Aug 20, 2023·edited Aug 20, 2023Liked by Rebecca Birch

"an attempt to give validity to everything but academics." Is this fair? Why posit traditional academics would be excluded? Cannot both kinds of intelligences be accounted for?

It would seem obvious at this point that 'non-academic' intelligence cultivation is pretty useful. The happiest, most successful folks on this rock are not necessarily the book smartest. Most arrived there by knowing when and how to apply what little basic knowledge possessed but more importantly, knowing how to lead and build consensus and support - the stuff SEL is about.

Qualities as fuzzy as courage, magnanimity, self-awareness, situational awareness, humility and other virtue traits can be benchmarked, quantified and tracked. True there is no universal yardstick for this kind of intelligence but the measurement tools are actually as rigorous as those used to access an essay or the soundness of a math proof.

In fact, it can be argued that focusing on meta skills development can have a much greater impact on achieving equality, increasing quality of life and mitigating negative coping strategies than a purely academic curriculum/pedagogy.

A useful case study is RBK, a character accelerator in MENA where upwards of 70% of female youth are unemployed. RBK grads skip an unemployment line that is 85 million long not because of technical or 'academic' acumen or strong foundational knowledge - many are refugees with out a high school diploma - but because of the social, emotional, logical and meta intelligence acquired in the accelerator. They are thriving because of their communication skills, ability to separate the music from the noise and ultimately, their acquired virtues.

We are at a steam engine moment in humanity. There will be life Before AI and life AFTER AI. Yes foundational, academic, technical knowledge is essential to moving forward both individuals and communities. But we are having our frontal lobes handed to us by an entity that has an IQ orders of magnitude greater than our own. An entity that possesses not only the collective wisdom of all of humanity but also the knowledge of how to piece it together given context. As such, it does not feel productive to be fighting against the one thing that can actually save us - our humanity.

Rebecca, I appreciate your thoughts around this topic and look forward to your contributions to this fii...conversation.

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Aug 21, 2023Liked by Rebecca Birch

Thanks for your thoughts, Hugh, they were interesting to read. My question at the moment has been, "How can we measure some of these 'soft skills'?" when they seem to be inherently slippery, so the case study you mentioned definitely piqued my interest. I couldn't find anything about it online, so do you have a link?

Does anyone know straightforward ways that have been scientifically proven for a regular classroom teacher to track and develop these skills? To my awareness, there are a lot of people who might suggest these soft skills are important to cultivate and give you ways to do that (e.g. creative thinking by using visible thinking routines) without also demonstrating the efficacy of the proposed strategies or ways an average classroom teacher could track it. The cynic in me feels like a lot of the proponents are in it for the free money ride - it's an idea that seems to have merit so many people buy in, but upon closer examination it doesn't seem to have the science to necessarily back it.

Let me know if there are any good reads around this you'd suggest.

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Hi Vic. As with academic measurement, the assessment tools for meta intelligence are diverse. As you can't use a math test to determine geography competency, you can't use a courage assessment to measure magnanimity or steadfastness. The MMPI will give you a broad brush of the subject and is a good start in identifying where work needs to be done. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_Multiphasic_Personality_Inventory

RBK (the character accelerator I founded in 2014) developed a specialized version to specifically benchmark and track entitlement, narcissism, empathy and tolerance for ambiguity. This last metric is closely related to courage which is essential to complex problem solving and a huge differentiator in life success.


Results form this survey over the years correlate 86% with performance both during training and in the workforce.

Elsewhere, situational prompts work quite well in assessing character virtues such as humility, integrity, patience and honesty. HR firms such as FitFirst fitfirsttech.com have done a good job in refining these tests to ferret out those whose beliefs, values or biases would not align with a employer's mission.

RE RBK, graduates can probably best explain why focusing on meta skills is a win:


Slightly off topic but important to the debate is whether the medical model of gathering evidence for a intervention's efficacy is the right approach. https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/opinion-is-the-medical-model-right-for-education-research/2023/08

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Hi Hugh,

That particular project only looks at non-academic outcomes (so yes, everything but).

I think all these traits can be modelled and the school has a responsibility to do that, but there's limited evidence (if any) on the direct teaching of these traits and dispositions. My view is that time should be focused on teaching biologically secondary skills.

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The current conveyor belt paradigm must be replaced by a student paced mastery paradigm built on learner competencies and student agency.

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Sep 6, 2023Liked by Rebecca Birch

It’s also called social engineering. What is the aim and who gets to decide what values should be encouraged? Making every aspect of humanity, including individual personality traits and emotional states measurable only instrumentalises people. Creates a mindset of self assessment and performative emoting that encourages narcissism. Reducing humans to complete measurable data sets of “multiple intelligences” to be educated into correct social and emotional behaviour, based on nothing but subjective ideas about the ideal person , is not in your lane. Progressive ideology is not seen for what it is because it’s the water you swim in.

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Parents have opted out of shaping values by handing this responsibility to schools.

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