New Children’s Book About MI Theory

In December 2014, I received an email from author Jennifer Steuck and illustrator Slava Tayon regarding their intention to create a book that would help make the theory of multiple intelligences accessible to elementary school students and parents.

This past April, I received the completed work, to which I responded:

“Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful graphic interpretation of my work. It is quite impressive and engaging. I particularly enjoyed your representation of me as Professor I.Dea. This is something that is sure to captivate children and introduce them to the concepts of multiple intelligences. Thank you for your work and your efforts to expose a greater audience to my research.”

In this week’s blog, Jennifer and Slava reflect on the creation of their self-published, multiple intelligences-inspired children’s book, Meet the Me’s.


Dear MI Oasis,

Our mission in writing Meet the Me’s was to start a conversation about multiple intelligences and what it means to be smart. Intelligence has many different facets, and we want to help others appreciate diverse learners. Before writing the book, I understood the concept of MI intellectually, but I developed a much deeper sense of the theory by engaging with it directly in this text.

Our writing process began with thinking about the available research on the brain and the neural pathways of intelligence. Howard Gardner’s work on MI became the foundation of this book.


Our cover design is intended to draw the reader in and pique curiosity about the content within its covers. It is a pictorial metaphor of thinking, feeling, and perceiving. The light at the bottom is turned on, the circuitry activated, and a new idea is planted in the mind. The design also includes the eye that is featured on the cover of many of Howard Gardner’s books. Our version of the eye is portrayed in front of a color wheel, which represents the kaleidoscopic variation in human intelligence.

The book is written in epistolary format, in which Professor I.Dea (Howard Gardner) corresponds with the eight “Me” characters, each of whom symbolizes a component intelligence of MI.



Slava’s graphic representations allow the ideas to come alive by turning the various components of MI into characters that make the concepts more personal and meaningful. Each of the “Me” characters is assigned a unique icon, which serves as a visual representation of their respective pathway.



All of the characters tell the stories of how they think and how they feel. For example, WordMe, who is first to respond, begins the exploration along the neural pathways by asking, “Doesn’t everyone think in words?”



In response, PictureMe reveals that he processes and expresses himself through images.



Throughout the various Me’s pathways, we’ve included inspirational quotes, vocabulary words, and clarifying questions and answers. At the end of the book, readers will find a glossary, as well as an extensive bibliography of picture books that explain the life and accomplishments of people on their corresponding pathways.

We’ve also addressed the possibility of a ninth intelligence, Meaning Intelligence, on the last page of the book. Although the MeaningMe does not meet all the criteria for an intelligence as defined by Professor Gardner, we felt it was important to include.



Our hope is that other readers of Meet the Me’s will discover more about themselves, one another, and the process of learning itself. We encourage people to discuss what makes them curious, how they learn, and how they express themselves.

Changing the paradigm,

Jenny (and Slava)


Meet the Me’s is available for purchase in-store and online via The Bookies Bookstore in Denver, CO.

Howard Gardner’s Interview with Tiching Blog Featured In Spanish Book, “Hablamos de Educación”

In 2013, Howard Gardner was interviewed by the Spanish website,

Recently, this blog appeared in the Spanish education book, ”Hablamos de Educación”, or “Let’s Talk About Education”. Pages from the book featuring the interview can be found below, along with an English translation.

All around the world, the MI Theory continues to have an impact on education.


2013 Interview with, English translation. This interview appeared in Spanish in its entirety in 2013 on 

Tiching: Your Multiple Intelligences Theory is known around the world, but how can you define the term “intelligence”?

Howard Gardner: An intelligence is the biological and psychological potential to analyze information in specific ways, in order to solve problems or to create products that are valued in a culture.

T: Your Theory explains that exist eight different intelligences. Do we have all the intelligences in various grades or each person has only one type of intelligence?

HG: As implied by the definition, I reject the notion that human beings have a single intelligence, which can be drawn on for the full range of problem solving.  What is usually called ‘intelligence’ refers to the linguistic and logical capacities that are valued in certain kinds of school and for certain school-like tasks.  It leaves little if any room for spatial intelligence, personal intelligences, musical intelligence etc.

All human beings have all of the intelligences. But we differ, for both genetic and experiential reasons, in our profile of intelligences at any moment.  We can enhance our intelligences, but I am never going to become Yo-Yo Ma, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, or Pele, the soccer player.

T: We attended your Conference in Montserrat College and you talked about two new intelligences that you want to introduce (pedagogical and spiritual). How has this issue advanced?

HG: In order for me to ‘endorse’ an intelligence, I need to carry out lots of research.  I have had not had the time to research ‘teaching intelligence’ and that the survey I conducted years ago of ‘existential intelligence’ left me uncertain about whether it is a full-blown intelligence.  Yet I use these terms informally and anyone else is welcome to do so as well.

T: Which criteria do you use in order to include a new type of intelligence in your theory?

HG: My eight criteria for an intelligence are laid out in chapter 4 of my 1983 book FRAMES OF MIND.  These criteria are drawn from several disciplines and several kinds of populations.  There is not a single foolproof equation for determining whether a candidate intelligence does or does not qualify. I weigh the various considerations and make the best judgment I can. My guess is that ‘teaching intelligence’ and ‘existential intelligence’ would do pretty well on the 8 criteria: but as I’ve said, I have not been able to do the required research to be confident about my conclusion.

T: Do you think you will include more types of intelligence in the future?

