The Merging Of Intellectualism in Hidden Intellectualism

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In a piece by Gerald Graff titled “Hidden Intellectualism”, an argument is made that people who are “street-smart” cannot translate their knowledge to academics because these types of intellectualism are often considered anti-intellectualism. Graff then discusses how intellectualism is often looked down upon by the youth, and that people are who school smart are seen as nerdy or boring. But to put street- smart and book-smart under one category of intellectualism would be a disservice to both. They are two different types of intellectualism, one that is taught, and the other that is learned through experience. It can be argued that street smart can be viewed as a type of intellectualism and that academic intellectualism can be more easily achieved through the implementation of relevant and interesting topics within academic subjects.

Magdalena L. Barrera writes an article titled School Smarts: A Reflection of Pedagogical and Personal Insights challenging the notion that Latino students lack school- smarts for academic success. The reason for this being again how Latino students have street smarts, not school smarts. Barrera states, “you’re overlooking their many strengths” (Barrera, 2014). The main reasons as to why there is a correlation between Latinos and poor academic success is mostly due to the defunding, deprioritizing, and delegitimization to schools of communities with minority races such as Latinos. To counter this, Barrera established mentoring programs within schools that had a primarily Latino student population. The result of this was substantially increased grades within a few semesters of implementing the mentoring program. Barrera’s study relates to Graff in the sense that since some folks find it easy to dismiss Latinos and other underrepresented students as lost causes, funding is cut, ultimately leading to poorer grades.

Beth Hatt discusses in her article how street smarts is more important to underprivileged, marginalized youth because it is something they are connected to better due to the structures of their lives such as poverty, police, street culture, and abusive “others”. Hatt states “street smarts stress agency in countering social structures whereas, for many of the youth, book smarts represent those structures, such as receiving a high school diploma” (Hatt, 2007), 145. One of the reasons student could not apple themselves in a school environment is because they were told to apply themselves on things they did not find interesting. Graff goes onto explain that by talking about subjects such as sports, one is able to experience the topics of arguments, debates, and even statistics in a way that subjects in school could not live up to Everyday culture can be applied to the real world much more than the topics and reading we learn in school.

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In an article written by Adré L. Delbecq describes how knowledge is derived from experience rather than science. He concluded that a scholar’s best work arises from the “intersection between his or her gifts and interests and important societal problems” (Delbecq, 2017). This is important to note because Graff similarly state “to say that students need to see their interests “through academic eyes” is to say that street smarts are not enough” (Graff). If there is a topic presented to a student that truly interests them, they will become an intellectual on that topic.

In an article done by Rafik Z. Elias titled “The Impact of Anti- Intellectualism Attitudes and Academic Self- Efficacy on Business Students’ Perceptions of Cheating”, a notion proposed students high in anti-intellectualism attitudes and those with low academic self- efficacy were least likely to perceive college cheating as unethical. He noted that there were three major categories of determinants: demographic, situational and personal. Rafik’s findings proved his hypothesis, “were also less likely to be anti—intellectual and more likely to have higher self- efficacy (Elias, 2009).This relates to Graff’s article in the sense that students are more academically honest, and in turn, more intellectual, when possessed with natural skill and ability, something that cannot be taught.

In a Ted Talk conducted by Dr. David Lustick, he dives into the world of street smarts and what we could learn. One of the correlations I find between Lustick’s discussion and Graff’s article is that acquiring knowledge through experience is a valuable trait that can never be taught in school. Traits that are acquired through being street smart as discussed in the Ted Talk include being aware of your surroundings and interpreting people’s behavior and attitudes. This is a knowledge that cannot be replicated in the classroom. Lusticl states, “be cognizant of who is out there” (Ted, 2015). Street- smarts cannot be taught, they can only be experienced.


Learning institutions have often provided information to students in a bland and boring way, making if more difficult for the students to obtain any type of information in which they can utilize in the real world. Graff believes streets smarts beat out book smarts in our culture not because street smarts are nonintellectual, but because they satisfy an intellectual thirst more thoroughly than school culture, which seems pale and unreal, “Give me the student anytime who writes a sharply argued, sociologically acute analysis of an issue of Source over the student who writes a lifeless explication of Hamlet or Socrates’ Apology” (Graff). This, paired with the defunding of schools in underprivileged communities is the main reason why intellectualism is looked down upon. If it can be applied in a way where students have interest and/or can relate to it based of their experiences on the “street”, much more information can be learned.


  1. Barrera, M. L. (2014). School Smarts: A Reflection of Pedagogical and Personal Insights. Journal of Latinos & Education, 13(3), 212–221.
  2. Delbecq, A. L. (2007). Scholarship and Teaching that Matters: Juxtaposing Inner Freedom with Street-Smart Credibility. Journal of Management Education, 31(3), 376-391. Retrieved from
  3. Elias, R. Z. (2009). The impact of anti-intellectualism attitudes and academic self-efficacy on business students’ perceptions of cheating. Journal of Business Ethics, 86(2), 199-209. doi:
  4. Graff, G. (2001). Hidden Intellectualism. Pedagogy, 1(1), 21–36. doi: 10.1215/15314200-1-1-21
  5. Hatt, B. (2007). Street Smarts vs. Book Smarts: The Figured World of Smartness in the Lives of Marginalized, Urban Youth. Urban Review, 39(2), 145–166.
  6. TEDx Talks. (February 5, 2015). Street Smarts: What are you learning? [Video file]. Retrieved from      
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