Preeminent Intelligence - Social IQ
working paper that follows is outside the normal range of
thinking about education.
I believe it could be classed as 'Thinking beyond
the box'. I
therefore ask you to set aside your preconceived
convictions about how a child should be educated and open
your mind to consider some pretty extreme examples.
The net result of my 38 years of searching for
alternatives to our present educational system has led me
to write about the very important dimension of social
skill development and its relevance to the further
refinement of the intellect.
I am firmly convinced that as the traditionalists
turn up the pressure on student academic achievement,
resulting in boxing students into a tighter and tighter
configuration, the outcome will be explosions, some of
which we are unfortunately beginning to see in sites all
across our country.
you read this paper you will find that I refer to three
educational settings, traditional, multiage and the Sudbury
Valley School (SVS)
significant number of schools are beginning to explore the
potentials that exist in multiage (MA) classrooms as
contrasted with age segregated classrooms.
Some of the benefits of the MA classroom will
become evident as you read this paper.
There are many more.
Searching the internet for Multiage classrooms will
bring forth a number of resources worth visiting.
fascination with the Sudbury Valley School, in Framingham
Massachusetts is an extension of my interest in exploring
the effect of giving students freedom in settings where
they are expected to honor this trust through responsible
interest had led me to accept an invitation to be a member
of the Board of Trustees of Fairhaven
School, which has been formed on the Sudbury Valley
school opened the fall of '99 with a full compliment of 35
students ranging in age from five to sixteen.
The enrollment is now over 50 students. The school is
working on a major capitol campaign with the intent of
raising $650,000 to more than double the current physical
plant. It is located between Annapolis and
perception of the relevance of these three forms of
education is as on a continuum with traditional education
on the left, multiage to the left of center and the SV
model is on the other side of the page.
It is my belief that it is important for anyone who
is looking at alternative forms of education be aware
of the full range of possibilities that exist for helping
young children to realize their fullest potentials.
Although the Sudbury Valley model lies at a great
distance from traditional education, it appears to be
serving the needs of a broad range of students.
the multiage setting students begin to take on roles that
are denied them in age segregated classrooms.
In a mature multiage setting, with a three year age
span, the year begins with
students that are fully familiar with how their teacher
manages her classroom.
As a consequent they become her helpers in
introducing the new students to her style and classroom
enables the class to gain at lest two month which would
normally be used in getting the class up to speed. A
mentoring develops between older students and younger
ones. In the settings where the age range is greater and
there is a little more freedom many other interactions
occur. A multage classroom is often characterized as a
rich caring community of eager learners who have been
given the luxury of time.
The following description of a multiage classroom
comes from the Preface of a book on the topic Full
Circle by Penelle Chase and Jane Doan.
Our multiage classroom is a rich
environment. It is rich in activity.
It is rich in sociability.
It is rich in differences.
The talk here is energetic.
Ideas ripple through the room.
Caring happens naturally.
We believe that learning in a multiage setting is
the happiest way to learn.
We are in our fifth year of co-teaching
a multiage group of five-,six-, seven-, and
June we regretfully bid farewell to only those children
that "graduate" from our program to enter third
we are secure in the knowledge that two-thirds of our
class will return as old friends in the fall.
We know, too, that the multiage cycle will continue
then as we welcome the new youngest members of the class.
Our multiage program keeps going on its own. It is a happy way to teach.
Sudbury Valley students are intently engaged in a broad
variety of endeavors.
Almost everyone is focused on tasks that are
meaningful and important.
You often see older students with several younger
ones gathered around listening to a story with the
associated give and take of questions, answers, and
may gain an insight into the character of a Sudbury Model
school from the following statement drawn from the school
The Sudbury Valley school is a place
where people decide for themselves how to spend their
students of all ages determine what they will do, as well
as when, how, and where they will do it.
This freedom is at the heart of the school;
it belongs to the students as their right, not to
The fundamental premises of the school
are simple: that all people are curious by nature; that
the most efficient, long-lasting, and profound learning
takes place when started and pursued by the learner; that
all people are creative if they are allowed to develop
their unique talents; that age-mixing among students
promotes growth in all members of the group; and that
freedom is essential to the development of personal
In practice this means that students
initiate all their own activities and create their own
physical plant, the staff, and the equipment are there for
the students to use as the need arises.
The school provides a setting in which
students are independent, are trusted, and are treated as
responsible people; and a community in which students are
exposed to the complexities of life in the framework of a
(60 Minutes aired a segment on the SV school
movement on April 29.2001.)
both of these settings a visitor is immediately impressed
with the character of a community where the students have
a great amount of freedom to interact socially and
order for such a community to be successful the students
must learn to assume ultimate responsibility for their own
the true sense of the word, they become self-disciplined.
