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Summary of Graff’s “Hidden Intellectualism” Essay

In his essay, Hidden Intellectualism, Gerald Graff asserts that although many overlook it, street smarts are as important to a person as book smarts. He demonstrates that while some people come across as very street smart, with knowledge on a variety of subjects, they do poorly in school and seem like they are not smart. Also, schools overlook street smarts as they associate it with anti-intellectual concerns.

But what truly makes someone a good thinker, Graff challenges, is they can turn any subject into something thoughtful through the implementation of good questions and thoughtful responses. Graff insists that in order for children to become intellectuals, they must first find something that they are interested in such as movies, cars or sports. This is because they are universal topics that are applicable everywhere.

Real life debates enter one into community involvement not only with family and friends, but also in a larger national and public way. Graff insists that such interests prove to also be good analytical practice as one is encouraged to form an argument while implementing many types if evidence in order to get their point across. And because the world is organized in the same fashion as the world of sports, with rival texts, evaluations, interpretations, such interests act to stimulate the analytical mind.

Gerald Graff acknowledges that focusing school around common interests won’t guarantee an interest in school, but the idea of street smarts need not to be taboo in a school environment. He also points out that colleges and universities are missing out on the opportunity to make non-academic interests a subject of study. Graff concludes that a student with a great interest in sports, fashion, and culture should be put at the same level as an academic thinker because it is not based on the content of your passion, but the analytical form in which it is presented that makes it worthwhile.

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