Co-author of “They Say/I Say” handbook, Gerald Graff, analyzes in his essay “Hidden Intellectualism” that “street smarts” can be used for more efficient learning and can be a valuable tool to train students to “get hooked on reading and writing” (Graff 204). Graff’s purpose is to portray to his audience that knowing more about cars, TV, fashion, and etc. than “academic work” is not the detriment to the learning process that colleges and schools can see it to be (198). This knowledge can be an important teaching assistant and can facilitate the grasping of new concepts and help to prepare students to expand their interests and write with better quality in the future. Graff clarifies his reasoning by indicating, “Give me the student anytime who writes a sharply argued, sociologically acute analysis of an issue in Source over the student who writes a life-less explication of Hamlet or Socrates’ Apology” (205). Graff adopts a jovial tone to lure in his readers and describe how this overlooked intelligence can spark a passion in students to become interested in formal and academic topics. He uses ethos, pathos, and logos to establish his credibility, appeal emotionally to his readers, and appeal to logic by makes claims, providing evidence, and backing his statements up with reasoning.
In the first sentences of this essay, it is easy to relate to Graff’s words. Immediately, he engages readers in the topic and begins to establish his pathos. By using the phrase “Everyone knows some young person”, Graff relates to a common identity and appeals to his readers emotions. This broad generalization expands the author’s audience by automatically including all of his readers. It is Graff’s opinion that “schools and colleges might be at fault for missing the opportunity to tap into such street smarts and channel them into good academic work” (198). By stating his personal opinion here at the beginning of the essay, Graff boosts his pathos by being straight forward and stating his stance on this issue straight away.
Graff then goes on to establish his ethos in the first few paragraphs while continuing to expand the thoughts and ideas on pathos throughout his essay. He begins to build his community and trust by recognizing his own credentials and sharing his personal background in writing. One of the first things noticed from the footnote about Gerald Graff’s professional career is that he has vast experience in the writing department. He is an English professor at a prestigious university, a past president of the Modern Language Association, and part of the professional association of scholars and teachers of English and other languages (198). But, since his background only assists his argument and does not define it, it is crucial to also look at his word choice, mood, language, and ideology in order to fully claim Graff a credible author.
Graff then goes on to prove that he is not biased in the fourth paragraph when he expounds that challenging reading and writing is also essential to producing a more well-rounded and intellectual student. He proclaims that “students do need to read models of intellectually challenging writing” (199). Graff uses George Orwell as an example of a notable writer that should be read. Graff claims that George Orwell’s writings that incorporate street smarts are more enjoyable reads then the works of professors writing on Shakespeare. In this essay, Graff brings attention to both sides of his argument and shows that he understands where others with opposite views may be coming from. With all of his evidence and facts, though, it is hard to read this article without agreeing with Graff. While the concepts in this essay are not exigent to grasp, the author continually makes it easier for the reader to be persuaded.
Next, the essay shifts to the use of pathos again in paragraph five where Graff shares his own personal experience and connects with the reader’s emotions. By sharing his college experiences and opening up about his childhood, the readers instantly feel a connection and feel is if they know personal information about the author. This makes the author’s claims more relevant and understandable. He starts by declaring, “I offer my own adolescent experience as a case in point” and “Until I entered college, I hated books and only cared for sports” (199). Not only is he using research, personal knowledge, and examples from previous students, but he is using himself as an example that relates directly to the purpose of his essay. His own experiences shape the paper more than the other examples because they offer a closer and more relatable approach. Graff also uses these experiences to show that a positive outcome can be reached when acquiring street smarts into academic learning. He attributes his knowledge of sentence structure to the fact that he incorporated the tactics learned by “reading and arguing about sports and toughness”. In doing that, he grasped the concepts of higher thinking and began to “compose the kind of sentences I am writing today” (202). By putting himself on the same level his readers, he tries their emotions. These words give hope to students who may be in the same place as Graff once was. They too will believe they can achieve what Graff has accomplished today. It is also crucial to note that Graff chooses his common interest to be sports and Sports Illustrated magazine. It is a common topic and a topic that the majority of people know at least enough about to make the essay more personal.
As the essay continues, Graff moves into using logos. Although there are elements of this logic from the start of the paper, it becomes clearer when he talks about the thirst one has for a sense of community. Schoolwork can “isolate you from others” where outside issues and topics involve a person in knowing more about their society (202). Graff purposes that schoolwork is a competition that becomes more competitive the higher you go. He argues that his school missed a valuable opportunity that could have “helped him cross more readily from one argument culture to the other” (203). Once again, he uses his own personal experience to provide evidence to back up his claim. Although most of his supporting data deals with personal experience, it works well for this essay because without it, his claims would be weak. Graff’s reasoning for these claims is that he believes “schools and universities are not encouraging students to take their nonacademic interests as objects of academic study” (204).
One of the most evident pieces of this essay is the use of language and ideology. Graff’s enriched vocabulary and upbeat tone once again lure the reader in and help them to understand his logic and help him to appeal to the emotions of his readers and to further establish credibility. By his quote “We associate the educated life, the life of the mind, too narrowly and exclusive with subjects and texts that we consider inherently weighty and academic”, Graff clearly defines his purpose for his entire paper (198). Words such as jeopardize, interminable, ambivalent, and spectacle are words that enhance that tone and show Graff’s perspective. They are words that are not overused in daily conversation, but are words that the readers will know the meaning of. The author is successful in creating all of these examples of rhetoric because with the use of each, he establishes an idea in his piece.
Furthermore, throughout this essay there are many times when Graff repeats his ideas in the majority of the paragraphs. While he provides different examples in each paragraph, he states his claim in the opening sentences and reiterates the same points. The essay is written well and cleverly constructed, but not all the evidence used here is needed to make Graff’s argument successful. Some paragraphs become repetitive and it is easy to lose interest with reading. The same points could have been made in a shorter essay. The same is true for his ethos, pathos, and logos. They are all intertwined together in this essay and one sentence establishes ethos while another sentence establishes pathos. It is hard to talk about one without talking about the other because they are all connected together and the establishing of one element helps to establish another element.
In conclusion, Graff’s essay is a well-written and cleverly constructed. While I agree with all of the points made in his essay, I do believe that colleges look more at “street smarts” than Graff gives then credit for. A perfect GPA and high ACT score is not enough to be accepted to schools such as Harvard. Admissions officers look for extra-curricular activities and community service work in addition to high academic performance. College can certainly integrated more use of “street smarts” into everyday learning, but I feel as if teachers are giving these freedoms to students. Teachers are letting their students pick research topics that interest them rather than assigning topics, letting them choose their own groups to be in during class, as offering multiple ways to complete projects, different assigned reading topics, and etc. The student can only get out of the class as much as they put in. Even though the students may wish the teachers would give less homework or let them read Sports Illustrated in class, there is a fine line between academic learning that incorporates “street smarts” and academic learning that lacks on the academic part. Teachers must insure their students are learning the required material and that they are not taking detours from learning about topics and ideas that students need to be successful after college.