Book Smarts or Street Smarts?

A recent debate at the Eastern Correctional Facility in New York between prison inmates and the Harvard debate team had me questioning whether it’s better to have street smarts or book smarts. In the end the “book smart” Harvard debate team was defeated by the “street smart” prisoners.

book smarts or street smarts

book smarts or street smarts

But the street smart prisoners didn’t win simply by their street smarts alone. They had a lot of help…from books. Through the Bard Prison Initiative, which gives incarcerated men and women the opportunity to pursue a college degree while serving their time, the prison debate team put themselves through a grueling educational boot camp to prepare. They had no access to the Internet and had to wait for weeks sometimes for a book to be cleared by security.

And this wasn’t a one time fluke. They’ve beaten multipleĀ college debate teams in the past.

Simply having a formal college degree isn’t the answer to everything. Yes, you need it if you want to practice law or medicine, but to succeed in lifeĀ you need something else that the prison debate team had a lot of… intellectual curiosity AND street smarts.

I put out a request to hear from others about which skill was better. Here’s what I heard:

“I have a sixth grade education and I’ve owned/co-owned three successful businesses over the last 20+ years. I have college graduates wanting to come work for me at $10.00 an hour and they are struggling to pay of $60,000.00+ in student loans. I got my education at the local library for free. I’ve never had to worry about paying back a student loan. [Read more…]