Street Smarts

I love going home and I hate going home. Beyond the long two and a half hour drive to a loving family lies political discord. Every. Single. Time. Whether it’s out on the porch on Easter, in the living room on Christmas, or in the garage after a round of golf. Every. Single. Time.

On one level, it’s awesome. I don’t have a ton of conservative friends and there’s a lot of value in discussing things with people who have different values and beliefs. I’ve learned to be reflective and the drive home gives me lots of time to chew on things and assess the things they said. This is an example of just such a thing.

On the other hand, it’s awful. Although I’m more moderate than most of my friends, we all operate the same way and have the same broad values. We are generally the same people.

That is not the case with my dad and my uncles. They’ve spent a lifetime doing. I’ve spent mine reading, listening, and reflecting. They’ve, on the whole, lived in rural areas their whole lives. I’ve lived on the farm, in the suburbs, and in the city and have traveled across the country and across the Atlantic. They are distrustful, at best, of science. I (over)zealously embrace it. They purposefully exaggerate while griping. I demand factual accuracy and precise word choice AT ALL TIMES.

This time, my uncle, then my dad, took shots at folks who come onto the job or into a situation with a know-it-all attitude despite not knowing it. Of course, they couldn’t help but phrase it in a way that lumped all college graduates into this category.

Everything I know is useless because it wasn’t learned at the School of Hard Knocks, but no offense? Thanks…

Have I mentioned that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday? There’s football on Thanksgiving.


Can we stop using the phrase “street smarts?” It, probably along with “common sense,” needs to die.

Let’s use an example my uncle used. His wife, a very intelligent woman who does auditing at universities across the country, expressed surprise that the loon, Minnesota’s state bird, could fly.

Silly, right? Everyone, or at least most people, could sort of figure out that a loon can fly.

On the other hand, is she really worthy of our derision, lighthearted though it may be? There are flightless birds. Not everyone fishes and spends a lot of time out on lakes. Even fewer people hunt waterfowl. Nothing she does, for work or for fun, could be improved by the knowledge the loons can fly. If all of the abovementioned things are true, does she have any reason to know loons fly? And if she has no reason to know that loons fly, why should she know it?

Furthermore, if we know that loons can fly, does it matter how we learned it? Is there some inherent difference between seeing a loon fly and reading that a loon can fly?


There’s no such thing as “book smarts” or “street smarts.” There’s just knowledge, specifically the sort of knowledge a person needs to succeed at their job and their hobbies. You can learn by doing. You can learn by reading the words written down by people who have done. Knowledge is knowledge is knowledge is knowledge.

If I had to use my fancy college education to identify the source of this myth, it would be insecurity. Speaking with my dad and my uncles*, it was clear that they resented anyone they deemed “outsiders” coming in and telling them how to do things. And those outsiders invariably came in with college degrees and the backing of scientific research, some of which was different a few years later.

This reveals the biggest tragedy about the anti-intellectualism that runs throughout our country, but is significantly more intense in rural areas. It’s so damn unnecessary. Hopefully, it’s obvious this deep into this post that throwing shade at any type of knowledge while taking an engine apart is as foolish as dismissing knowledge when it doesn’t come with a sheet of paper signed by a university president.

Everyone has knowledge and areas of expertise. Maybe it’s about time we recognize that, respect each other’s knowledge, and allow each other to thrive. After all, you probably don’t want your local mechanics running the school board and you sure as hell don’t want to be driving downhill if I was working on your brakes.


*Whom I respect deeply. If I may be personal for a moment, the thing that made their comments rankle me so deeply was that people I cared about were running down my life’s labors. WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LOVE ME, DADDY?**
**Calm down, he does.

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