I like Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. The Harvard psychologist posited in the 1980s that everyone has strengths in one or more areas, including musical, spatial and verbal. It is quite apparent to me that I have no mathematical intelligence at all. But intrapersonal smarts — the ability to know yourself — that is one area where I shine.

Of course, I have observed multiple intelligences at work in my students over the past 25 years. They think in pictures, or they have perfect pitch, or they do best working in groups (that’s the interpersonal intelligence). But there was one strength that was not on Gardner’s list, one that was close to my own heart. I call it the political/historical intelligence.

As a political-science major married to another political-science major, I guess I thought everybody was interested in what was going on in the world. And who didn’t like history? Well, I suppose having to memorize dates and battles can sour anyone on the Hundred Years War. But what about “Little House on the Prairie?” American Girl dolls? Need I add Ken Burns?

My political/historical intelligence limits my choice of where to live. It’s true that here in Maine we have an unacceptable governor, but our Legislature has been strong enough to stop him from implementing truly foolish laws. It would be hard for me to live in any state that was once part of the Confederacy or still uses capital punishment. Obviously, I am not moving to Texas anytime soon.

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson was running against Republican Barry Goldwater, who was really out there on the right wing. I was in the third grade, and my school was having a mock election. My father very sternly told me I was not, under any circumstances, to vote for Goldwater. I still chuckle at that memory today. It was a mock election!

Having come from that kind of milieu, I was surprised one day, years ago, when a young teacher asked for help in finding materials on the westward expansion.


“I hate history,” she said. “Are we talking about before or after the Civil War?”

At a later point, I was trying to help a student select a topic. He could do his report on anything in the entire history of the United States. Nothing I suggested interested him. Finally I said, “What period do you like the best, like the Colonial era, or maybe World War II?”

He said, “I like the time of the dinosaurs.” At least he was interested in old things.

But then there was the student who came in almost every day to read the Kennebec Journal. Occasionally, he would comment on some piece of news. He wished the school had a debate team. I was not surprised to learn later that his father worked in politics.

There were others like him, but they were few and far between. Perhaps that’s why we don’t have our own intelligence. There aren’t enough of us.

It does feel lonely when you realize the person you are talking to pays no attention to the news or couldn’t care less about the Battle of the Little Bighorn. But the times, they are a-changing, as Bob Dylan sang.


Does any American not know what’s going on under the political big top? It’s hard to avoid the noise Donald Trump makes, even if you try. I consciously attempt to ignore celebrity news, but, darn it, things pop up on the radio when I least expect it, and news items show up on my Facebook stream. So I know that Beyonce came out with a new video and album, “Lemonade,” which sparked rumors that hubby Jay Z was cheating on her.

Man, I hate knowing that.

Based on that scientific observation of how news seeps into our brains, I conclude that no Americans, unless they are Amish or Luddites, can fail to realize that we are in the middle of a historic election season. We are witnessing something important. People are enthusiastically supporting a candidate who has no prior experience in government, who wants to build a wall along the Mexican border, who is rude and uncouth — I’ll stop, because I’m telling you what you already know.

The strength of Bernie Sanders, a socialist, on the Democratic side is no less amazing.

Things are happening. People are talking. Maybe they will discover they don’t really hate politics, but simply dislike and distrust mainstream politicians. Maybe they will realize history is fascinating after all, because they are living it.

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at [email protected]

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