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Home » A New Theory of Human Intelligence: Scott Barry Kaufman (Transcript)

A New Theory of Human Intelligence: Scott Barry Kaufman (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Scott Barry Kaufman’s talk titled “A New Theory of Human Intelligence” at TEDxZumbroRiver conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


Rethinking Human Intelligence

I would like to offer you today a broader definition of human intelligence. One that I think takes into account the whole person, both our deepest challenges as well as our most profound strengths. I believe our standard model of intelligence is systematically letting far too many kids fall between the cracks in an educational system that has such limited notions of human potential. Let me share with you two school evaluations that I think do a nice job illustrating this point.

So, this one is a middle school assessment about a quiet but friendly and hardworking young man who’s enrolled in a small private academy. Depending on the subject, he works at a variety of different grade levels. His teachers report he’s a willing participant in every facet of school and becomes fervent, even obsessive, about activities of particular interest, showing superior grasp of academic concepts in his homework, class discussions, and projects. He occasionally suggests alternatives to teacher-directed assignments so that he can demonstrate his comprehension and skill. As a result, his relationships with peers, older students with mutual interests, and adults continue to improve.

Okay, now I want to show you another school evaluation about an eight-year-old boy who was referred to a neurologist. According to this neurologist, information provided by mother and observations in the office setting indicate that difficulties displayed have a multifactorial basis, including attention deficit hyperactive disorder, mild oppositional defiant disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and mild unevenness in skill development. Now I want to ask you all a question.

Raise your hand if you thought I was talking about two completely different children. So, I see some hands here. I mean, would it surprise anyone in this room to know that this was actually the same kid, Blaine, at different points in this kid’s life? One when he was eight years old and one in middle school.

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