Conversations about intelligence seem to have popped up all over the place this week….

How many different sorts of intelligence are there?  So far this week, here are what’s come up in conversation….

There’s the obvious academic intelligence which seems to be all about remembering lots of facts and figures to be regurgitated at required times such as exams (which are thankfully coming to an end now). 

There’s IQ.

There’s common sense, and practical intelligence – things learnt by watching and absorbing practical things over the years.

There’s what I call ‘native’ intelligence – the kind of intelligence that puts separate bits of information together to make up a complete picture. 

There’s lateral thinking – which is separate from native intelligence but closely related – where seemingly random and unrelated things can be the trigger to solving another problem entirely.

There’s emotional intelligence – where people are aware of how others are feeling and respond accordingly.

There’s social intelligence – knowing how to interact with people in many different situations whether one-on-one or in groups. 

I also rate curiosity as a form of intelligence.  If you are curious about life, how things/nature/science works, if you are curious about how people think, if you want to keep learning about many different topics, extending your life experience through reading, listening to others, experiencing different situations, then to me, that is an intellectual form of intelligence. 

Why this discussion on intelligence?  My son, who has just turned 21, decided he wants to go into the army.  He took various tests, including one that measured ‘intelligence’.  From what he described, this test was designed to search out speedy reactions to many different situations – comprehension, lateral thinking, native intelligence, and others.  What it was not designed to do was measure academic intelligence – lucky for him because he is not that way inclined!  However, in other forms of intelligence he rates pretty highly.  In fact, so much so that he scored high marks and has been selected for a number of possible jobs that require his brains rather than his brawn.  A huge relief for his mother!!! 

The whole process led to a number of discussions with several people about intelligence and I find it fascinating!  What other forms of intelligence have I not included in my summary?  We place so much store by academic intelligence, and yet, once we are out of the education system, that is virtually the least used intelligence.  It is a rare school that teaches students about the other forms of intelligence that will be so useful to them in the outside world.  Why is that?  And what is the benefit of such a skewed approach to intelligence? 

My son, on exam results alone, although no dunce, is not a high flyer.  Yet put him in a situation that calls for a cool head and an ability to weigh things up quickly and accurately and he is a star!  And with a razor-sharp wit!  The army will give him the opportunity to develop those skills that he possesses, learn new ones and keep him interested and engaged.  Although as a mum it’s been a shock to the system, I know that he will have a purpose and be part of something much bigger than he is.  His intelligence is finally being given the recognition it deserves.