Ramadan Reflection Day 19: A Case for Diverse Intelligence

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Bismillah.

If you place a white kid and a black kid in a room, they acknowledge that each person is different from the other but they don't think that the other doesn't belong. Kids can make friends with virtually anybody; one is not better than the other. The criterion for our ultimate distinction between one another is one that no one can measure except for God, and that criterion is Taqwa (God-consciousness).

"O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted." (Surah al-Hujurat: 13)

At the essence of humanity is diversity. We unite on the basis of our collective and individual differences. Those who try to make everyone the same are always those who cause unnecessary conflicts.

Uniformity doesn't breed unity. Diversity does.

It just hit me quite recently that I have been in the schooling system since I was 7 years old, I am 22 years old now. I realized that I have been in school for literally the majority of my life. As obvious as it should have been, I was so out of tuned that I didn't realize it. It was so routine that I didn't even think about it. I basically took for granted one of the biggest things in my life - education.

I've never asked myself a very essential question about my education: what's the meaning of all this?

You can't separate knowledge from its philosophy; the philosophy is the foundation on which the knowledge is built upon. Knowledge is like a tree; one with many branches and each branch has its own individual philosophy. We need all the branches because each branch contributes differently to the world. If you remove the branches, the tree will slowly die.

When I say "branches of knowledge", what usually goes on through our minds?

How many of us thought about fixing a car as one branch of knowledge? How about cooking, singing, dancing, painting, woodcarving, brick-layering, book-binding, gardening, farming, writing, or even waitressing? Are they not branches of knowledge?

I have a hunch that if I ask people to list down important branches of knowledge, most of them will list down science and math as their top two. I don't have evidence to support it, which is why I called it a "hunch". But my hunch is based on the fact that the current education system is rather obsessed with science and math. This obsession is translated into our preference for certain types of jobs and our direct or indirect discrimination for other jobs. When was the last time you hear parents rave about how their child wanted to be a carpenter?

Indeed, science and math are important. But when we put the two on a pedestal and leave everything else below, I have a problem with that.

We need all the branches. Otherwise, the tree will slowly die.

Just like people, knowledge is diverse. Each branch of knowledge resonates differently with different people. There are people who can get science because it speaks dearly to them. There are people who can get math because it speaks dearly to them. Then, there are those people who don’t get either. They just don’t get it. Here’s the zinger: there’s nothing wrong with not getting science and/or math.

I believe that God gave each of us specific inclinations to things. We all have our individual forte. We all have our individual intelligence.

Intelligence, like people and knowledge, is diverse. It is impossible to fit everyone into a small box, then why is it that we try to fit everyone into a narrow conception of intelligence? The current mainstream educational philosophy doesn't account for the many dimensions of intelligence that exist. Everyone is brainwashed into thinking that the only intelligence is the intelligence in the narrow set of subjects in school. Beyond that, you are not considered intelligent.

Look at the school curriculum and find out for yourself. Do we put as much emphasis on physical education as we do on science? Do we put as much emphasis on arts as we do on math? Do we put as much emphasis on vocational education (fixing electronics, making furniture, sewing clothes, etc.) as we do on literature?

I believe science, math, literature, and the like are very important. But so do physical education, arts, vocational education, and a myriad of other branches of knowledge – some of which are so marginalized that we don’t even hear about them anymore.

We can't afford to lose any of them.

So if our children can't do well in school, that's okay. That doesn't mean that they can't do well in life. Maybe their intelligence lie somewhere else, and they need us to help them get there.

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