Gerald Graff is a specialist in English language studies and a researcher in the sphere of education. He wrote more than five books covering controversial and complicated topics, such as conflicts between a pupil and a teacher, the problem of diversification of cultural backgrounds, and the negative consequences of school education. They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing is one of his most famous academic works that was created in collaboration with Cathy Birkenstein. This best-seller includes information on how to write an essay with strong arguments and organize a text in an understandable and transparent way. The text is designed for the students, but it is also helpful for teachers. Moreover, the idea of the author is that argumentative analysis is necessary not only for writing academic essays but for being a good conversationalist. For example, in an essay “Hidden Intellectualism,” the author poses a question of the necessity of studying at schools and investigates children’s methods of gaining knowledge. The purpose of this paper is to analyze this excerpt from this book and make a summary of its crucial points.
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Graff reflects upon the topic of the influence of school education on learning the basis of argumentative and intellectual thinking. The author introduces the term “street smarts,” which means that a person is able to analyze different events or ideas being a bad pupil (Graff, 2014, p. 244). He claims that human beings usually associate “street smarts with unti-intellectual concerns” (Graff, 2014, p. 244). It is possible to assume that it is the consequence of people’s narrow minds. They think it is impossible to get academic knowledge without studying classic literature or sociology. Graff aims to convince the reader that any child’s hobby may become a source for their intellectual development. The author provides an example from his own childhood when he was passionate about sports. It helped him learn “how to make an argument, weight different kinds of evidence, move between particulars and generalizations, summarize the view of others, and enter a conversation about ideas” (Graff, 2014, p. 247). From Graff’s point of view, his hobby was much more useful for him than studying Shakespeare.
At the same time, the author does not put forward the idea that school education is unnecessary. On the opposite, he highlights its significant role in the process of a child’s cognition of the world. For example, he maintains that “students do need to read models of intellectually changing writing” (Graff, 2014, p. 245). As an illustration of this thesis, he proposes paying attention to Orwell’s books, which show the negative consequences of the absence of education. What is more, this work raises questions that pupils try to get to know themselves in real life. It is not only a source of intellectual reading but also a method to widen knowledge about the environment and the device of the world.
In conclusion, it is necessary to mention that Graff provides the solution to the problem of misunderstanding between school teachers and “street smarts.” He suggests establishing good relationships with all students by taking “their non-academic interests as objects of academic studies” (Graff, 2014, p. 250). Children who are passionate about sports, fashion, or cars may become hardworking pupils if the topics of their research would be correlated with their spheres of interest from their real life.
Graff, G., Birkenstein, C., & Maxwell, C. (2014). They say, I say: The moves that matter in academic writing. Gildan Audio.