HG: Only in a speculative manner.  My colleague Antonio Battro has written about a ‘digital intelligence’ and that is certainly worth thinking about.  However, at present, what he calls ‘digital intelligence’ seems adequately accounted for by logical-mathematical and bodily-kinesthetic intelligence—the skills of coding and of manipulating a mouse and/or a cursor.

T: You are working on Oasis Project, what are its objectives?

HG: This is a website, which will be launched in the summer of 2013  It represents my effort to describe MI theory, to highlight powerful applications, and to point out problematic assertions—hence the image of an oasis (water in the middle of a parched desert). At first it will only be an English but I’d be delighted if we could find a way to produce a high quality version in Spanish.

T: Most of the members of our community are teachers, how can they identify the intelligence of their pupils?

HG: When speaking to parents, I encourage them to take their child(ren) to a children’s museum and watch carefully what the child does, how she/she does it, what he/she returns to, where there is definite growth.  Teachers could do the same or could set up ‘play areas’ which provide ‘nutrition’ for different intelligences… and watch carefully what happens and what does not happen with each child.

When a child is thriving, there is no reason to spend time assessing intelligences. But when a child is NOT thriving—in school or at home—that is the time to apply the lens of multiple intelligences and see whether one can find ways to help the child thrive in different environments.

T: Once intelligences are identified, how can they be enhanced? Are empowerment mechanisms different for each type of intelligence?

HG: Intelligences are enhanced when a person engaged in activities that involve the exercise of that intelligence. It helps to have good teachers, ample resources, and personal motivation.  Anyone can improve any intelligence; but it is easier to improve the intelligence if those factors are available and if you have high potential in that intelligence.

T: Should school curriculums be rethinked in order to enhance all the intelligences? If yes, what should be transformed?

HG: I don’t think that it is necessary to rethink curricular goals. But it is certainly worth thinking about whether these goals can be reached in multiple ways. I think that any important educational goal can be realized via several routes.  In Chapter 7-9 of my 1999 book THE DISCIPLINED MIND, I show how to teach important lessons in science, history, and music, through alternative intelligences routes.

T: Which is the importance of new technologies, such as Tiching, in the learning process of each pupil?

HG: Any good teacher should become acquainted with relevant technologies. But the technologies should not dictate an education goal. Rather, the teacher (or parent or student or policy maker) should ask: can technology help to achieve this goal, and which technologies are most likely to be helpful?

T: Which is the intelligence that you have more developed?

HG: I think that I am strongest in linguistic and musical intelligence, and I continue to work on my interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence.

T: In which project/s are you working on now?

HG: For the last twenty years, I have been engaged in the GoodWork Project, a study of how professions survive in a time when markets are very powerful. The GWP now has many offshoots- which you can read about at With Richard Light, a close colleague, I am starting a study of Liberal arts and sciences in the 21st century.  We want to understand how best to create and preserve a form of higher education that we value but that is in jeopardy for many reasons.

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Howard Gardner Comments on Anil Ananthaswamy’s “The Man Who Wasn’t There”

I recently read the Science Magazine discussion of Anil Ananthaswamy’s “The Man Who Wasn’t There”. This spurred me to write the following response. The original article can be found here. 

Of the various intelligences, intrapersonal intelligence—understanding of self—has always been the most difficult to describe, conceptualize, and measure.  After all, who is qualified to judge how well a person  understands himself or herself?  I often quip that only Person X’s therapist can assess how well Person X understands Person X.  But of course that assumes that the therapist has good INTER-personal intelligence. Anyway, this book is one of the first attempts of which I’m aware that  provides neurological and psychological insights into the understanding of self.  It does not answer any questions, but it raises some of the right ones.


Howard Gardner’s Work Featured in New Children’s Book, “The Howard Gardner Zoo”

Texas Christian University student Alexis Keable has condensed and adapted Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences into a children’s book entitled  “The Howard Gardner Zoo”.  What began as a project for her educational psychology class at TCU is now a published book that can be used as a tool for teaching and encouraging  children to discover who they are as students and learners in the classroom. More information regarding this new publication can be found here.




Gardner Discusses “The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger” and “The Kennan Diaries”

I recently read through two lengthy volumes: The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger  and The Kennan Diaries. These volumes were of particular interest and use to me:  I was interested in both personalities (I knew Schlesinger slightly), the books would keep me busy for a while, they covered the era before and during my own lifetime, and, most important, since specific entries were never more than a few pages, I could dig into them for as long or short a period as I wanted.

I read these volumes purely out of interest, without anticipating any particular connection to my own studies of intellect and cognition. Yet, just as the cobbler always looks at the shoes, perhaps it was inevitable that I would become interested in the ways in which the minds of these remarkable personages worked.

Introducing Kennan and Schlesinger

First, just a word of background about each. George Kennan, born in 1904, was a scholar and sometimes diplomat. His particular expertise was Russian and Soviet history and government; he also loved many things and personalities Russian. He is most famous for having written a ‘long telegram’ which helped to develop the Western approach of ‘containment’ vis-a-vis the Soviet Union that was sustained throughout the Cold War. He served for brief times in several key diplomatic posts. But he was also a distinguished historian, writing prize-winning books over the course of several decades at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton.  Kennan lived until 2005 and so was in a position to comment on, and sometimes to influence, many events that occurred in Western and Eastern Europe. Though the number and length of entries varies from one year to the next, he maintained a journal throughout his life.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the son of an American historian (named Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr.), was himself a distinguished American historian. His original area of expertise was Jacksonian democracy, but he eventually became a major biographer of both Franklin Roosevelt and John F.  Kennedy. He even served as an aide both to John Kennedy and, less formally, to his brother Robert. For many years Schlesinger taught history, first at Harvard University (where his father had also taught) and then at the City University of New York. More so than Kennan, Schlesinger was directly involved in politics, being a constant critic of communism in the post war era, but also a founder of the Americans for Democratic Action, and often-times, a writer and advocate for the Democratic party. He also lived a long life, dying at the age of 89.


