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"School of the hard knocks" isn't a replacement for an academic education.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/10/2015 Category: Education
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 452 times Debate No: 80805
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
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I think it's best to have both kinds of education, book and street smarts. But, regardless, I think it's important to be educated. Note: By education, I'm not only talking about college. I would also count an active pursuit of self-education (for people who can't afford college) as a step in the right direction.


An uneducated person might have a good job. They might have a house, car, family and everything they want in their life. They might know all sorts of practical skills such as social skills, cooking, business, being safe, how to go camping and such, but there's still a wide window of things that "street smarts" excludes.

There are lots of different cultures in the world that one will only be exposed to by learning about them. Traveling is good, but one can't travel everywhere. You also can't physically travel into the past (to learn how people used to live) or into the future (how some people might be able to live), and one is only able to do that with education.

Personal experience alone isn't helpful. It pulls only from a small sample size of where someone lives. Example: An uneducated person says "Magazine models are rich because I know 3 wealthy models and see lots of wealthy models on TV". But data will tell you that it's a difficult industry and most don't make it.

Another thing is voting, politics and societal issues. Bob Smith may be doing perfectly in his life working a well-paying blue collar job and raising his family, but when he goes to the voting booth, will he be aware of the issues? Do we want voters deciding the fate of the free world to not be well versed in current events, civics and histroy? Do we want voters who are unsure if Evolution and Global Warming exist, purely because they barely understand science? Do we want a society that favors Astrology over Astronomy? In these political debates, there will be statistics and data. If you lack the skills to properly study them, politicians will get away with erroneous facts. Companies will be able to advertise with misleading statistics.

Plus, a lack of education is also a contributing factor to a lot of the pseudo-science out there: aka "The moon makes people crazy", false dieting information, "We only use 10% of our brains", "Everything needs to be gluten free". Can someone who isn't academically versed tell the difference between real-science and psuedo-science? Can they tell the difference between helpful and harmful chemicals versus "natural is always better" or "who cares"? Can they have interesting, deep conversations?

This is the issue with thinking street smarts is fine as long as you have a job/family/house. It works for the individual. It hurts society.


College is good if you can get it at an affordable price. I also understand that not everybody has the time or the money for college. A lot of people have to raise a family and put food on the table. But one can still educate themselves spending very little money and putting in a little bit of time every day to learn about different fields of study.

I'm not saying self-education is inherently better than getting a college degree, but it's definitely better than doing nothing. If you have time to watch reality TV, video games or go drinking at a bar, you must have at least a little time to put into self-educating.

Live near a library? You can rent books for free. You can buy older college books (still filled with plenty of accurate information) on Ebay/Half. You can watch TED talks, Youtube lectures from scientists. Websites like Sparknotes and Khan Academy are full of academic info. You can read the news for a couple minutes each day to keep in touch with current events.

Unless you're working 60+ hours a week or you're a single parent raising several kids, you have time to do it (and not being able to go to college isn't an excuse).


I accepted this debate because I am a highly educated person, struggling to accept those that are different from me. There are times that I have viewed them as not being able to offer what I feel I can, in terms of intellectual progress. Recently, I came to the very sad realization that I was what some might call "an intellectual snob". Hence, my decision to accept this debate, with the desire to view things from "the other side of the coin".

Recently my kid needed emergency surgery because of an accident. It was necessary for decisions to be made in advance of the surgery. Big decisions. Neither of us are doctors, but we know enough to know that we have a right to a 2nd opinion, and have the ability to research and understand our options in addition to what his surgeon was telling us. In the end, we went with the surgeons recommendation, and felt good about ourselves being such smart parents. Kudos to the educated right?

What I learned from that was I am full of fear, and mistrust. And I believe I have excellent safeguards in place to make a good and protected life for myself and my family.

What I also learned is that I did not, in my hour of research (which is all I had) in any way replace the 12-18 years of schooling that our surgeon - but in all honestly, just alleviated my own temporary fears to "feel good" about what I was being forced to decide. I didn't educate myself on anything really.

The same applies to any and all topics. Everyone has different gifts, and because of a distrustful society, we feel we must rely on ourselves to provides all the answers. Everyone has a different path, but all souls are the same. Judging based on educational or intellectual prowess, means that there is something going on inside ourselves that we need to heal.
Debate Round No. 1


I'm not sure if what you're saying directly disagrees with my topic, so I'm not exactly sure why you accepted it.

In your example (with your sick son), you did exactly the right thing (and what I would've done). You contacted an expert on the subject, you looked into an alternative option and you made a decision based on the knowledge available.

Not everyone has to be an intellectual. Some people have white collar gifts. Other people have blue collar gifts. But there's no reason why someone who has no educational background can't spend 10 minutes a day on Khan Academy learning something new about our world or humanity.

As far as judging people goes, I try to be as open-minded and respectful as I can, but ignorance is just too destructive.

If you're not giving your children vaccines because you prefer conspiracy theories over real science, I will judge you.

If you're denying climate change because you prefer the word of talk hosts over real scientists, I will judge you.

If you're voting but have little knowledge on our country's history, current events or political system, I will judge you.

If you're bringing children into this world and you're (by choice) giving them very little intellectual sustenance, I will judge you.

Even if you're the nicest person on Earth, even if you're a loving parents and a good friend, your ignorance is still hurting other people.

I agree that we should go out and live as much of our lives as we can first-hand. But there's so many places, which we can't physically go, that books (and other sources) can tell us about.