Arguments in support of the thesis
that expanded opportunities for social
interaction enhances intelligence.
have been wrestling with how to present the parameters and
importance of social interaction and how it contributes to
the full development of intelligence in school age
children for over four years now.
I have finally decided to place on paper the
substance of what I have found to date.
first introduction to the proposition that social
interaction may have an effect on intelligence came from
Richard Leakey's Origins Reconsidered: In Search of
What Makes Us Human. In discussing the subject of
intelligence, Leakey refers to a conversation he had with
Nicholas Humphrey, "Like chess, a social interaction
is typically a transaction between social partners,"
....."It asks for a level of intelligence that
is unparalleled in any other sphere of living.
There may be, of course, strong and weak
players--yet, as master or novice, we, and most members of
complex primate societies have been in this game since we
were babies." ... 'By now, the notion of social
intelligence--or, rather, the acute intellectual
demands of complex social life---has become the
leading paradigm among anthropologists."
Leakey goes on:
Inevitably, inexorably, the Inner Eye,
as Nicholas Humphrey calls this mental model, must also
generate a sense of self, the phenomenon we know as
consciousness: the Inner "I".
"In evolutionary terms it must have been a
major breakthrough," observes Nick.
"Imagine the biological benefits to the first
of our ancestors who developed the ability to make
realistic guesses about the inner life of his rivals; to
be able to picture what another was thinking about and
planning to do next; to be able to read the minds of
others by reading his own."
If the mental model produced by the
Inner Eye bestows an advantage on individuals in the
complex of social interactions, the ultimate goal of which
is reproductive success, then it will be favored by
established, there is no going back, for individuals less
well endowed would be at a disadvantage.
Similarly, those with a slight edge would be
further favored. "An
evolutionary ratchet would be set up," says Nick,
"acting like a self-winding watch to increase the
general intellectual standing of the species.
In principle the process might be expected to
continue until either the psychological mainspring is
fully wound or intelligence itself becomes a burden."
As humans, we experience the ultimate expression
of this dimension of intelligence : the skills of
foresight and manipulation, the facility of imagination,
the sense of self. We
also extend it to raw feelings, of course, to sympathy and
empathy, to attribution and affect.
This dimension of feeling is what makes
consciousness so keenly subjective an experience.
A real sense of grief can swell in the emotions of
someone who hears of, for instance, a parent losing a
with the emotions of others through the experience of
one's own emotions is very much part of human
an earlier segment Leakey writes about another interaction
"Studies on hunter-gatherer
societies show that the demands of their daily lives are
not great. Hunting
techniques do not greatly outstrip those of other social
gathering strategies are of the same order as you might
find in say chimpanzees or baboons."
acknowledged this and wondered what it was in evolutionary
history that enable the human brain to create a Mozart
symphony or Einstein's theory of relativity. "The
answer," said Nick, 'is social life. Primates live complex social lives. That's what makes them--and makes us--so
classrooms do not permit the interaction of complex social
children in traditional settings are treated as learners
who must be infused with more and more complex forms of
need only look at the "Standards" that have been
created by each of the subject specialties to become aware
of the vast amounts of factual knowledge that a student
should have acquired by various stages of their progress
leaders have made casual reference to Nicholas Humphrey's
ideas but none have taken his position as a starting point
to develop a school environment where social interaction
could flourish. One
reference to the importance of interpersonal skills is
found in Howard Gardner's book Frames of Mind in
his chapter on inter-intra personal intelligence.
Near the end of the chapter he makes reference to
the inter-intra personal intelligences as being of a
higher order than the more mundane intelligences;
Allusion to sense of self suggests a
reason that researchers may have hesitated to construe the
personal intelligences in cognitive form.
A developed sense of self often appears as the
highest achievement of human beings, a crowning capacity
which supersedes and presides over other more mundane and
partial forms of intelligence.
It is also that capacity about which individuals
have the strongest and most intimate views; thus it
becomes a sensitive (as well as an elusive) target to
of study and a high degree of personal involvement are
not, of course, valid reasons to avert the scrutiny of
scientific investigation. (PP 242-3, Gardner, Frames of
also makes reference to Humphrey with the following quote
but does little to elaborate on its implications.
"The British Psychologist N. K.
Humphrey stresses the creative capacities involved in
knowledge of the social world. In fact, he makes the bold claim that the chief
creative use of human intellect lies not in the
traditional areas of art and science but rather in holding
society together. He
points out that social primates are required to be
calculating beings, to take into account the consequences
of their own behavior, to calculate the likely behaviors
of others, to calculate benefits and loses - all in a
context where the relevant evidence is ephemeral, likely
to change, even as a consequence of their own actions.
Only an organism with highly developed cognitive
skills can make do in such a context.
