The Showdown: Book Smart vs. Street Smart

It’s a battle of common sense vs. learned intelligence of duh vs. education of practicality vs. theory. It’s street smart vs. book smart!

This argument has waged its subtle war for many years now and no matter whom you ask, there’s never a clear victor and there probably will never be. But, that won’t stop us from comparing these two arch enemies anyway. So, here we go…

Being street smart means that you have situational awareness – you can assess the environment you are in, who is in it and what the available outcomes are. Having street smarts requires that no matter what kind of pickle you’re in, you’ve learned to trust your own judgment about people and what matters most to you. It’s not something that you can learn from a book, it’s something you learn from personal experience.

Through you’re learned experience, you’ve taken what has happened to you – maybe good, maybe not so good – thought about it, and improved upon it. The biggest conflict between book smart and street smart is the player involved. On the street, you’re the star of the show, but in a book you’re trying to absorb someone else’s experience into your own and as a result you’re one step removed from the actual situation.

When you think about it though, our first experience of something new is usually drawn from previous knowledge like from a book. For example, your car blows a tire for the first time at night on the highway. What do you do? Well, you’ve learned from books (driver’s education) or from your parents how to change a tire, right? That is book smart. However, it’s the method you choose to use when replacing the tire that distinguishes whether you’re book smart or street smart. If you decide to change your car’s tire on the shoulder at night while cars are zinging by you, then you’re lacking a substantial amount of street smarts. Why? Because you might get ran over at any second. Someone with street smarts would eliminate that risk by assessing the situation. As a result, rolling the car further off the shoulder towards the ditch to replace the tire or calling road side assistance would be the street smart thing to do.

Book smarts tend to relate to someone who is good at following the rules. They process knowledge they’ve learned from a secondary source and apply it to their given situation. They like things to have singular right answers, making the decision simple and straight forward.

Overall, the hat seems to tilt slightly towards street smarts but that’s not to say that book smarts are irrelevant. Think about this scenario. Someone could learn to work on a car through trial and error or by watching another – gaining street smart experience. However, in that same scenario a different person might read an automotive magazine everyday and already have a good knowledge of what to fix on the car before they even pop open the hood. Not sure where all these car examples are coming from, but you get the idea.

As a result, there’s no clear victor in the battle between street smart vs. book smart. They both have their benefits and as a result it’s best to possess each of them. Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done!

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