Profiles of Intelligences

 Let me start with the traditional view of intelligence. On any measure of intelligence, as developed by the psychometric (e.g. IQ) community, both men were enormously intelligent. They were certainly logical/rational and they were superb communicators, both orally and in writing. They were at or near the top of their classes in school. While neither of them was a law professor, they had that combination of intelligences that characterize practitioners of that trade: strength in language and strength in logic.

I have not studied these men in detail and so I do not have strong impressions about the strength (or weakness) of their remaining intelligences. But one cannot immerse oneself in letters and/or diaries without getting a sense of personal intelligences. As a diplomat, it was important for Kennan to be able to understand government personnel from a variety of other countries, including nations where he did not speak the language. I am persuaded that Kennan had a good understanding of others, though I suspect it came more from his reading about the culture, and about the specific individuals, than from direct observation. On the other hand, he was a keen observer of his physical environments and could write about them quite poetically, perhaps suggesting a strong naturalist intelligence.

Of interest is Kennan’s intrapersonal intelligence. It is clear that Kennan was obsessed with himself as a person and as a personality and wrote about this persistently for seven or more decades. It is also clear that he had insights about himself, particularly how he was seen and understood about others. And yet, as I will suggest later, his own strange personality may well have interfered with his intrapersonal intelligence.

Admittedly, as a source of information about an individual’s intellectual profile, one cannot directly compare letters to a diary. Yet, Schlesinger’s diaries, which I have also perused, make it clear that Schlesinger was much more other-directed. Whether he is probing a historical figure (like Andrew Jackson) or engaged in trying to understand a current political situation, there is little sign that he is much engaged in, or much worried about, his own persona.

This difference may well reflect their contrasting backgrounds. Schlesinger grew up in a privileged background and was always a member of the elite. Kennan’s background was much more modest, and so he always felt like an outsider. This difference may well determine the relative direction of one’s personal intelligences: to what extent they are directed outward, as compared to inward.

In what follows I want to comment briefly on two strands of thought, stimulated by the back-to-back reading of these memoirs but possibly of wider significance. Both emerge from work that I’ve done in the decades after developing the theory of multiple intelligences.


Five Minds and the Powers of Synthesis

In our era, I have singled out, as having special importance, five kinds of minds. Two of them deal with our relations to other persons—the respectful mind and the ethical mind. The other three are cognitive in the more traditional sense.

As historians of the first rank, both Schlesinger (hereafter AMS) and Kennan (hereafter GK) clearly exhibited disciplined minds. They mastered the materials of history, the methods of evaluating sources, and the authoring of accounts that withstand the scrutiny of other professionals.

I will also stipulate that they both exhibited creating minds. They did not simply write as experts:  they broke new ground in the topics that they considered and the ways that they treated them. That several books by each person won major prizes, both from historian colleagues (Bancroft prize) and from national institutions (Pulitzer and National Book Award), is evidence of their creativity.

Of particular interest to me is that both of the historians exhibited powerful capacities to synthesize—what I’ve termed the synthesizing mind. In our era, we are all inundated with vast amounts of information, far more than we can hope to master, remember, or use. The challenge is to sift through these “mountains of data,” determine what is important and why, and then express ones’ conclusions in ways that make sense to oneself and that can be effectively communicated to others.

Schlesinger’s area of synthesis was U.S. history; Kennans’ was Russian and Soviet history. As a sidebar, it’s worth noting that these areas of expertise were scarcely chosen at random. AMS’ father was also an American historian of distinction and George Kennan had a distant relative, of the same name and birthday, who had focused in the 19th century on Russian history. It may well be easier and more natural to become an expert in synthesis in an area that you have absorbed, so to speak, with your mother’s milk or your father’s foci.

Individuals can exhibit synthesizing powers across the range of professions; for example, Bill Clinton is an expert synthesizer in politics, Warren Buffer equally so in the area of investment.  But within the academy, I believe that synthesizing is particularly notable, and indeed invaluable, in two disciplines:   classical (as opposed to molecular) biology (the naturalist skills of Charles Darwin or E. O. Wilson or Stephen Jay Gould) and history (as exemplified in the 20th century by Schlesinger and Kennan).

In attempting to understand the synthesizing mind, I have found a helpful analogy. Imagine listening to many streams of sound and picking out that sequence of tones that yields a powerful, memorable melody. I see our two master synthesizers as capable of reviewing massive amounts of data, some of which they have discovered or uncovered themselves. They can then discern the leitmotifs that seem to undergird those data and help to explain their emergence and their inter-relations. Thus, Schlesinger sees the American political system as undergoing cycles of approximately thirty years in duration. On this account, the accent falls, alternatively, on more idealistic, progressive or liberal policies, in one phase of the cycle, or on more pragmatic, conservative, business-embracing political polities, in the succeeding phase. These cycles prompt him to stress the importance of “a vital center.”