The requisite abilities have been worked out over
the millennia by human beings and passed on with great
care and skill from the elder to the younger
individuals..." (page 257, Gardner, Frames of Mind.)
found in William Doll's book, A Post Modern Perspective
on Curriculum, further support for the importance of
social interaction as he reviewed the works of Bruner and
others on the topic.
The importance of well developed communities of
learning was stressed as an important co-component.
In all of these multiage settings various forms of
democracy evolve. One
might say that the full dimension of our humanity cannot
develop in an age segregated classroom where the rule is
could further go on to hypothesize that the broader the
age span the greater the potential for fully developing
our human interpersonal skills.
have had the good fortune of recently locating Nicholas
Humphrey whose writings have been referenced by many of
the authors cited above.
When I spoke with him I asked the question that is
the heart of my search; What is the relevance of social
interaction to intellectual development?
He returned with the question; Within one's
became obvious that his focus has been that of an
anthropologist looking at the development of the human
brain over time. He
did refer me to a paper he had written on consciousness.
his paper, "Uses of Consciousness" Humphrey
provides a very clear idea of how our consciousness
contributes to our ability to socially interact.
the question is, what would a natural historian notice
as being special about human life-style, I'd say the
answer must be this. Human beings are
extraordinary sociable creatures. The
environment to which they are adapted is before else
the environment of the family, the working group, the
clan. Human inter-personal relationships have a
depth, a complexity and a biological importance that
far exceed those of any other animal. Indeed,
without the ability to understand, predict and
manipulate the behavior of other members of his
own species, a person could hardly survive from day to
that being so, it means that every individual has to
be, in effect, a "psychologist" just to stay
alive, let alone to negotiate the maze of social
interactions on which his success at mating and
breeding will ultimately rest. Not a
psychologist in the ordinary sense, but what I have
called "natural psychologist". Just as
a blind bat develops quite naturally the ability to
find its way around a cave, so every human being must
develop a set of natural skills for penetrating the
twilight world of inter-personal psychology -- the
world of loves, hates, jealousies, a world where so
little is revealed on the surface and so much has to
we follow this line of thinking then children must have an
opportunity for continuous every day interpersonal experiences
in order to develop a keen well developed 'inter-personal
schools are structured today very few of these skills,
critical for survival in the real world, are allowed to
we so limit the development of the skills of "natural
psychologist" in traditional schools our students as
graduates, enter the job market handicapped to the point
of being incapable of surviving on their own.
In contrast those students that have had an ability
to develop their skills as a "natural
psychologist" in multiage classrooms and at settings
such as Sudbury Valley rise head and shoulders over their
less socially skilled peers. They have a good sense of self, know what they want
out of life and have the skills necessary to begin their
example of this higher social intelligence is the
experience of one soon to graduate SV student who wished
to gain acceptance to Wesleyan College in Middletown
students have no records to submit to a college admissions
office. Their only credentials are in the form of their
scores on the SAT's.
This particular student, recognizing how Wesleyan
would receive her application asked for an appointment
with the Dean of Admissions.
The Dean's secretary informed her that, without
traditional records, including grade point averages and
class standings, she had little chance of admission.
The student persisted calling frequently for an
appointment of only 15 minutes.
Finally the secretary relented and said the
applicant could have fifteen minutes if she could be there
at 9am the following day.
She arrived for her appointment on time. An hour and a half later she and the Dean emerged
from his office. The
Dean said that she should be definitely admitted to the
college and in fact she should be put on the list of early
applicant had thoroughly researched the resources of
various colleges, knew that Wesleyan had to offer what she
desired in a college, and was prepared to defend her
selection to the Dean.
The bottom line was that she had the social skills
to confidently make her case.
The Dean was reported to say that she was truly the
type of student that Wesleyan College was seeking.
industry and local businesses condemn education for not
properly educating our students they fail to recognize the
true source of the problem. They always make reference to the students academic
inadequacies when in fact what the students are lacking
are social confidences, self reliance, thinking skills,
and personal resourcefulness.
SV graduate wanting to attend college courses that
required a background in calculus was reminded of his
shortcoming by a parent.
His response was, 'don't worry Mom, I'll get it'.
What he meant was, that through his resourcefulness
he would gain access to the books and related materials he
would need to master the subject.
This in fact he did and proceeded to become a
I would like to present several documents I have come upon
that further support the thesis that social skill
development contributes to the intelligence of life coping
documents present student outcomes, or behaviors which
result from permitting extended free social interaction
among children as they undertake their learning in a
multiage classroom. These documents were written by
teachers of multiage classes.
The first anecdotal report comes in the form of two
e-mail letters from teachers in Oregon.
They have been teaching in a multiage classroom,
grades K to 2.
