Why it’s so important to foster different types of intelligence

Aine argues that great minds do not think alike and we should encourage all types of intelligence

Written by Aine Ahern


Great minds do not think alike

When I googled the term “intelligence” I found quite contrasting results. On one hand, it was defined as the capacity for logic, self-awareness, creativity, emotional knowledge, and problem solving. On the other hand, it described intelligence as acute, brainy, and someone who understands difficult subjects while gaining and using knowledge.

After reading the first definition I found myself nodding silently while thinking, great- I’ve definitely been called creative before, I understand my (even sometimes irrational) emotions, and ya, there’s nothing like getting the countdown conundrum just before Rachel Riley does, therefore I must be intelligent. But after reading the second definition, suddenly my school days came flooding back to me and that feeling of being not quite good enough kicked in.

You see, although I was called “creative”, “musical”, and “self-aware”, words like “astute”, “brainy” and “mathsy” were always that bit far out of my reach. Did this mean I wasn’t intelligent? It sure felt like it in school. It was only when I was in college that I discovered my true intelligence. Suddenly I was getting A’s in every subject and at first, I thought I must have been picking up the wrong transcripts, but much to my surprise, after 4 years of the same results I finally came to the realisation that, no I hadn’t grown a brain overnight but in actual fact my type of brain had finally been tapped into. For the first time in my academic life I felt worthy.

My degree was in marketing which meant brainstorming campaign ideas, coming up with witty slogans, and even learning what drives us. I was 21 and I finally found my intelligence. Other 21-year olds were out there searching for the person they had shifted the night before in the club and here I was, finding a part of me I never knew existed or at least until now was allowed to exist. But at least I found it after 21 years, it made me wonder what happens to those who are constantly searching for theirs or worse, who never find it? Einstein epitomises my thoughts perfectly as he says: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid”.

Mind blown

The leaving cert caters for a very select niche of students who are skilled at mathematics, linguistics, and have the ability to memorise. Even higher level Maths receives more points. But what if you weren’t left brained, what if you were more right brained. And by right brained I mean intuitive, creative, and imaginative? And what if, despite playing two recorders in your mouth at once for your musical practical you STILL aren’t awarded extra points? What an actual travesty. You see, although playing two recorders at the same time and Pythagoras’ theorem may have nothing in common, they do however, require a certain skill set. And unless you are aware of your particular skill set it’s quite possible you will never reach your true potential. Did you know some academics believe there are actually nine types of intelligences? These are categorised as: Naturalistic, Musical, logical-mathematical, existential, interpersonal, bodily-kinesthetics, linguistic, intra-personal and spatial.

“Very advanced”

I used to work in an art shop and to say I met every “advanced” child in the county would be an understatement. It was like clockwork. Every interaction I had with any adult would go something like this, “I’m looking for a puzzle for a 3-year-old, he’s 36 months and 3 days old to be exact.” I would smile and usher them in the general direction of puzzles for age 3 plus. Within  seconds I would hear those famous words, “Oh no no, you don’t understand, he’s VERY advanced. We would like the 5-6yr puzzle please”. After providing every advanced child in Limerick with puzzles to keep them going until they were at least 5 years old, this one particular interaction I had was more memorable than any of the others. One morning while working, a country man approached me and asked had I “any pikturs or puzzles for the ung fella”. I smiled, how old is he? “He’s 3.” I ushered him to the aisle and he started laughing and said “Era no, he’s a bit shlow, have ya anything simpler?” Thank God, a mediocre child existed in the county. And when I did meet this so-called “slow” little boy, he was beautiful. In fact he was so perfectly normal. He was playing with the plastic animals on the ground and informing me of each and every species. “Did you know that Ostriches have 3 stomachs?” Now who’s shlow!

Don(t) Giovanni

“Hot housing” refers to parents trying to create super babies since birth. These are the babies who have been exposed to flashcards before they can talk, to gymnastics before they can crawl, all having bopped to Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” in the womb. The “tiger approach” is a strict, and demanding parenting style in order to increase high levels of achievement. But each hour spent in a room playing the violin until their little fingers bleed is another hour spent without human contact. 1 hour seems like nothing in the grand scheme of things but an amalgamation of “just one more hour” over 20 years results in a complete lack of both social and emotional intelligence.


Can we find a balance? One school that is trying to answer this question is Steiner education which focuses on a more holistic approach as opposed to solely academic. The child’s artistic, emotional, and practical needs are also taken into account which provides them with better resilience, a better understanding of emotions and if anything, confidence.

Isn’t that what you would want for your child? If schools took time to understand the different types of intelligences and how to foster them, we would all be striving and more importantly, feeling good enough. Life is hard enough, you don’t want to go through it feeling lost. Now you don’t have to as there’s millions of tests online that will thoroughly analyse your personality and provide you with guidelines and career prospects. You don’t need 21 years. For anyone reading this – you got this far in the piece – at least you know you can read well!

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