For his part, over time, Kennan discerns the importance of ensuring secure territorial borders in the foreign (international) policies of the Russian nation—explaining both Russian aggressiveness and Russian defensiveness.  And this oscillation transcends the convulsions of the tsarist, Soviet, and post-Soviet eras. His analysis yielded the powerful concept of ‘containment’ which undergirded Western policies throughout the fifty years of the Cold War. And on the very day that I write (April 20th, 2014), President Obama is said to be drawing on Kennan’s analyses as he contemplates the stance of the U.S. vis-à-vis Russian political and military adventures in the Ukraine.

Of course, anyone can gallop through the history of a country and suggest a few powerful motifs. And those motifs may well be accurate. What distinguishes the expert synthesizer is the depth of his knowledge of the field and the data, the way that knowledge is organized to yield a powerful theme, the ability to counter alternative explanations, and, most precious if not most elusive, the power of the organizing scheme to make sense of “events-to-come.”


 The Importance and the Limits of Disinterestedness

For much of the 1980s and early 1990s, my work focused on the theory of multiple intelligences and its educational implications, particularly with respect to pre-collegiate education.  Beginning in the 1990s, with close colleagues Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and William Damon, I began to study good work; and that work, in turn, has spawned a range of descendants of ‘good work,’ carried out in collaboration with Lynn Barendsen, Wendy Fischman, and Carrie James. (For details please see

Key to this area of study is the notion of what it means to be a good professional. We define the ‘good worker’ as an individual who is at once Expert (in terms of the previous entry, has a disciplined mind); Engaged (cares about her work and finds meaning in it); and practices her work in an Ethical manner.

I’ve recently become reminded of the importance, in professional work, of a disinterested stance. We want the professionals with whom we work to give us an honest, straightforward, unprejudiced account of the state of affairs in their realm of expertise and what might be done under these circumstances. More concretely, we want—or, I could say, we should want—an accountant who gives an accurate picture of our financial situation, a physician who diagnoses our illness accurately and lays out the alternative courses of treatment and prognoses, and the journalist who describes the situation on the ground as accurately as possible. And we are, or we should be, critical of the accountant who cooks the books, the physician who promotes a drug where he stands to make a profit, and the journalist who withholds details that may embarrass a friend or a favored cause.

The classic view of the historian’s job is to describe things ‘as they actually happened.’ Virtually no one believes anymore that this end can be literally achieved. We have learned about how difficult it is to step outside one’s own time frames. As I have myself written, each generation is destined, or condemned, to write its own history of earlier times. In addition to the blinders of one’s own generation, there are the inevitable intrusions of personality, values, and prejudices. We have also learned how difficult it is to be completely objective, to bracket one’s own predilections, and how easy it is to delude ourselves that we have overcome our parochialism.

These reservations noted, we still have every right and every reason to expect that historians, and particularly those who study the world of earlier times, to get things as right as they can. Here is where professional disinterestedness becomes relevant. And so we are appropriately leery of “Whig history:” history that purports to show that things get better over time, and that we are destined to live in a world that is ever more enlightened.

An insight from the Good Project is relevant. Difficult as it is to be disinterested in a single profession, it is more challenging still to be disinterested when one is involved in two professions or roles, as we put it, when one has to wear ‘two hats.’ Say that someone is both a lawyer and a journalist. Wearing her legal hat, the individual is expected to keep certain client information confidential. Yet, as a journalist, the individual should not withhold information relevant to a story. Because of such conflicts, we generally expect individuals to recuse themselves, and when they do not, and disinterestedness crumbles, we are properly critical of them.

After this lengthy preamble, here’s my point: neither AMS nor GK were ‘pure’ historians, living their entire adult lives in a cloistered academic setting. GK began life as a diplomat. Even after he was retired from the corps, he still hankered to have a role in American diplomacy, and probably had as much influence post-retirement as before. AMS had a strong interest in politics, and particularly the fate of the Democratic Party. In the late 1940s, he was instrumental in the founding of the Americans for Democratic Action.  In the 1950s, he worked tirelessly for Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, with whom he was quite close. And as mentioned earlier, he was equally dedicated to John F. Kennedy and, after JFK’s assassination, to his brothers Robert and Edward.

I cannot claim to have any inside information on the extent to which these historians’ roles were influenced or compromised by the additional hats that they wore. Yet, it is certainly possible to state the risks, and in my view, they turn out to be distinctive and revealing.

In the case of AMS, I believe that his increasing involvement in activist politics inevitably colored what he wrote about and how he wrote about it. On the one hand, he still wanted to get the story right; for example, in his biographies of JFK and RFK. Yet his belief in their policies and his closeness to the family made it difficult to step back and render disinterested judgments. The desired disinterestedness would have been easier to achieve with reference to earlier times and thus it is regrettable that AMS never completed his study of the Roosevelt era.

While Schlesinger’s most notable historical writings occurred early in his career, Kennan did not become a serious historian until he had left the diplomatic core. In that sense, he had freer rein to ‘call them as he saw them.’ And while he clearly had strong views about what should be done with reference to the Soviet Union of his day, it was probably easier to curtail them when he wrote about tsarist Russia.

