Education as the Cultivation of Intelligence

By Michael E. Martinez | Go to book overview

Preface

For many people, the word intelligence has a negative ring. The neat rank ordering of human beings implied by the word sounds ungenerous, confining to human potential, and possibly racist. Intelligence -- at least as measured by IQ -- dismisses the marvelous variation among people by forcing multiplied uniqueness into a single sterile number. How can that be right?

To me, however, the word intelligence has positive associations. It speaks of human potential and accomplishment. Intelligence helps explain why civilizations, cultures, inventions, and creative works of all kinds exist. Even so, intelligence is largely a mystery -- but one that, if revealed, might unlock further creative and intellectual energies. Perhaps counter intuitively, a fuller understanding of intelligence might also address and help correct social inequities.

Does hope truly reside in intelligence? To test the possibility, we must appraise the research literature on the subject. We must also consider what role genetics plays in intelligence. That is the purpose of this book. My conclusion might seem paradoxical: Although genetics has an undeniable role in intelligence, heritability values do not impose limits on intelligence for individuals or societies. Instead, it is experience that is crucial in the formation of intelligence. This means that intelligence is learnable, and it is the quality of experience that determines the efficiency and effectiveness by which intelligence is learned. I will propose that education be redefined as all experiences that contribute to the formation of intelligence.

These themes are developed as follows: Part I of the book presents my claim that intelligence is important to valued social outcomes, and more so now than ever before in history. Part II addresses the question: What is intelligence? In this section, I present major and minor theories, some of which trace back to the late 1800s, others of which have emerged only in the last decade or two. The pivotal claim of this book -- that intelligence is developed through experience -- is exposited in Part III. In Part IV, the book concludes with a discussion of the implications of learnable intelligence for society.

Conventional beliefs about intelligence have too long been oppressors of the human spirit and antagonists of dignity and human potential. It is now time to see intelligence as a liberator -- as a marvelously rich entity that helps explain the uniqueness of our species. To appreciate intelligence more fully is, I believe, to see a brighter future for all. It is to see possibilities for human expression as rolling forward indefinitely, proceeding in pleasing directions -- possibilities whose hazy outlines we can barely perceive.

-ix-

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