Many years ago my children were in the gifted and talented program in our local public school system, and I was involved in the association for gifted and talented students. In order to acquaint the community with the program, we held meetings at some of the schools, and invited all parents to attend. After one meeting a rather unhappy man came up to me and said, “When you label your children as gifted and talented, you’re saying that mine are dull and boring.” That stung because I didn’t feel that my children were superior to his. I simply wanted my children to have the same attention that is given to developing children who have special athletic, musical, and artistic abilities.
Shortly after the above mentioned encounter I read an article about the theory of Harvard psychology professor Howard Gardner that there are seven types of “genius.” Here are his seven categories:
- Verbal Linguistic – The ability to understand and use language well
- Numerical – The ability to perform mathematical operations well
- Spatial – This ability to see the world around us in unique and visionary ways
- Physical – The ability to perform physical tasks well – this includes athletes and artisans
- Musical – The ability to understand the elements of music and/or to perform on a musical instrument
- Intrapersonal – The ability to understand yourself and to maintain a resilience and positive attitude regardless of what life hands you
- Interpersonal – The ability to interact with others in a special – often charismatic – way
As I read the article I thought of various people who fit into those categories and realized that there are, without a doubt, many types of “genius” (Gardner now contends that there are probably more than seven), and that the children of the man who was so critical of the gifted and talented program probably never considered that his children might also be “gifted.”
When you think about it you will agree that people as diverse as Michelangelo, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton, Winston Churchill, Michael Jordan, Jane Austen, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Wolfgang Mozart all functioned at a level much higher than the norm in at least one of the above seven categories. And I think you will agree that a standard IQ test would not detect the special abilities of many of them.
We need to realize that everyone has a special gift, and that each person’s gift needs to be found and developed.
For more on this subject I recommend Howard Gardner’s books Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences and Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice as well as two articles on the internet. They are “Everybody Is a Genius,” and “Which Genius Type Is Your Child?”