The choices I made with regard to my son's health, in hindsight, were educationally irrelevant. I learned nothing substantially more than to make myself feel that I was being a responsible parent, and to gain an artificial trust in a doctor I was forced to rely on. I learned nothing about science, went with a majority opinion,, and that helped me to make a decision to balance risk. Managing our thoughts and decision making does not require education and facts. Its self awareness and allowing yourself to remain teachable. My 14 year old actually does this quite well. She's in middle school. So does our mechanic. He never finished high school.

The surgeon later made the point to us, that the less formal schooling a patient had earned, the less likely they were to question his judgment. Interesting, and yet predictable. There is a correlation between education and insecurity. Someone who is less educated in a school system, for example, cannot compose a speech or writing that can be clearly understood. As long as they understand it, it is unimportant whether others do. It's not their path.

Most of your points are relevant to world and social issues. I believe what you are saying is that if one does not educate themselves on the facts about the subject matter, then their opinions are less credible, or even irrelevant, compared to those who do. Aristotle once said, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought, without accepting it". I believe you're point is that their insecurities from a lack of education leads them to follow the path of the "sheeple"; accepting without formulating their own educated opinion.

The sheeple mentality is about self awareness, not the lack of education. The most uneducated people in the world can be self aware, knowing what "they know" and accepting "what they don't know". And the educated, often are lacking in any self awareness, feeling that "they know it all" and have over inflated self esteems and brimming with self confidence. They also foist their opinions on others, and cleverly lead the masses as well.

These differences in intellectual ability and desire for information may challenge us, but in order to be frustrated by it, one must believe that they are wrong. I don't believe that judgment is ever acceptable. Everyone sees things from their own personal perspective. As you are entitled, so are they.

Truth be told, we need less information, and less debate (haha) and more kindness and love. It makes no difference what color your "collar" is for your job. Its how you lead your life that matters in the end. The everyday interaction and the way you make people feel, not what you said or information you had in your brain.

Society places the educated above the uneducated, and truth be told, the people to embrace in our society are not those on the worlds stage of information but the "givers" in society, and work from their heart to spread love and kindness. The person who loves...will change the world, and leave it much better than they found it. No education necessary for that.
Debate Round No. 2


Love and kindness aren't really mutually exclusive with being educated. It's not like education turns people into selfish monsters. Same thing with self-awareness.

I'll too say that color of the collar doesn't matter. There's lots of blue collar people who are self-educated. There's lots of white collar people who are really ignorant outside of what their high-paying job demands.

Maybe street smarts is enough for one to live their life happily and make their family happy. But in terms on effects on society, it's not enough when uneducated people vote with both their ballot and wallet for politicians and corporations who hurt the economy and the environment.

You took the con position. You are supposed to argue that "the school of hard knocks" IS a replacement for an academic education. I don't think you did that.


The school of "hard knocks" is equivalent to life experiences, and is paramount to self awareness and growth.
Yes, it is a replacement for academic education for many, many areas of life: marriage, relationships, raising children, learning acceptance, religion and spirituality, service to others, relationships, politics, family, managing people, working with others, and yes, forming opinions about any and all topics that concern the planet that we all equally share. Affordable housing rights, animal rights, and immigration issues... all of these require no formal academic education to have a worthwhile and credible opinion.
If you are focusing on specific techncial debates, such as the science related to climate change, the financial markets, or healthcare reform, then I would agree that becoming knowledgable on the topic is paramount. That doesnt mean an academic education. Learning takes place in many venues. But you were not specific in your opening debate. Only now, are you focusing on a few topics.
You stated,
"If you are bringing children into this world and you're (by choice) giving them very little intellectual sustenance, I will judge you.
Even if you're the nicest person on Earth, even if you're a loving parents and a good friend, your ignorance is still hurting other people."
Are you an expert on child rearing, to know that children raised with limited intellectual sustenance will be ignorant and hurt society, and where have you provided evidence that this is true? You haven't. You believe you have the power to judge someone's ignorance? By who's standards? Yours?
It sounds that you are very frustrated with the political scene on certain issues. It also seems that you have the answers and believe you have the right to call people out on their ignorance. When you continue your education, an excellent academic humanities class, will teach you that the first necessity, in order to make changes that you wish to see, is to respect and accept other's opinions. And from that, creatively find a way to find common ground in a civil way. Commonality is always there.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by mentalist 2 years ago
@ Cart...the typical student is given academic training but not able to express themselves intelligently or find a job. The reasons are varied...classism, racism, recession, miseducation etc.. There is a difference between training and education. One can be an educated artist without reading books.
Posted by Cart 2 years ago
Just to be clear again. I'm not arguing against people who haven't had the opportunity to go to college. I'm arguing against people who have opportunities to learn "book smarts" all around them but neglect them because "Ehh... I don't need it. I have real world experience".


I watched the video. It said that the prisoners had a program with Bard College, which has been educating the prisoners. The prisoners, despite their background, educated themselves and participated in an intellectual activity. That's a mark in favor of book smarts, not against it.


By academic education, I mean the academic subjects. History, math, science, literature, fine arts. Very general wide-scoped subjects which enhance the worldly view. I'm arguing that learning about these subjects are good and practical, even if one has managed to find a good paying job without being educated.
Posted by mentalist 2 years ago
These fellows might take you up on the debate...
Harvard debate champs lose to team of prisoners -
Posted by RoyLatham 2 years ago
The resolution seems a bit confused. I think the ordinary meaning of "academic education" is education provided formally in a school. But at the end of the challenge, the suggestion is that self-study is a way to get an academic education. So maybe, the "school of hard knocks" means whatever a person learns in the ordinary course of living, without making an special attempt at study? Whether or not that's a replacement depends upon what the person is doing, and what is encountered in the process.
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