Saturday, December 29, 2007

Howard Garnder slamed again--by Dr. "g" (Arthur Jensen)

There is little doubt that Howard Gardner, and his theory of multiple intelligences, has received considerable attention from the lay public and mass media. A trip to the psychology section of any Barnes and Nobles store always finds one staring at yet another book from this prolific scholar.

Unfortunately, IMHO, his work has received more attention than it deserves, while more serious empirically based research on the structure of intelligence (e.g., psychometrcally-based CHC theory) is ignored by the popular press and public. I understand many of the reasons for the differential treatment of these two different approaches, and will not delve into this controversy in this post. I've previously posted the essence of my thoughts re: Gardner's work--which I believe does have some heuristic merit if properly conceptualized (see my prior post for my ruminations)

I just skimmed Arthur "g" Jensen's review of the book (click here)--"Howard Gardner Under Fire: The Rebel Psychologist Faces His Critics)"

As one would expect, Jensen does not have many favorable comments regarding Gardner's work nor this supposed "critique" by others. Jensen feels that the reviewers who comment on Gardner's work were largely self-selected "like-minded" folks. The significant criticism that Jensen (and most other intelligence scholars from a more empirical/psychometric tradition) have for Gardner's work is captured in the following quote (from the review):
  • " Probably many educationists with little interest in acquiring a clear understanding of scientific psychology and psychometrics have uncritically embraced Gardner's psychology out of desperation. The persistent frustration of the educational system's dealing realistically with the wide range of scholastic aptitude in the nation's schools creates a fertile ground for seemingly attractive educational nostrums. Gardner's invention of the term “multiple intelligences” capitalizes on the high valuation the public accords to the word “intelligence.” The appeal of Gardner's terminology has been parodied as the Marie Antoinette theory of schooling: if the people have no bread, let them eat cake."
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groupThink said...

Mr Jensen has the upper hand in most debates by being the only psychologist with a cool nickname :D

Kathy said...

As an educator, I have often felt in the minority when I have criticized Gardner's work. There are a plethora of books on how to incorporate the "multiple intelligences" into daily curriculum. Gardner's work seems trite and formulaic when applied to a classroom; an easy fix to complex issues faced by teachers in the classroom. I have never been an advocate of the easy fix. It is so refreshing to hear that others share my views. Gardner's work afforded educators an opportunity to look beyond the traditional ways of presenting information to our students; to open our minds to other ways to engage students. However, to claim that these are intelligences, seems beyond the pale.

Kevin McGrew said...

Kathy. Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, educators (and I worked in the schools for 10 years) often follow faddish/trendy ideas that have little empirical support. I think a key contribution of Gardner's work is support for the only one law in psychology...the law of individual differences. Unfortunately, his model of individual differences does not pass muster empirically.