Yet reading through the diaries, I felt that I came to know Kennan as a person, and in my view he was deeply disturbed. I do not have the knowledge or skills to make a psychiatric diagnosis, but he emerges as a person who was deeply depressed much of the time, who tended either to romanticize a people and an era (say Western Europe in the 19th century) or to be excessively critical (as he was of the United States in his time), and who, at least in earlier life, was withdrawn, anti-social, and  had some difficulty in distinguishing between dreams, fantasy, and reality—in lay terms, a schizoid personality.

I cannot say that Kennan’s personality either undermined or enhanced his historical understanding or his policy recommendations. But I am quite convinced that his unusual personality affected his work, both diplomatic and historical. As for Schlesinger, his upbeat, convivial, and somewhat combative personality certainly aided in his political work but may have limited his capacity for the solitary work required in original historical research.


Concluding note:

In writing about AMS and GK, I am clearly going beyond my area of training and expertise. Yet, the coincidence of reading these two massive volumes during the same week did generate some thoughts which intersected, in unexpected ways, with issues that I’ve been pondering in my own work. I hope that this attempt at ‘cross-fertilization’ proves of interest.


-Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner Interviewed by Korean Newspaper “Joongang Daily”

Howard Gardner was recently interviewed by Korean Newspaper Joongang Daily in conjunction with the publication of the Korean translation of his book The Disciplined Mind. In the interview transcript below, Gardner offers his thoughts about intelligence, creativity, and education on various fronts.

Click here for a PDF of the published Korean article.


Joongang Daily: As you probably know, you are well-known as the father of Multiple Intelligences theory. Your main works, including The Disciplined Mind, Frames of Mind, Extraordinary Minds, etc., deal with how the human mind operates. What does multiple intelligences theory mean in your overall academic career?

HG: Even today, over thirty years after I developed the theory, most of my mail, from all over the world, concerns MI theory. I have a website where I post occasional columns and answers to questions. (I would be happy if someone were to translate the website into Korean!)

My work on “MI theory” has taken me to interesting places and expanded my horizon, and I am glad that I developed the ideas and that they have had numerous applications in education. I have four children, and we are expecting our fourth grandchild—so as long as that paternity is recognized first, I am happy to be the father of MI theory.

That said, in my own scholarship, I have gone on to other issues. For the last twenty years, I have been studying ‘the good’—what it means to be a good worker, a good citizen, and a good person. One reason for this research is that I have seen MI ideas misapplied—and, I have to say, sometimes it has been in Korea. I came to realize that I had a responsibility to speak out when the ideas were not being used in a good way.

One of the rewards of being a scholar is that you can investigate whatever interests you. And so, after 20 years on the Good Project (see, I am now studying higher education in the United States as part of a project called “Liberal Arts and Sciences in the 21st Century.”


Joongang Daily: How do you define the human mind in the context of your research/studies? Among the many aspects of the operation of the human mind, which draws your interest the most?

HG: I construe the human mind very broadly—of course all mental activity comes from the human brain, but the human mind extends far beyond the brain to the technologies that we use, to the other people with whom we work and solve problems, and to history, culture and the arts. In my long career, I have had the chance to study many aspects of human cognition—intelligence, creativity, leadership, and ethics. I am more interested in ‘high end’ cognition—how we draw meaning from experiences, rather than how we see a line or hear a sound. And I’ve been more interested in cognition than in emotional or social aspects of the mind, though they are very important as well.


Joongang Daily: In many of your works, you deal with creative minds in human history. Nowadays, many governments and corporations are developing various programs to foster people with creative talents; they are pouring in their resources for this purpose. In your opinion, what does it mean to be creative in modern society? I also wonder if you think developments in science and technology are affecting human creativity.

HG: I think that creativity today is not fundamentally different than it was 100 or 1,000 or even 10,000 years ago. Creative people use their minds to solve problems, to raise questions, and to create objects that arouse the interest and the excitement of others. If I had to specify differences today, I would mention two: 1) we have much more help from technology, particularly digital technology; and 2) we are more likely to work with others, both near and far, than alone. The image of the solitary creative individual, working in a garret or cave or study, is much less relevant today.

Developments in science and technology have always affected creativity. Until now, however, creativity has come chiefly from human beings, not from robots or computers. If that should change, then maybe the computers will be studying creativity, rather than the psychologists or policy makers who study it today!


Joongang Daily: Recently The Disciplined Mind was published in Korea. In this book, you have emphasized the importance of academic discipline. However, many people think that creativity is hindered by becoming familiar with the existing knowledge system. How do you respond?

HG: If you spend too much time mastering existing knowledge, that can be counterproductive. On the other hand, unless you know what has been learned before, and how it was learned, the chance is that you will re-invent the wheel rather than coming up with something new, useful, and interesting. As I express it in a book called Five Minds for the Future, being creative means thinking outside of the box. But you can’t think outside of the box unless you have a box! And that box contains the disciplined knowledge that you have acquired, often over a significant period of time.


Joongang Daily: You’ve visited Korea several times, as far as I know. Is there anything you want to say about Korean education? What do you think is the most distinct feature of Korean education?

HG: What I have to say is conventional wisdom about Korea. Students are very good at mastering material and performing well on standardized tests. For students with academic intelligences, this is fine, but it creates enormous stress on young people who may be stronger in areas that are NOT tested by standard tests. Korea stands out in terms of achievement but also stress. Parents are often too tough on their children, probably because the parents themselves were stressed when they were young.

