Everyone is outstanding in his own way. One of our family’s best friends is a “special” person. This person is what many people often call “a mentally disabled person.” I am very sorry and saddened to hear or use these terms. I find them extremely offensive and also unfair and inappropriate. For us, our friend is not disabled, on the contrary, he is a gifted, a really outstanding person. It is much better than most people who consider themselves “normal” in aspects such as sincerity, affection, love, tenderness … It is true that our friend, in some kind of intelligence – such as logical-mathematical intelligence – surely it has levels well below the average; but it is also true that in other skills and competencies, he is far above the rest. So I refuse to consider him disabled.
Because everyone is outstanding and disabled at the same time, because everyone has some skills, some skills in which we are below the rest. Fortunately, everyone has some competencies quite above the average. In this sense, it is essential to understand the work of the American Harvard psychologist, Howard Gardner, (Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences in 2011), who in 1983 published his masterpiece “Multiple Intelligences”. The book, and all the theory that emanates from it, is based on the fact that there is not one intelligence but several. Gardner presents 7 types of intelligence: linguistic, logical – mathematical, corporal and kinetic, visual and spatial, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Along these lines, he criticizes the typical intelligence tests that only measure one type of them and he also totally opposes that we all be measured by the same rod.
I fully agree with Gardner; there are multiple intelligences. I am sure that each one of us has some skill, some competence or discipline in which we are really very good and we can even be better. On the contrary, in many other areas we are not skilled at all. It is what I like to illustrate in some courses and conferences with the following image:
The person on the left is the player from Real Madrid and the national team Sergio Ramos and the person on the right is the chess world champion Magnus Carlsen. I often ask my students, who do you think is smarter? The vast majority, after a few laughs, usually make it clear that, in their opinion, the chess player is much more intelligent than the soccer player. I tell them that I do not agree; I don’t know who is smarter, I just think they are both very smart in very different domains.
Because, in my opinion, we are all very intelligent, we are all very good in some discipline. We can all be outstanding, if we find that area in which we can develop all our capabilities.Understanding Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligences is essential to enhance the peculiarities of each one of us.Our duty as parents and educators is to help our children and students to discover these capacities so that they can develop them properly, as I commented in my post a few months ago”Great teachers“.
I recommend you analyze well what are your strengths, what are your natural talents and take advantage of them. Forget about your weaknesses, surely you have many, like all of us. Focus on your strengths and spend time and sacrifice on them. Only then you will be a real outstanding person in a certain discipline.
And I finish with a Howard Gardner quote that I love: “It’s not how smart you are that matters, what really counts is how you are smart”