.  They argue that we are an aural (hearing) and oral (speaking) people who are shaped more by narrative than we are by reasoning or information download.  We are a sensing people, moved by our hearts, shaped by our passions, and certainly informed by our minds.  But how many times have people really been moved to significant action because they came to an intellectual assent?  Most often people’s hearts are moved by something they cannot clearly or fully articulate.  How do multiple intelligences fit into this?  Well, I have friend who is an artist, and we talked a fair amount about how much school growing up had been a struggle for him.  He got bad grades.  He was said to be a failure.  He was ”slower” than the other kids.  Fact is, he’s a genius.  He’s a genius, but he communicates and learns most effectively through the visual and the tactile.  Our schools - and particularly our testing - is built around one or two types of learning style that don’t accomodate the kids who have different types of intelligences - social, spatial, visual, tactile, aural, sensing, etc.  We label these kids disruptive, slow, ADD, ADHD, and whatever else you can think of.  When, in our schools, are we really going to learn to value kids for who they are and how God created them?

That brings me back to the church/ worship/ and movement in congregations idea.  I think we are stuck in a system in which we have developed particular ways of communicating that do not resonate deeply with people who learn, think, or experience the world differently.   Howard Gardner, from Harvard, is the one who began to break these ideas into the open.  He has listed the following types of MI:  Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Naturlist, Intrapersonal, Spatial, Musical, Spiritual, Existential, Moral. 

Some people are now applying these ideas to leadership, helping you to lead people differently.  (Resonant Leadership by Richard Boyatzis is one I’ve read and enjoyed, along with Primal Leadership.)  Some people are now beginning to write about spirituality this way as well.  So often we have these ways of discipleship that we tell everyone they need to do, but the reality is, they don’t work for everyone.  Your MI affects how you pray, how you connect with God, your spiritual disciplines, etc.  I’d love to explore this more, particularliy because I think a lot of people feel like second class citizens (in the world) and second class Christians (in the church) because we’ve globbed on to one particular type of learning.

I have a lot to learn here.


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