My own experience is that Korean students are often very tough on themselves, very demanding. Up to a point that may be good; but when it becomes self-destructive, that is bad. It used to be said that East Asians were not as creative as Westerners due to cultural differences. But I think that is no longer true. The secrets of creativity are open to everyone, and there are many creative artists, musicians, and scientists of Korean background both in Korea and abroad.


Joongang Daily: Recently, the problem of school bullying is becoming more and more serious worldwide. As an antidote to this problem, our government passed an act called the Character Education Law. What do you think is the core idea of character education?

HG: Often Character Education focuses on identifying and drilling what one should do and what one should not do. That’s fine as far as it goes—no one should lie, steal, or injure others. But the more challenging aspects involve how one should behave in a difficult situation, where there is no easy answer: for example, when one is tempted to cheat on an examination which seems unfair, or when a friend of yours cheats. Those difficult situations cannot be solved simply by being told what to do. One needs to discuss alternatives, understand the positive and negative aspects of each, and work together to make a better community. To do this well is challenging; and that is what we focus on in the Good Project, mentioned above. In fact we have created a toolkit which helps students, teachers, and parents tackle difficult issues like bullying or cheating or competing for scarce rewards. One needs to understand WHY people bully and what are the harms for the victim, the victimizer, and the larger community.


Joongang Daily: As the youth unemployment rate soars, many universities are now faced with the problem called “the collapse of universities,” as they are closing down humanities and basic science departments. Do you think there might be solution to this problem?

HG: As I said before, all of my work now is focused on “Liberal Arts and Sciences in the 21st Century.” I focus on that highly current topic because I am aware of the situation that you describe and want to do something about it. It’s very important that our leaders understand why broad education is essential, not only for work but also for citizenship; alas, too many of them contribute to the problem, rather than to the solution.

When we are interviewing students and parents in our study, and they say that the purpose of education is to get a job, we follow up with the question “And what happens when the job disappears?”.  Often they are shocked; they never thought of that possibility before. Of course, the whole reason for a broad education in history, philosophy, and the arts, as well as basic science, is to prepare you, as best we can in 2015, for the world, no matter what the jobs happen to be in 2020 or 2050 and no matter what is the state of the world.


Joongang Daily: As Internet technology is improving, the kind of information people need is changing. With this background, many people are saying that schools are collapsing and education itself is at stake. What roles can schools, or education itself, play in this era? What meanings do they bear?

HG: For as long as I can look ahead, we will have schools, because we need places for young people to become socialized, to learn to deal with peers, to master citizenship, and—without wanting to be frivolous—to have a place to go while parents are working! But more and more of traditional education—acquiring the literacies and the disciplines—will occur online, before the age of school, and throughout life—no more will we think of education as ending at age 20 or 25. Teachers will become more like coaches or curators, less like dispensers of information that is readily available on any search engine.

A few years ago a ‘wise guy’ student said to me, “Dr Gardner, why do we even need school when the answers to all questions are on my smart phone?”

I looked at him for a moment and said, “Yes, the answer to all questions, except the important ones!” And that’s another reason why schools and the liberal arts and sciences will continue to the indefinite future.


Joongang Daily: What do you think is the biggest problem we are facing these days? How do you think education should change in the 21st century to solve that problem? What can an educator do?

HG: I assume that you mean the biggest problem in education—because problems of climate change, the water supply, regional warfare, and nuclear weapons are far greater than the educational challenges, significant though they are (I hardly need remind an audience of South Koreans, given the weapons available in North Korea).

I don’t think that there is a single biggest problem in education. As I have suggested in my answer to other questions, we have a lot of misconceptions about the reasons for education (not just to get a job) and where it should take place (not just online). In the United States, the biggest challenge is to make the teaching profession attractive enough so that talented students will devote a significant proportion of their lives to teaching and that they will help to bring a diverse society closer together. But in other countries, like Singapore, Finland, or Korea, there are other strengths and other challenges.


Joongang Daily: It’s been thirty years since you announced Multiple Intelligence theory. It has been very influential around the globe. How do you think this theory will be evaluated thirty years from now?

HG: When I put forth the theory, I thought that the most important part was the identification of the specific intelligences and their relation to specific regions of the brain. And indeed, I think that is why the theory attracted a lot of attention. But today, I think it was more important simply to pluralize the word ‘intelligence’ and to help parents, teachers, and children themselves realize that you can be smart in more than one way, and that it’s important to identify your strengths, and make use of them—for work, for play, for what you are passionate about, for how best to work with others. I don’t know and I don’t care whether my name and the phrase ‘multiple intelligences’ will still be on the radar screen, but I do hope that the ideas of ‘several ways of being smart’ will become part of common sense, common knowledge, and common wisdom.

I’ve often said that one of the big problems with IQ is that you can’t do anything about your IQ—it is just a way of labelling you and oftentimes dismissing you. The good think about an “MI” way of thinking is that it gives hope to all people about their own potential and gives parents and teachers different ways of addressing their students. Indeed, that is one of the key ideas in The Disciplined Mind, where I show how important knowledge can be conveyed in ‘’multiple intelligences ways’.


Joongang Daily: With advances in brain science and cognitive science, new findings regarding human learning and decision making are now coming into light. How do you think this progress will affect education in the future? Nowadays, it seems that many people are especially interested in Artificial Intelligence. What do you think of the future of AI?

