Rethinking Smart

Rethinking Smart

Thursday, 11 May 2017  | Narelle - MECS Principal
As reports are presently being prepared for distribution later this term, it is perhaps a good opportunity to reflect on how our students are ‘wired’ and what might be captured in any given report. Can we really capture all that is important to us as Christian parents and Christian educators?

Intelligence, of course, is a multifaceted thing. A 2012 study of more than 100,000 people suggested that IQ alone is a poor indicator of overall intelligence. Instead, abilities like short term memory, reasoning and verbal agility together comprise that quality we describe as ‘being smart’. Roger Highfield, co-author of the study and a director at the Science Museum of London, said the findings ‘disprove once and for all the idea that a single measure of intelligence, such as IQ, is enough to capture all the differences in cognitive ability between people.’

A recently published book that applies Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is ‘8 Great Smarts – Discover and Nurture Your Child’s Intelligences’. Dr Kathy Koch specialises in exploring the different types of God-given learning abilities. Bringing a distinctly Christian worldview to bear on Gardner’s theory, she identifies the 8 smarts as music smart, word smart, number smart, people smart, self-smart, body smart, picture smart and nature smart. Koch would suggest that reframing the question from ‘how smart am I?’ to ‘how am I smart?’ can be very powerful for children. Understanding the way each child is uniquely ‘wired’ not only has the potential to affect current and future learning but can also shape potential careers and life goals.

Nurturing and recognition of diversity is expressed in the Hebrew proverb as ‘train up a child in the way that they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.’ (Proverbs 22:6) The ‘way that they should go’ suggests the way appropriate for them. It is not a uniform, ‘one size fits all’ approach. As a mother of two children, I certainly concur with the need to parent children differently depending on their unique personality and traits. Similarly, each of our classroom teachers strive to understand the learners’ specific capacities within their care, to adopt differentiated strategies and tools to foster individual growth.

Formation of the mind is not however, primarily about intellectual contemplation and conceptual mastery. While intelligence is important, learning that nurtures wisdom, and therefore shapes Godly character, is paramount. Wisdom extends beyond understanding and knowledge; it provides direction to a manner of being and a way of living. This is encapsulated in our head, heart and hand motto throughout the school.

Our scriptures have much to say on this subject. In contrast with human knowledge or understanding that can bring grief and frustration (Eccles 1:12, 2:9-11), divine wisdom given by God enables a good, satisfying life. It cannot be derived by human intelligence (Eccles 7:23); the scoffer will never find it (Prov 14:6), but God freely gives it to those who seek it (Eccles 2:26). Apostle James, the brother of Jesus, challenges us to live an honourable life, doing good works with humility that comes from wisdom. Then in James 3: 17, we read the eight virtues of Godly wisdom; ‘The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, gentle, willing to yield to others, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere.’

Rather than just focusing on the acquisition of knowledge, our educational task as a Christian school is for the formation of the whole person: intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual. Its aim is for the development of character and the learning of wisdom, all the while recognising our dependence on Christ in this process. As I meet with each new family as they enter our school, it is exciting to hear them express this desire for their children.

So next time we hear our children say in frustration ‘I’m just not smart enough to do this’ or we as parents slip into the mindset of judging our children’s ‘success’ solely on academic results, we need to rethink what being smart really means. Being smart is when we seek God’s wisdom first, recognising Jesus as the ultimate wisdom from God. It is also when we appreciate and equally value the unique gifts that God has placed in all of us.

As a community, we rightly nurture and celebrate the diversity of ‘smarts’ and talents amongst all our students.

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