Gerald Graff’s Hidden Intellectualism focuses its attention on street smarts versus book smart. The essay’s main focus is how the intellectual potential of street smarts is overlooked and misunderstood. He believes that schools should tap into various subjects, such as sports and fashion, to get the students engaged with topics they are interested in. He himself was a “street smart” kid, mostly interested in sports which are considered to be a “non-intellectual subject.” He found his passion, his need to be an intellectual when he began discussing topics such as who was the toughest kid in school or sports. He found himself stuck in the middle of being street smart and book smart. Graff continues to state that anti-intellectual topics such as sports, bring something to the table that classic intellectual topics do not. While these subjects bring in a sense of community, school subjects isolate. Where schools present individual growth, sports communities inspire growth as a group. Graff encourages that schools take this information into consideration and incorporate these “anti-intellectual” subjects into their curriculum. Graff begins to conclude his essay by giving us an idea of what could happen if schools introduced subjects such as fashion and sports. Having the students read a magazine article instead of a classic intellectual book will make them more literate and reflective if read through academic eyes. Gaff ends the essay that a thoughtful and sharply argued analysis of an article from a magazine would be more beneficial to students than a routine response to an academic work.
I believe what Graff says in his essay is very true and important. I feel the schools are letting such hidden intellectualism go to waste by boring students with classic literature such as Macbeth. I feel that when students have a closer connection and interest in the subject, their best work comes out. Graff says that schools look at the educational life too narrowly, which I feel is true. Shoving classic after classic that student show little to no interest in doesn’t help them tap into the hidden intellectualism they may possess. Then they are judged to see who wrote the best analysis of the boring work they are presented with. Because of this, schools should encourage students to analyze and discuss topics of interest alongside the classics. Graff agrees when he writes “If a student cannot get interested in Mill’s On Liberty but will read Sports Illustrated or Vogue or the hip-hop magazine The Source with absorption, this is a strong agreement for assigning the magazine over the classic.” (Graff, 254) Another topic that sparked my own interest was the difference between these anti-intellectual and intellectual topics in growth. With a subject such as sports, a sense of community is created. It stems out much further than just family and friends. For example, when your favorite sports team wins it’s not just a win for you. The millions of other supporters are celebrating right as you are. I believe this kind of community growth is very important. Questions such as “Who wrote the better essay?” and “Who had the highest score?” are questions that do not encourage community in a school. This mindset of “who is the best” creates competition. While competition is not a bad thing because it does promote people to improve, it can also be a very isolating thing. But while the idea of having students write about topics of their own interest is a good concept, we cannot forget the main purpose of going to school and taking these classes on reading and writing. Graff states that “The challenge … ‘is not simply to exploit students’ non-academic interests, but to get them to see those interests through academic eyes.” (Graff 254) With this, he shows that it’s not just having students read and write about more interesting topics. It’s to use their interest and previous knowledge of these subjects to develop their academic voice. Graff shows us how anti-intellectual topics can actually be the most beneficial to students. Having them discuss topics of interest gives a new meaning to research and writing as a whole. It puts a more personal view into play that builds community and when done through academic eyes enhances students ability to articulate points, analyze information, and come to conclusions in their writing.