CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 6 . . . . November 12, 1999
Kevin McMahon (Director). Michael McMahon & Gerry Flahive (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: The National Film Board of Canada, 1998.
75 min., 44 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9198 022.
Knowledge, Theory of.
Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.
Review by Alexander Gregor.
A good deal has been written on the topic of intelligence in recent years, suggesting that it is a much
more complex and ambiguous entity than had traditionally been assumed. Of particular consequence
for education have been the ways in which those conceptions of intelligence will shape everything
from curriculum design, to teaching methodology, to career counselling and preparation. If those
activities have been built on loose sand, it is, of course, critically important for parents, students and
educators to know that and to come to grips with the adjustments that a more complex understanding
of intelligence will bring.
It is small wonder, then, that hope would be vested in a NFB videotape carrying that title and the self-description: "... a poetic and provocative essay which skewers simplistic views of intelligence and
argues for an all-encompassing perspective that embraces the full range of human capabilities."
Unfortunately, that blurb rather over-states the case. In good NFB tradition, the film is an intriguing
piece of cinematic artistry. As a pedagogical piece, it is rather disappointing. Efforts are made to
identify a range of assumptions about what intelligence is, in people and in nature. Yet
notwithstanding the length of the tape, some 75 minutes, none of these elements is pursued in enough
depth to be truly informative - just suggestive. Equally as frustrating, the various threads are not in
any obvious way woven into a pattern discernable by the end. There is no editorial centre of gravity,
other than the interwoven theme of "The King's New Clothes," the point of which is, itself, rather
All this raises the difficult question of how and where it might be used. Because of its rather disjointed
character, and its rather unnecessary length, it does require a reasonably sophisticated viewer:
probably not below grade eleven or twelve. Clearly this is not intended for use in any didactic form;
it does not pretend to teach about intelligence in any systematic or comprehensive way. In the hands
of an effective teacher, and with adequate background preparation, it could provide a provocative
stimulus for discussion of the complex problem.
Recommended with reservations.
Alexander D. Gregor is the Director of the Centre for Higher Education Research and Development
at the University of Manitoba.
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