Earth to Parents: Not All Kids Are Equal

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Is a high-school diploma a basic human right?

In Ontario, the answer appears to be yes. Parents of kids who can't pass the Grade 10 literacy test are taking the government to court to force it to let the kids graduate anyway. Plenty of people in the education establishment are on their side. "There is no fallback for students who, through no fault of their own, are not successful on that one aspect of literacy," says John Myers, an instructor with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

OISE, as it's known, is the place that teaches teachers. It is the gold standard for colleges of education, and its influence extends across Canada. What future teachers learn there might surprise you.

It certainly surprised John Lambersky.

Mr. Lambersky, 24, is halfway through OISE's teacher-training course. A blazingly articulate young man with a masters degree in history, he is passionate about education and clearly very smart. Smart, however, is a no-no word at OISE, because it is elitist and out-of-date.

"The progressive orthodoxy runs rampant here," he says. "You're not allowed to say that, unfortunately, not every kid is as bright as the next one."

The hottest thing in education theory is something called "multiple intelligence," which holds that every kid is smart in his or her own way if only you can find out what it is. Developed by a Harvard psychologist named Howard Gardner, the theory of multiple intelligences has taken its place alongside such concepts as critical-thinking skills and higher-order thinking as a cornerstone of enlightened education. It's not hard to see why. In an egalitarian age, it is anti-elitist. And by redefining intelligence, it seems to topple the cruel tyranny of IQ. "It appeals to the benign belief that all our children must be good at something," says Mr. Lambersky.

By the logic of multiple intelligences, the ability to read and write is just one kind of intelligence, no better and no worse than any other...
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