According to his article, “Hidden Intellectualism” Gerald Graff claims that school and colleges miss a great opportunity when they think that a person that is “street smart” can’t also be intellectually smart as well. Teachers, colleges, and students who are “street smart” need to find a way to connect what they are interested in “street smarts” with what they need to know “book smarts”. Graff lived in Chicago during the World War II; he lived in a middle-class neighborhood where he was known as a “clean-cut” boy who was known to be book-smart but longed to be accepted by the working-class “hoods” those boys that would beat you up if you were too smart. To have a respectable future in his neighborhood he had two choices either to be a great fighter or too inarticulate. He wasn’t a fighter which meant that he was the lather, he spoke incorrect grammar and his pronunciation was poorly spoken. Graff himself talks about being anti-intellectual or “street smart” in his adolescent years. He was more interested in sports and hated reading books.
The only reading materials that he had any interest in reading were magazines and autobiographies that involved any sports and their players. When he was older he realized that his “street smarts” was preparing him for adulthood. Graff emphasizes that schools fail to learn from sports by using the sports’ element of organization, the intellectual culture, and the public spectacle to grab the attention of the youth of his time. He reminds us that just like sports, schools have competition with high-stakes testing.
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But unlike sports, school high-stakes testing doesn’t create close bonds and community. By concentrating on all the academics, schools will miss the opportunity to merge the two worlds. At the time, he could not see the connection either of bringing both learning worlds together. He concludes that if schools and colleges do not encourage students the opportunity to engage their nonacademic interest in their academic learning then it will defeat the purpose of introducing any academic learning materials to the student, they will just tune out the material being taught. I believe that it is true if students who are more “street smart” vs. “book smart” don’t know how to find a connection between what they are interested in and what they are trying to learn. It will be hard for them to understand the material being taught.
Graff himself writes “Sports is only one of the domains whose potential for literacy training is seriously underestimated by educators, who see sports as competing with academic development rather than a route to it” (249). If educators, can find a connection with what they are teaching and what their students are interested in they will have a greater success in their students being more engaged in their teaching and retention.