It was psychologist Howard Gardner’s book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which first questioned the common psychological orthodoxy about intelligence, the intelligence quotient (IQ), and presented the revolutionary concept of Multiple Intelligences. At a time when a set of tests positioned children in a single spot on the bell curve and educators’ capacity to affect this position was seen as limited, the dawn of multiple intelligences shone a light at the end of a tunnel.
With this great recognition of our ability to enhance intelligence, the two extreme parts of the bell curve – the children with the learning difficulties and the gifted children – became the center of attention. Those two seemingly unrelated ranges of ability require the same type of attention and multiple intelligences brought hope for improvement for both.
A natural progression of that was the area of early diagnosis and early intervention. Should we diagnose learning difficulties during early childhood or will this put a label on them that is too hard to remove? Should we diagnose gifted children or will this doom them to isolation and social challenges? And once a special need is identified, should we intervene or just let nature take its course and allow the kids to “grow out of it”?
Each of the questions presents the choice between a reactive and a proactive approach. For government organizations, these questions are translated to the cost difference between the two, which then determines the approach. For teachers, however, critical time plays an important role in the choice.