Different Forms of Intelligence
How does one truly measure intelligence? In fact, CAN one measure it? The answer to that is that I am just not sure. If it is possible, then we have not found one perfect method yet and the reason is clearly that there are many different forms of intelligence. It could be that intelligence manifests itself in many different ways, ways which do not fall neatly into the standard modern modes by which we seek to measure and to assess, such as exams.
A highly intelligent person may well achieve glowing results in a public examination. However, there are many reasons why a perfectly clever, sharp-minded individual’s potential may not be truly showcased via the exam system, because (leaving aside external factors such as home environment or school circumstances) their ability is of a form that is unlikely to be revealed by this conventional means of testing. Maybe their intelligence is more clearly manifest in their speaking skills rather than on paper, or simply better applied to methodical, pain-staking long-term projects and research, rather than recall, organization and argument against the clock.
The practical logical intelligence of the electrician who, having identified an electrical issue, is able to see through the problem, understand it, and solve it is surely no less possessed of intelligence in their way than the scholar whose research alters an intellectual trend in their field.
It is a fault nowadays that intellectual or academic ability is equated with intelligence. This is flawed (and frankly quite unjust) on two counts: firstly, it would suggest that intellect equals success in the conventional examination process – manifestly wrong; and secondly, it implicitly classes other forms of ability as separate from intelligence – also wrong.
Einstein himself is a perfect illustration of the first flaw. That he failed at school has been shown to be something of a myth. However, it seems to have been true that his intelligence was strongly mathematical and scientific from an early age, failing French and shining less in subjects such as history, geography, and music (see: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2004/06/23/1115185.htm). He could not be forced into the mould of the education system in which he was growing up. Equally, I have known a fine linguist who was no scientist.
To the second point now. I have a highly intellectual and perceptive friend, with whom I have had many a fine debate, who left school at 18. Intellect is not purely for the academic in his wood-panelled study or the straight A* or 40+ IB student. The person who is interested in thinking, questioning, or debating, which they conduct with logic and clarity, can class themselves as intellectual in my opinion, no matter what their level of education. I define ‘intellect’ simply as an interest in, pleasure in or keenness for thinking about issues and bigger questions. They may not be steeped in Kant, or the Classics, but, if they are able to comment with interest and sense on issues they find interesting, then they have proven their capacity for intellectual thought. So can you measure intelligence? Well…no! Not absolutely. But to uncover it through discussion, debate, and questioning is entirely possible. Not such a revolutionary thought, however, after all, Socrates’ approach was aimed at drawing out precisely that potential in his interlocutors. Maybe we nowadays could and should learn something from that great master.