from Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad
written by Valerie Tripp
illustrated by Geneva Bowers
When my grandkids were young but old enough to talk, I said to both my girls, “I’m not sure how to say this nicely, but I think the kids are smarter than you were.” The girls and I had a good laugh. My girls were (and still are) smart. They’re good at so many things, but not all the same things. And my grandkids, just like yours, are really, really smart!
Scientists have discovered what most grandparents, parents, pediatricians, and preschool teachers already know. We are all smart in many different ways. The literature classifies intelligence into anywhere from four to twelve categories, depending on the source consulted.
Most linguists, neurologists, psychologists, and other sciency types agree with the standard eight, first described by Howard Gardner, a psychologist and Professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, in his 1983 book, Frames of Mind. In 1999, he included existential intelligence in his Intelligence Reframed.
From a blog he posted earlier this year, Mr. Gardner says “…there are various forms of intelligence…each deserves to be assessed separately and in an “intelligence-fair” way. Strength—or weakness!—in one form of intelligence does not predict strength—or weakness—in other intellectual realms.”
Dr. Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence suggests that instead of a single measurement of intelligence, people possess and display distinct types of intelligences. They include (in no particular hierarchy):
- Spacial: the ability to visualize the world in three dimensions
- Naturalist: the ability to understand living things and make sense of nature
- Musical: the ability to discern sounds, their pitch, tone, rhythm, and timbre (unique quality)
- Bodily-kinesthetic: the ability to coordinate your mind with your body (to know where you are in space
- Linguistic: the ability to find the right words to express what you mean
- Intra-personal: the ability to understand yourself, what you feel, and what you want (and need)
- Inter-personal: the ability to sense other peoples’ feelings and motives (empathy)
- Logical-mathematical: the ability to quantify objects, ideas, and relationships and make hypotheses to prove them
- Existential: the ability to think deeply and reflectively and to design abstract theories
Gardner’s (and others’) descriptions of intelligences pertain only to humans.
What about trees who use pheromones and mycorrhizae networks, (the fungus that grows on tree roots in symbiotic relationships) to communicate? Does that mean trees are intelligent? Are the fungal growths also? Suzanne Simard, the University of British Columbia ecologist, says they are. Her work influenced Peter Wohlleben’s 2016 nonfiction bestseller The Hidden Life of Trees. She found that “trees are social beings [who] exchange nutrients, help one another and communicate about insect pests and other environmental threats.”
And what of bees who dance? Do they communicate to some internal music like ballerinas?
And birdsong and whalesong, and ants? And all beings whose behavior we call “instinctual”? Could teaching and learning that we have not identified or quantified be taking place? Maybe another form of intelligence?
And since so many of Mother Earth’s creatures are social beings, what purpose does intelligence serve but to communicate? As Dr. Gardner reminds us, both intra-personal and inter-personal.
So I continue to wonder: Are beings who are adept in more ways and styles of communication more intelligent than a genius in only one area? We quantify intelligence, but for what purpose?
And where does Wisdom fit? What of common sense? Isn’t that a form of wisdom, too?
According to the National Institutes of Health, “both [wisdom and intelligence] are considered to increase with age, and both provide for life-long acquisition of knowledge.”
From a site called Happy Human, “Wisdom manifests as the ability to apply knowledge gained through experience and achieve better life outcomes. Knowledge is information, such as facts and processes (how to do things), that is continuously acquired throughout one’s lifetime.”
So there is an important difference between wisdom and intelligence. Both can lead to more (and more useful) knowledge and both are important to be a “happy human.”
I may have raised more questions than answers. I sure have given myself lots to think about!
Heather Cox Richardson’s new book Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America (Viking/Penguin Random House 2023), explains as only she can, how America got to the brink of authoritarianism and how we can claw our way back. Her writing is clear. Her explanations are easy to understand without oversimplifying. Her positivity and optimism are apparent. Highly recommended. Also, look up her blog, “Letter from and American.” She started it in 2017, in response to the news of the day.
—Be curious! (and happy)
FB: Lots going on in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for the COP 28 Climate Summit. Not much of that news is good. Seems like we have to look hard to find good news. Keep looking.