The Multiple Intelligences Trojan Horse
I've been doing some research on various educational texts online, and I keep coming back to Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI). For an explanation of this educational theory, proposed by Harvard prof Gardner in 1983, see this website. Originally there were seven different kinds of intelligence, from linguistic to interpersonal. I believe we're now up to nine different kinds of intelligence, from "naturalist" (being especially sensitive to nature) to existential (asking deep questions about the meaning of life). You can find a chart of all these intelligences here.
The idea is that traditional schooling has focused too much on kids with logical and linguistic talents. But everyone has some dominant intelligence; teachers just have to find the right way to reach the kids. So while some kids might get fractions from a demonstration on the chalkboard, others might prefer to stack blocks of different sizes, and still others might prefer to look at a snail shell.
As an idea, there's nothing wrong with this theory. Certainly, some children are absolutely brilliant when it comes to dealing with other people, or playing sports. These skills will serve you well in life. There's also nothing wrong with the implication that all kids can learn, we just need to figure out what makes them tick.
Unfortunately, though, in reality, the theory of MI has often been used to slam educators and others who focus on gifted education as close-minded. We focus too much on IQ, which largely measures logical and linguistic intelligences. If there are nine intelligences (and who knows, why not more?), then all children can be gifted. And if all children are gifted, what's the point of gifted education? Rather than sequester the highest IQ children off from others, where they'll learn math at an accelerated pace, classrooms should embrace MI, recognizing that all the kids are learning equally, just in their own ways.
This is a problem because gifted education isn't terribly popular among the educational powers that be. It doesn't take much for a school system to decide that gifted education doesn't fit the right philosophy. So MI has become a Trojan Horse for undermining gifted education. I guess theorizing from Harvard, it's easy to forget the boredom bright children feel when they're forced to learn about, say, the former Soviet Socialist Republics by coloring a map of them. Maybe that's nurturing artistic intelligence. Or maybe it's lazy teaching with a gloss of theory put on top. Sure, all kids can learn. But boring bright kids does nothing to help the others.