Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with our education system, including the arguments between non-profit and for-profit, online and face-to-face learning environments, and the many other political dynamics which are nuanced, heated, and topical, FALLLING BUT FULFILLED: Reflections on Multiple Intelligences focuses on what, in this writer’s estimation, is the most important story in education: the story of learning.

FALLING BUT FULFILLED is a gentle book filled with the personal stories of one man’s journey to come to an understanding about the simple, fragile, and elegant experience of discovering wisdom through the insight of his teachers, his environment, and the momentary interactions life presents.

Giving structure to this memoir, the Multiple Intelligences Theory, developed by Dr. Howard Gardner, provides the rhythm on which Dr. Oliver’s stories dance. The hope of this book is to feed a discussion that so many people are having in life: What place does learning hold in my life? Does my active participation make my life more interesting, exciting, and fulfilling? If I go back to school, will it provide me the safe environment I crave to move my consciousness forward?

As these important questions resonate, I also hope this book invokes a discussion about the way people view their own intelligences. Our society so often defines “intelligence” as it relates to the memorizing of facts and figures, as evident in standardized testing. This attitude places greater emphasis on what could be called “proven” or “measurable” intelligence, while debasing or even disregarding intelligence that is less easy to quantify through testing. Some powerful examples of this would be the active intelligence required for successful relationships, the expression of creativity, or in the multifaceted demands of building a life which is structurally sound, fits into the environment, and is still aesthetically pleasing.

Education has become a utilitarian tool that is measured through statistics and trends, while the more esoteric, yet nonetheless important, skills such as confidence, intuitiveness, curiosity, and introspection are ignored or deemed unimportant. I wanted to write a book that showed how these more internal values have a place in the classroom. That education is, above all, a way to better connect with our community, our environment, and with ourselves. Intelligence is a journey that is not always capable of being tested in a traditional sense. I hope that my book demonstrates this, and that it can inspire educators and students of all ages and interests.

This book isn’t the last word on the subject, not by far, but I hope it can begin a discussion about the lengths we are capable of achieving when we nourish and encourage learning that goes beyond merely putting pen to paper and memorizing phrases and figures.

Zachary M. Oliver