What Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences Taught Me about Why I Have Such a Good Memory

 

In 1988 for Ms. Riddle’s 2nd grade reading class we had to write a poem telling about a time when we really wanted something for a long time and finally got it. I remember Susan Johnson writing about getting to go to the beach. And Diego Reynoso wrote about getting a pet dog. That was the general idea of the assignment. I, on the other hand, wrote a poem about how happy I was when my dad went to the True Value hardware store and bought an adapter so I could play my Atari games on the TV in my bedroom.

Ten years and 3 weeks ago I walked across the stage for my high school graduation. All seniors had been given a document from the principal listing the proper attire to wear underneath our gowns. We were clearly told to wear black shoes. The token rebel thing to do was to go barefoot. I, instead, chose to wear canary yellow Saucony tennis shoes and hold out a stick of Mentos candy to the audience as I crossed the stage. It’s simply what’s expected from the kid who was voted “One and Only” for the Senior Who’s Who.

One question I have consistently been asked throughout my lifetime is, “You just HAVE to be different, don’t you?” Assuming it must be true, I would always casually agree. But then two weeks ago my wife came back from one of her Master’s classes for Childhood Education and dropped some science on me. Having learned Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence (1983), she told me that I am a “visual-linguistic learner”. That’s when it was officially confirmed: Yes, I HAVE to be different.

 

I have been hard-wired to seek out the road less travelled, every time. Not a rebel in the expected way, but a rebel in the fact I am prone to find a different perspective on everything I encounter in life. I was never the annoying kid in class who tried to argue with the teacher. That kid always annoyed me. But I was the kid who, when given a project, always ended up with the weirdest possible submission and was able to pull it off.

Noted, my long-term memory is often exceptionally unbelievable. In high school, many people were forced to be made aware of my obsession with 1980’s trivia, since I could correctly tell the year of any movie or song, my specialty being 1983. In college, most people who knew me were forced to be made aware that they could name any celebrity and I could accurately tell the height of that celebrity. I’m simply not much fun to play against in modern trivia board games like Scene It or Trivial Pursuit and being the first to solve the puzzle while watching Wheel of Fortune just comes natural.

And it turns out I’m not the only one. A quick visit to Wikipedia helped my life make a lot more sense:

“Verbal-linguistic Intelligence

This area has to do with words, spoken or written. People with high verbal-linguistic intelligence display a facility with words and languages. They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and MEMORIZING WORDS ALONG WITH DATES. They tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and discussion and debate. They are also frequently skilled at explaining, teaching and oration or persuasive speaking. Those with verbal-linguistic intelligence learn foreign languages very easily as they have high verbal memory and recall, and an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure. This intelligence is highest in writers, lawyers, philosophers, journalists, politicians, poets, and teachers.”

Being raised my whole life in the South, people from the North and out West have always questioned my lack of a Southern accent. Because my mom moved from Buffalo, NY when she was 14, I always assumed that neutralized me. But after realizing anyone who’s ever met my mom says she actually has one of the biggest Southern accents out there, I’ve recently come to terms with the truth there is another reason people think I’m from Pennsylvania or Ohio.

The reason: I am overly aware of how words are supposed to sound. I could never bring myself to say “Eh’ll seeh yuh nehxt Tuesdee, Eh reckin!” (“I’ll see you next Tuesday, I reckon!”) For me, that’s a sin. That’s breaking so many rules of pronunciation and is a threat to clear communication. I never realized I was so OCD about words and speech.

Speaking of communication, when I met my wife for the first time on October 5, 2006, it was her beauty that captured me from across the crowded lobby. Anytime I revisit that event with her she confirms it was because I was good at telling stories and entertaining her that caused a random new stranger like me to be able to steal her attention. (I purposely stood next to her as we waited in an hour long line- that’s how we met.) As we began dating four months later (to the day) and immediately fell in love thereafter, two particular things attracted her most to me: 1) I knew “who I was” and was confident in that, 2) She knew because of my random knowledge that we would never run out of things to talk about.

Not because I was suave and charming, but because my randomness of speech worked for me.

So thanks to Howard Gardner, it’s safe to say I’m not that weird after all. Actually, I am- but at least now I have been diagnosed. While I may be a bit of a prodigy at a few things, any talent I have in other fields is completely absent: Math, science, multi-tasking (driving while talking on a cell phone), and sports (except Corn Hole and Mario Kart Wii). Like by magnetic force, I am drawn to what is offbeat and untrendy.

This, has been my version of a Top 25 or a “Which Power Ranger Would You Be?” quiz.

The other intelligences…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_multiple_intelligences

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