In “Hidden Intellectualism,” Gerald Graff argues that schools should do a better job of tapping into students’ “street smarts” and everyday knowledge. He contends that many students who are not interested in school or considered unintelligent actually have a lot to offer in terms of critical thinking and intellectualism.
Graff suggests that teachers need to find ways to connect with students on their own level, using examples and topics that are relevant to them. Only then will they be able to engage them in the kind of critical thinking that leads to true intellectual growth. By making this connection, we can help all students develop their hidden intellectualism and reach their full potential.
In Gerald Graff’s essay Hidden Intellectualism, he critiques those who do not place sufficient value on “street smarts.” According to Graff, knowledge goes beyond academic learning and pervades into everyday life. He discusses some of his childhood experiences as a “non-intellectual” because he didn’t care for academic literary disciplines.
Although he did not enjoy reading and analyzing texts in school, he loved discussing sports and other “nonintellectual” topics with his friends. He argues that if schools found a way to make these types of discussions more academic, then maybe more students would be interested in learning. In general, Graff believes that everyone is an intellectual, some just haven’t been recognized as one yet.
Robert J. Marzano, a clinical psychologist and sports therapist in private practice in New York City for over 25 years, also talks about how his persistent interest in sports ultimately led him to academic intellectualism as an adult. According to Graff, intellectualism should not be limited to “intellectual” academic disciplines; instead it should include popular interests of children in academic studies. Graff successfully counters that the conversations he had with his friends as a youngster were more intellectually stimulating than those he has today with coworkers.
This is because in discussing his interests with friends, he was constantly testing out and refining his ideas. Graff’s argument that intellectualism should not be restricted to academic subjects is an interesting one that could lead to further discussions on how to make school more enjoyable for students.
“And now that I see how long and complex the study of sports teams, films, and toughness was for my buddies and me—this sort of analysis…” (300). Students can broaden their educational horizons by integrating cultural and academic studies. Graff’s theory of street smarts is particularly useful since it highlights the continuing problem of social life being excluded from academic curriculum; nonetheless, this does not imply that street sense is superior to academic knowledge.
It is simply to say that they are two different types of knowledge, both of which are important. In “Hidden Intellectualism,” Gerald Graff argues that schools should do a better job of teaching students how to use their everyday experiences and interests in order to engage with difficult academic material. He says that many students who are not considered “intellectuals” have a lot to offer academically, but they don’t realize it because they’ve been led to believe that only certain types of people are capable of producing deep thought. By integrating more street smarts into the curriculum, Graff believes that more students would be able to find value in school and succeed academically.
Graff begins by discussing his own experience as a student who was not considered to be an intellectual. He talks about how he and his friends would spend hours analyzing sports teams, movies, and toughness, but they never thought of it as intellectual work. It wasn’t until he was in college that he realized that the skills he had developed through these interests could be applied to academic work.
Graff states that these themes should be viewed “academically,” and students should have the opportunity to study and write on things that interest them in order for more pupils to benefit from class time and provide an insight into issues concerning their social and personal lives with his statement, “I began to learn the rudiments of the intellectual life: how to make an argument, assess various sorts of evidence, move between particulars, and engage in a discussion about ideas,” which may lead to a strong national community.
Although some may disagree, I think that this is a powerful and important idea that should be taken into account by educators across the country. By showing students how the things they are interested in can be viewed through an academic lense, we can open up new worlds of thought and knowledge for them. What’s more, this can help to create a stronger sense of community by breaking down barriers between different groups of people.
I was instantly empathetic with Graff while reading “Hidden Intellectualism.” I was transported to my early childhood and high school, when he reminded me of myself. I’m from a middle-class area with the same educational level as usual; we also resided close to a working-class neighborhood.
I was also a very good student, yet I never really saw the point of school. I enjoyed learning, don’t get me wrong, but I was never one for taking tests or writing papers. School just seemed like a waste of time when I could be outside playing with my friends. Which is exactly Graff’s point.
He argues that schools should be places where students can explore their true interests, regardless of whether those interests are considered “academic” or not. He believes that if students are given the opportunity to pursue their passions, they will naturally become engaged in the material and will develop the critical thinking skills that are so valued in academic settings.
I think Graff makes a valid argument. Too often, school is seen as a place where students must conform to a certain mold in order to be successful. But what happens when that mold doesn’t fit the student? They become disengaged and unmotivated, which ultimately leads to them dropping out or not reaching their full potential.
The term “intellectual” has become synonymous with a person who is interested in learning about the world and ideas. It suggests a person who knows everything there is to know about anything. The book discusses how past and contemporary English education discounts ordinary subjects such as “street smarts,” concentrating mainly on traditional classic literature to engage students. I think that classics should be at the center of the English curriculum, but I also see the need for educators to look beyond their literary history when it comes to educating children.
Graff explains how “street smarts” are not just limited to the lower class, but are often more valuable than book smarts. He gives the example of his own experience as a working-class student who was able to use his knowledge of pop culture to engage in critical thinking. I think this is a valid point, and I agree that we should not discount the importance of street smarts. However, I also believe that there is a time and place for everything, and there is still value in learning about classic literature.
In conclusion, I think both street smarts and book smarts are important, but I see the need for a balance between the two. We should not discount either one, but should instead strive for a balance between the two in our educational system.