When I was in elementary school my class was shown a drawing on an easel that looked like the above representation of multiple intelligences. I remember this vividly. While we had the same teacher for “core” subjects throughout the day, we had a variety of teachers for art, gym, library time, etc. One of the classes we had was kind of a mixed bag class. I think the point of this extra class was to develop social skills and to talk about life skills. I cannot remember the name of the class, but one day we were led into this little windowless room for this class period that day. Our teacher showed us this drawing and explained the multiple intelligence idea to us. She then went on to ask us how we viewed ourselves as learners and the things that we were good at. We brainstormed a list of activities or abilities that could fall under each of Gardner’s categories. Beyond that, we never really referred to these intelligences within our core classrooms.
When I think back to this time in my life I realize that this was in the early 1990s when Gardner’s theory was being put into practice in schools like the Key Community School in Indianapolis. It was trendy, and educators were attempting to grapple with the applicability of this theory for reforming education. Coincidentally this was the same time that states and the federal government began to focus on standardized testing as a way to measure schools and their success. I think about the fact that this idea was introduced to us, but that it was not explicitly referred to within our core subject areas. This is just lazy, but I realize that it is not within every town or city’s power to completely reform a school to be based around these intelligences.
I wonder if the multiple intelligences idea permeated the classroom without my notice. I do remember doing a variety of activities, but most of the things that we did were grouped by subject. I would have loved interdisciplinary approaches like the Boston Arts school, where students are made to study core subjects in conjunction with other competencies like music or art. We never did that, and I realized that it took until college for me to make cross-disciplinary connections and assumptions. Is it possible in standardized curricula to create more classes that are interdisciplinary? Isn’t most work interdisciplinary, and if so, why is school so sectioned?