HG: Brain science and AI (cognitive science) are different from one another. Any educator—indeed, any educated person—should monitor what is happening in both areas of science. I think that brain science will be most important in helping us to identify potential learning problems, very early in life, and in suggesting ways in which to address those problems effectively. It is already happening with respect to spoken and written language.

As for AI, I am less interested in creating machines that will replace human beings than I am in creating machines, programs, and apps that will allow human beings to achieve what we want to achieve more skillfully and more ethically—working together with us, just as we should all learn to work with other persons, even if they don’t look or sound the way that we do.

To put it differently, if brain science or cognitive science can help human beings to survive and thrive together, that should make all of us very happy.

How is Number Represented in the Brain?

A principal component of the theory of multiple intelligences has been the belief that the human nervous system has evolved to facilitate a number of relatively independent computations. Rather than a single intelligence, on which one draws for the full panoply of skills, there are neural regions or networks that are more specifically dedicated to language, number, music, and the like.

A quite original aspect of the theory is that the intelligences are not yoked to a specific sensory capacity: for example, linguistic intelligence (known to be represented in the left hemisphere of right handed individuals) is mobilized whether linguistic information enters through the ear, the eye, or (in the case of the blind reading Braille) the fingertips.

When MI theory was developed over 30 years ago, most of our knowledge of the brain basis of cognition came from the study of individuals who had suffered brain damage. The findings were consistent, but at a very gross level; brain damage does not follow strict guidelines! In the intervening era, researchers have developed far more sophisticated means of studying the representation of capacities in the brain.

A study released in Science provides a number of fascinating findings. First of all, by using functional magnetic resonance imaging, it is possible to examine numerical capacities quite specifically in the human parietal cortex. Specific cortical areas, known as association cortex, are stimulated by numerical operations that occur across different sensory capacities; unlike, say, face recognition or tone discrimination, they are not restricted to a specific sensory cortex. Most remarkably, the size and manner of cortical representations actually reflects the size (technically, the numerosity) of the array; if you look at the pattern of neuronal arousal, you can tell whether the array contains few or many stimuli.

What I like best about the study is the clear implication that the human brain has evolved, not only to represent specific sensory input, but also to capture important distinctions that cut across the senses. I suspect that when scientists begin to study other intelligences, ranging from spatial to interpersonal, they will discover a clear rationale for the way these capacities are represented in the human brain.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.

-Howard Gardner

Harvey, B.M. et al. “Topographic Representation of Numerosity in the Human Parietal Cortex.” (September 2013). Science, 341 (6150), pp. 1123-1126.

Cleese Autobiography References Multiple Intelligences

John Cleese’s November 2014 autobiography So, Anyway… contains a short passage mentioning Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.

A renowned British comedian, Cleese’s book describes his rise to stardom, from his days as a law student at Cambridge University in England to his meteoric success as a member of the famous comedy troupe Monty Python.

Discussing his time at university, Cleese muses about the definition of intelligence, agreeing with Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory that there exist various and independent intellectual capacities in the human brain. “Which helps me understand why I sometimes think I am quite bright and sometimes feel like a complete dolt,” says Cleese.

Read a review of Cleese’s book that also mentions MI theory via The Herald Scotland, or buy a copy of So, Anyway… on Amazon.

Gardner Writes Introduction for Arabic Book about MI

Books about multiple intelligences theory have appeared in dozens of countries and over thirty languages. Until this point, however, we do not know of any independent writings in Arabic about the theory.

In 2014, it was brought to our attention that Dr. Abdelwahed Fakihi in Morocco has written two books in Arabic about MI. The first is titled Multiple Intelligences: The Scientific Foundation, and he is currently working on the second. At Dr. Fakihi’s request, Howard wrote an introduction to this second book, directed to an Arabic-speaking educational audience. The text in English is reproduced below, providing an overview of the development and current implementations of multiple intelligences:

I am gratified to learn that Professor Abdelwahed Fakihi has introduced the ideas of multiple intelligences to an audience in Morocco and perhaps to educators in other nations as well. In this prefatory note, I describe the steps leading to the development of the theory and the principal ways in which the theory has been used by educators.

When I began to study developmental psychology, in the middle 1960s, I was struck by the lack of interest in artistic development. As a young person, I had been a serious pianist and had also developed interests, as an audience member, in several art forms.  Because the great psychologist Jean Piaget had carefully examined how children developed into scientific thinkers, I took as a challenge to describe how children developed into participants in the arts. My first research and books were on this topic.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, I was working with children with various talents and with brain damaged patients who had lost one or another cognitive capacity. As a result of this immersion with two distinctive populations, I became convinced that the unitary view of intelligence—a person is either smart, average, or dumb—was overly simple. Over several years, I surveyed many bodies of knowledge and eventually developed the theory of multiple intelligences. I wrote this work as an argument to convince psychologists to change their view of intellect. Psychologists were not much interested in my argument and the supporting evidence; but educators, at first in the United States, and then elsewhere, were very attracted to these ideas. Indeed, “MI” is still the idea for which I am best known.

I had not anticipated the extensive interest in the theory on the part of educators—initially in the United States, ultimately in many parts of the world. In 2009, my colleagues and I published a book called Multiple Intelligences Around the World. In this collection, 42 scholars and practitioners, from 15 countries on five continents, described the ways in which they have used multiple intelligences ideas for various age groups  (from preschool to university), in various educational settings (schools, museums, theme parks, after school activities) and with various populations (language learners, gifted students, students with learning or emotional difficulties). Needless to say, in 1983, I could hardly have anticipated this state of affairs. I should note that none of the contributions came from African nations and to my knowledge none of the contributors had an Arabian background.

