Street Smarts vs. Book Smarts

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Aidan Tierney, Writer

Twelve grades of school, with four additional in college; is worth it? Or is the day to day lessons learned on the street more valuable in life? Many ponder over this question, as there are plenty of ways for an individual to learn in their lifetime. For some, this can be done through reading a book or a handout, while others acquire their knowledge based on experiences or situations in the real world. Boiled down, the question lies: are street smarts or book smarts more valuable?

The idea of being book smart is pretty straight forward, described as someone who has received a quality education and thrives in an environment where they are learning from a teacher or textbook. An individual with such characteristics tends to get pretty good grades in school but suffers in real-life interactions or problem-solving situations. Street smarts, on the other hand, are much different. If someone is street smart, they can make assumptions about a person based on facial expressions, posture, etc. They tend to be able to improvise better in situations where it is needed and are good in conversation. So the question lies, which of these skills is more valuable to succeed in life?

According to an article written by Scott Berkun on the topic, street smarts come from “situational awareness.” In other words, this means having the ability to analyze a problem and figure it out based on one’s surroundings. For Pentucket Sophomore Ethan Hunt, who calls himself street smart, this seems to be the case. “I think I am pretty good at interpreting social cues and figuring things out by experiencing them, rather than reading about them in a book or being given instructions,” Hunt said. 

An example of street smarts could be in a social interaction, such as closing a deal with a salesman or negotiating a salary. To be able to thrive in situations such as these requires the previously mentioned term “situational awareness,” which goes hand in hand with being street smart. 

It may seem at this point that street smarts are the most valuable of the two smarts. However, where street smarts may lack, book smarts make up for with flying colors. Someone with school smarts will often do relatively well in their classes and can study for something,  soaking up information easier than most. This skill can be very useful in life, as it will help with college applications and job qualifications later down the road. Sophomore Mikey Murphy, who identifies as book smart, finds these traits to be very important to his life, saying, “Being book smart allows me to pay attention in class better and remember the many important things we have to learn.” Being book smart is a great skill to have for those that want to excel in school and carry on the knowledge they learned from it into their everyday lives. 

In conclusion, there are many benefits to being both book and street smart, but when it comes down to it, it’s all up to the individual. Just because someone is street smart does not mean they can’t get good grades, and the same can be said for book smarts, as it is not a determining factor in surviving in real-life situations. Most importantly, it’s based on the heart of the individual, and his or her willingness to overcome obstacles to live a successful life.