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The Infinite Classroom

Teaching to Multiple Intelligences

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Design Your Own Education
At the other end of the spectrum, one might say, lies the Hudson Valley Sudbury School, where students aren't just offered individualized learning—they design their own, and do nothing they do not want to do. "Gardner's work is interesting in the abstract sense, but it doesn't so much affect what we do," says co-founder Jeff Collins. "The kids are part of all decision-making and judicial processes, they're respected and given choices in what to learn and how. We reject the dichotomy that there are two types of activities: beneficial and not. We value every activity—every activity has aspects of learning and aspects of not learning to it. We don't say, 'Okay, here's recess, that's fun, now it's time to sit down and learn, which is not fun.' We want them to enjoy themselves and flourish, not segment time into 'valuable' and 'unvaluable'—it's a whole other paradigm that's scary in some ways." Sudbury outcomes, he says, look much like any other school's, with the exception that Sudbury students tend to lean toward entrepreneurial pursuits "and they tend to only go to college if it's what they really want, not because they're 'supposed to.'"

The Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School’s projects knit together the multiple intelligences. - IMAGE PROVIDED
  • Image provided
  • The Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School’s projects knit together the multiple intelligences.
Application Nation
Gardner has always been careful to describe himself as a psychologist first and foremost, and largely left to others the question of how best to apply his discoveries in the classroom—although he does caution against confusing multiple intelligences with "learning styles," saying that the MI theory is more a delineation of basic equipment, and styles are more a matter of how it's put to use. Since publication of Frames of Mind, he's gone on to identify the possibility of another innate intelligence—existentialist—and publish further works, the most recent one being The App Generation: How Today's Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World, an exploration of the difference between being "app-dependent" and "app-enabled."

But while the questions of pedagogical method he refuses to weigh in on are more numerous than those he'll answer, he makes one thing perfectly clear: "I personally prefer a school in which a range of discipline and skill areas are a regular part of the curriculum, and I dislike a school with a narrow focus on any intelligence, be it a traditional academic school or an arts-centered school," he said in an online chat at Thirteen.org. Which would seem to be a message that Hudson Valley educators are hearing loud and clear.

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