Gerald Graff’s Hidden Intellectualism Summary Essay

A summary of “hidden intellectualism” by Gerald Graff

In his essay “Hidden Intellectualism” Gerald Graff offers a critique of the education system for overlooking the intellectual potential of those who possess unconventional “street smarts”. We as a society assume that only the inherently weighty academic subjects grant us “true” knowledge, and that knowledge in subjects such as fashion, sports or even dating holds no intellectual tenor.

The problem with this assumption, Graff insists, is that the educational value of these subjects is being completely over-looked.

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A self-proclaimed teenage anti-intellectual, Graff himself lived through his own fair share of struggles within education. He found himself much more at ease studying and debating his favorite baseball teams with classmates, rather than on the assignments and readings he received in school.

These “street smarts”, such as Graff’s own in sports, he explains, beat out book smarts not because they are non-intellectual, but because they “satisfy intellectual thirst much more thoroughly than the pale, unreal school culture”.

This idea supports Graff’s suggestion that if students were simply given the choice in what they wanted to build knowledge in, they would find themselves at a much higher rate of success.

However, just because a student shows passion towards a non-academic subject, Graff reminds us, that this does not guarantee deep intellectual insight, or a deep quality of thought on that subject. The challenge of letting a student express their own non-academic interests is being able to relate said interest back into academia. As college Professor Ned Laff has said, “[the students] must be able to view this non-academic subject through academic eyes” in order to build deeper knowledge.

Title Hidden Intellectualism
Author Gerald Graff
Type of Writing Essay
Category Education
Country The US
First Issue 2003
Main Problem Analysis of difference between the “book smart” and “street smart” people

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