Why did MI theory catch on in education?

MI theory had the benefit of being a Rorschach test—that is, like a subject interpreting an inkblot, educators could use the claim of several intelligences to support almost any pet educational idea that they had. My original book had very few educational suggestions—after all, I was the psychologist, casting only a sideways glance into the classroom. For that very reason, the theory provided ample running room for practitioners to suggest approaches to curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, learning differences, use of computers, place of the arts—indeed, almost any issue in which educators are interested.  And since I had not precluded any educational use of the theory, practitioners in many places felt liberated to make use of the theory in whatever way they liked.

For the most part, this promiscuous use was fine with me. After all, as I maintained from the beginning, I am the scholar, not the educator, and it is up to educators to decide how to use the theory. I did not want to be a traffic cop or a rating agency! Also when educators approached me for help in devising curricula or even whole schools, I declined to be a full-fledged member of their team. At most, I agreed to provide feedback when I could.  In fact, I learned a great deal from the uses to which others put the theory—in that sense, I became a ‘student of MI theory.’

Only once did I openly condemn an application of the theory. In the early 1990s, I learned from a colleague about an MI-inspired educational approach in Australia. No doubt well motivated, this approach went way too far and violated both scientific and ethical boundaries. For me, the ‘smoking gun’ was the claim that different racial and ethnic groups in Australia each exhibited a characteristic intellectual profile. I thought that this was nonsense; I went on a television program and said so; happily, this ill-conceived educational intervention was soon cancelled.

As a result of this experience and of my general observations, I took two steps.

First of all, I wrote a paper called “Reflections on Multiple Intelligences: Myths and Messages.” In that essay, probably my most widely specimen of reprinted writing, I delineated seven common misunderstandings of the theory. These misunderstandings ranged from the terminology (MI is not a statement about learning styles) to the educational (there are no official MI or Gardner schools). I cannot say that this publication stopped all misunderstandings of the theory. But it catalyzed a change in me—namely, that I needed to take some responsibility for the interpretations of my theory. And in fact, my subsequent involvement in the study and promotion of “GoodWork” arose most directly from my own battle scars with reference to the misuse of MI ideas.

The second step was to state explicitly the most important educational implications of MI theory. They can be captured in two words: Individuation and Pluralization. Human beings differ from one another and there is absolutely no reason to teach and assess all individuals in the identical way. Rather, in the future, good practice should particularize the modes of presentation as well as the manner of assessment as much as feasible; and that individuation should be based on our understanding of the intellectual profiles of individual learners.

Interestingly, such individual education has always been possible for one group—the affluent. These individuals hire tutors and the tutor’s job is to make sure that Abraham and Sarah learn what they need to know, and to use whatever pedagogical approaches work. We are fortunate enough to live in an era where individualized education is no longer an option only for the wealthy.  Computers make it possible to provide individualized teaching and assessment options for every person.

Pluralization can be undertaken in any era and with classes of any size. It simply means that important ideas, topics, theories and skills ought to be taught in more than one way, indeed in several ways—and these several ways should activate the multiple intelligences. When one pluralizes an educational approach, two wonderful things happen. First of all, one reaches more individuals—since some individuals learn better through stories, others through work of art, or hands on activities or group work—and by argument, each of these approaches activates a distinctive set of intelligences. Second of all, pluralized education exemplifies what it means to understand something well. Because if you understand an entity well—be it a school subject, an avocation, your own home, your own family—you can think of it in many ways.  Conversely, if you can only represent this entity in a single way, using a single intelligence, then your own mastery is probably tenuous.

Note that neither of these educational implications—individuation, pluralization—depends explicitly on MI theory. Indeed, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, I am certain that you could find recommendations for approaches based on the same underlying ideas.  MI Theory provided some scientific and empirical evidence for these approaches. And, perhaps more importantly, because of the list of 7-10 intelligences, it gave names for, and made suggestions about how to individualize and how to pluralize.

A final word to readers of this book:  I hope that you find the ideas of multiple intelligences helpful in your teaching, your learning, and your own life. That is the greatest satisfaction for an individual who has sent some ideas into the world.

Howard Gardner
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts
November 2014

From the Ivory Tower to the Schoolhouse

Jack Schneider’s 2014 book From the Ivory Tower to the Schoolhouse: How Scholarship Becomes Common Knowledge in Education devotes an entire chapter to Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences. Detailing the reasons why MI became a significant educational force, the text is a useful tool for anyone seeking insight into the process by which ideas are adopted (or not adopted) by a wide public audience. An excerpt from the relevant chapter is below:

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has been a blockbuster in American education – what one set of backers called “contemporary education’s most popular idea.” A search of the federal government’s Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), for instance, returns over twelve hundred articles on “multiple intelligences” – twice as many results as a search for “Bloom’s taxonomy,” and a few hundred more than a search for “progressive education,” though not nearly as many as for “state standards.” It is extensively, and positively, covered in textbooks for aspiring teachers. Those curious about multiple intelligences conduct hundreds of thousands of Internet searches for it each year. And there are at least six schools in the United States named for Howard Gardner. Despite its critics, the idea has taken hold in schools large and small, public and private, across disciplines, and at all grade levels.”

For further information, and to purchase a copy of the book, please visit Amazon by clicking here.