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Daniel Mitchell


Both Mike Rose and Gerald Graff address what is considered intelligent or intellectual in

their respective articles “Blue Collar Brilliance” and “Hidden Intellectualism.” They both use

similar methods and some similar arguments to come to conclusions that bear a striking

resemblance to one another. Rose and Graff’s essays are very similar, but have key differences in

their claims that set them apart from one another, giving the reader different experiences.

The similarities between the two pieces is boiled down very simply to gaining knowledge

or intelligence through non-traditional means. Graff focusing on non-traditional learning in

school aged children while Rose focuses on intelligence and experience gained on the job. The

focus of their essays reflects the knowledge that they personally have on the topic and what they

use as evidence for their claims; Graff focusing on his childhood in a Chicago neighborhood and

Rose focusing on his family and his upbringing in blue collar America.

The difference between the two essays begin in the claims the authors make, Graff

claiming that under the guise of street smarts lies a hidden intellect, or the hidden ability to think

rhetorically about any topic, not just ones that are considered to be traditionally intellectual. To

back up his claim Graff uses himself as an example, or more specifically his younger self. Graff

says he was trained for his life as an intellectual without his knowledge by analyzing and arguing

with his friends about something that he felt personal passion for, baseball. He goes on to say

that he was able to transfer his ability to view a topic through academic eyes from baseball to

analyzing more traditionally intellectual topics through the same scope. This differs from Rose,
because Rose focuses on people’s ability to learn complex concepts through hands on training

and practice. Using his family as proof, primarily his mother and uncle, doing this by observing

them as a child and admiring what they were able to do and analyzing it later in life. Rose then

saw the value in on the job training, seeing the complex topics that they were able to learn

through assimilation. Specifically using his uncle, a man who received a 9th grade education,

who was able to make the painting process at the GM plant more efficient without sacrificing

quality, because he learned how to do his job effectively through practice and perfected his craft.

Their arguments both paint a very similar picture, that intelligence is in the eye of the

beholder and educational level alone cannot dictate a person’s intelligence, but I believe that

Rose’s essay had a larger impact on me. This is because I have seen his essay in motion, I have

seen the skilled movements of blue collar workers, but have not seen Graff’s claim at work. In

my experience people only learn to think intelligently if they want to, it’s not just a byproduct of

being in the world, but an active search whose reward is intelligence. What I take away from

their essays however is that intelligence is not something that can be taken at a person’s face

value, and is not always correlated to their level of education, but is something that is developed

through time and practice.

While Rose and Graff both present similar cases to the same problem, the two essays use

very different examples to come to different conclusions. Both use experiences from their

childhoods to prove that intelligence can be hiding anywhere, even in the most unexpected