Their two letters follow.
from Ellen in
Edmonds (WA State)
I just returned from awarding
scholarships at our local high school to two graduating
students that had gone through our multiage program from
their 1st year. One
of the parents mentioned that the high school kids are
advising their friends and neighbors to get over to our
multiage school and get their kids signed up. That is because they see that the multiage
graduates are more responsible, capable, compassionate,
involved, and have higher self-esteem.
Who needs the research when the living
testimonies are all around?
This was one of the greatest and most precious
moments in my career.
What we are doing not only works, it lasts a
from a colleague of Ellen, Janet
I wanted to second everything that Ellen
has said. The
awards we presented last night, were among many others in
this high school awards ceremony.
Students from our multiage program (now the Madrona
School in Edmonds) were notable in number of awards and
commented to me also, how happy they were that their
children had the opportunity to attend out multiage
school, as the characteristics Ellen mentioned have
carried over throughout their middle school and high
school years. Many of these students have been the leaders of the
Students mentioned how much easier it
was for them when they went to high school because of the
friendships they had with students who were older, and how
special it was to greet their younger friends when they
joined them. Several
of them said they'd never forgotten the warm, caring,
positive atmosphere of our multiage classrooms, both from
the teachers and other students.
Friends of theirs, who were not in our program,
commented that our students continually talk about their
special grade school years.
These students are very self-confident,
aware of their strengths, and have set great goals for
their futures. I
agree, this is what multiage is all about! The rewards for Students, parents, and teachers are
real and wonderful.
e-mail is from a teacher who, being effected by my talking
about the influence of social interaction on intelligence,
began to reflect on how the graduates of her program were
being successful in the years after they had entered
Leier March 29, 1998
You know Ray, I think you are onto
something that I have been beginning to realize - that the
climate established in a multiage group DOES in fact
contribute to the cognitive development, regardless of how
"good" the teacher is.
For example, last month my daughter's middle school
sent home a newsletter. (This middle school takes the
combined students from our elementary school and New Mines
elementary school.) In
the newsletter, they announced that 7, grade 7 &
8 students wrote the Canadian National Mathematics
League Contest. FIVE
of these students were former students of mine - including
the first place student of each grade level!
Now one could conjecture that I happen to have the
most intellectually able children placed in my class - but
you know that isn't true, because our principal is very
careful about fair distribution of children.
Okay..... am I a superior math teacher?
I think I do a good job, but so do many of my
colleagues at my school.
I am convinced that it has more to do with the
three year multiage climate of my class that gave them
such a great start in school.
The confidence and self esteem they developed
certainly impacted on their achievement!
Final document comes from the Thesis paper of a student
graduating from Sudbury Valley.
This student had left public school to spend her
last two years at this very unusual school. She was close to dropping out of school, out of
sorts with the world around her and estranged from her
parents. In the very short span of two years she had turned
her life around, became a loving considerate human being
and had reconnected with her parents.
A portion of her thesis is here for you to read for
Taft, April 28, 1998
Before I came to SVS, I wouldn't have
been confident and stable enough to travel cross-country
with Maggie on the adventure of a lifetime.
If not for SVS, I'd never have sat in the Badlands
under a vast black sky dotted with a billion bright stars.
I'd never have found that learning is wonderful
when no one's forcing you to do it.
I'd never have applied to colleges where my
opinions count and learning is a choice and a right.
I'd never have made friends that I'd live or die
SVS has given me so much but most
importantly, SVS gave me back my parents.
They had been desperate to help me, but for years I
had pushed them away.
After years of severe rebellion and silence, the
lines of communication between us slowly reopened.
I began to respect my parents because I realized
that they respected me.
They allowed me to join this community because they
hoped it would make me happier.
It did! And
because I am happier, they're happier and our words are no
longer bitter. I've
found a place for myself, an identity, so I don't need to
run from them anymore.
How could I ever have been ignorant of the fact
that my parents are amazing people?
They are the most loving parents I could ever ask
for and so accepting of me and my lifestyle.
Anyone who's been in my house knows that they are
fun, charitable and wise, and that they love to sing!
Thank you, SVS, for helping me to sing with them
all of the settings noted the students were educated in
various forms of multiage classes.
Some were in settings where only two years were
present and in the extreme case the multiage ranged from
five years to eighteen years, the full spectrum of
elementary and secondary education.
what is there about multiage education that brings about
this profound difference?
It is my thesis that as we open up the opportunity
for social interaction we enable students to exercise a
variety of interpersonal skills that empowers them to
become proficient as, "'natural psychologists' who
are able to take into account the consequences of their
own behavior, to calculate the likely behaviors of others,
to calculate benefits and loses - all in a context where
the relevant evidence is ephemeral, likely to change, even
as a consequence of their own actions." (Humphrey)
Raymond H. Hartjen
Old Fireplace Road
Hampton, NY 11037
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