Saturday, September 10, 2016

Rethinking Intelligence

I have studied and taught about the unity in diversity model for church found in scripture extensively and repeatedly. (Otherwise known as the body of Christ.) Mostly because the church has done such a poor job of living up to this standard. So I am always on the lookout for possible culprits in this failure, because until we get to the heart of this issue with these things, they will not change for the better. One of the big reasons I believe is due to a lack of self-awareness in our society. Which I personally find to be a sign of a severe lack of understanding of God's design and will for his creation. While I am sure there are many reasons for this, but I have recently discovered something that deserves consideration. Something that I am calling, intellectual bias, meaning that we have a very narrow and incomplete definition of what makes someone smart. Our very own educational system is actually perpetuating this bias, and it has left many people feeling rather stupid for no good reason.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, -Romans 12:3-4

For example, IQ testing, it's been a concept that has been frequently debated and contested since it's inception. Mostly because of cultural bias', but it is also biased in a way that has impacted all cultures and races. I say this because IQ testing is built upon the assumption that there is something called, general intelligence. Which means, if you are smart in general, than you are smart in every possible way. Yet, all the research into this subject has not supported this idea at all. In reality, their findings point to seven distinct branches of intelligence, and everyone has their strong branches, as well as weak branches. How your specific branches are configured, says a lot about whom you are as a person, and whom God made you to be.

First, there is linguistic intelligence, which is one of very few of these elements found in IQ tests, and constitutes around half the focus of most college entrance exams. People with linguistic smarts are gifted in language, and have the ability to speak very fluidly, and at least come off as intelligent. But being intelligent in general, requires more than merely sounding eloquent. They also grasp grammar rules more easily than others. People with very linguistic brains when viewing the world through the Ivy League worldview may assume they are smarter in general than people with poor grammar skills, but that is not necessarily true. Their strength of mind just lies in branches other than linguistics.

Second there is logical intelligence, the ability to explore patterns, and solve problems, an analytical form of intellect. What IQ tests and college entrance exams typically define as the other half of what they think of as smart. Logical intelligence often manifests itself with strong math, and or scientific skills. Depending on weather your logic leans towards the abstract or the finite.

Third there is interpersonal intelligence. We may not think of this as a product of intelligence, however, there is far more mental analysis that goes into understanding and interacting with others than we realize. It is indeed a form of intelligence that some have, and others don't. If you have it, socializing and networking will be easy for you. The ease in which the inter-personally intelligent grasp this may cause them to assume it should be easy for everyone. Which often leads them to criticize the less social.
    While no standardized test covers this, but if you interview with an Ivy League school they will address it by asking about your extracurricular activities. Many of their business programs revolve around the idea that if you want to succeed in business, then you need to be able to convince people you have better ideas. Not produce better ideas, but convince people they are better. Which requires interpersonal intelligence.

However, our educational systems definition of a well rounded student stops here. They do not directly address any of these other elements, so if your strongest intelligence branches lie elsewhere, you just don't qualify as smart in their eyes. Even when they are teaching subjects like art and music, they typically address it from a logical standpoint, rather than an intra-personal one, as the actual artists and musicians they are studying do. This influence has infiltrated all of society, and it has left a lot of people feeling left out and without a good sense of self.

Forth there is kinesthetic intelligence, what we often call coordination. Again, there is a lot more mental analysis in this than we often give it credit. It's easier to just label these people dumb jocks since they often lack in branches of intelligence that our biased educational system considers smart. Kinesthetic intelligence is also useful in the ability to build things. While such abilities may be held in valued esteem in some circles, just not what we call so-called smart circles.

Fifth there is musical intelligence, which should be obvious enough. It really does have its own separate and distinct branch within the minds of people.  Let me use this as an example of how different branches can work together. If you are high in both musical and kinesthetic, you would probably be well suited as a technical performer. But, not necessarily a composer, which would require the intra-personal branch to complement the music branch. While the best of the best may be held in high regard, there is a lot more who live under the negative stigma of, musician, in the secular world. They are often held in higher esteem in the church, although it is very difficult to make a living via Christian music. So even if the musically intelligent have a calling for it, one may avoid it, to live up to the world’s standards.

Sixth there is spacial intelligence, which is the ability to imagine, and visualize in 3 dimensions. This is what is needed to design and create artistically. Like so many of these branches we just see them as talents with no intellectual properties to them at all, but it is just not true. One of my art professors said it best. "Art is insignificant to most people." So that makes spacial intelligence insignificant to most people, including within our educational system. A brand of intelligence that our world often discourages pursuing.

Finally, there is intra-personal intelligence, which is about self reflection, the ability to understand and analyze themselves objectively; the polar opposite of interpersonal. I think this is best-explained this way. Intra-personal intelligence is what turns a writer into a poet, rather than a journalist, or editor. This is what makes an artist an abstract expressionist, rather than an illustrator, or commercial artist.
    These are the people who could teach us the path to true self-awareness, rather than the reckless self-indulgence that the world passes off as self-aware. The people that can actually lead us toward living out the body of Christ concept. But not if they make those who have lesser skills in self awareness feel stupid. Yet, these are the same people who society looks upon with the most disdain, the people we label as shiftless dreamers. Is it any wonder there is such a lack of true self awareness when society looks down upon those who have it.

Can you see how the world has a set of bias' concerning intelligence, and the skills that go with it. Also, how the church may have its own set of bias' on the gifts and talents that come with our individual minds as well. A bias that makes sure that certain people are placed at the top of the heap, which places other people at the bottom.  Doesn't the world need all of this, not just the three branches that the Ivy League uplifts? Doesn't the church need all of this as well, shouldn't the church make room for all of this, rather that merely living by a few people's preferential ideas of what kind of Abilities are important? Where is the Christian love and humility in intellectual exclusion? Where is the body of Christ within this kind of thinking? As a multiple amputee that can't hold itself up anymore I would say. 

The Visual PARABLEist

a man concentrating so hard his mind is swelling
click to enlarge