Adoption – Street Smarts or Book Smarts?

“Most of the time, learning occurs in not-so ideal situations—what I call chance learning. The brain loves novelty and when we see something odd or unusual we are more likely to remember the experience. That’s part of the reason our memories are continually updating and adjusting to new information.” Judith Land 


“The brain is endlessly learning, acquiring knowledge, constantly updating, regenerating its memory banks of information on the fly, and replacing the old with the new, allowing us to learn from our first breath to our last. The universe we live in is always in flux, if we don’t change with it, we fail to thrive and grow.” Judith Land

The world of adoption is continually changing and updating at an increasingly faster pace. New information, concise reporting and more accurate statistics, expanding technical data, genetic and medical research, internet sharing, social media, increased psychological and childhood development studies, and evolving societal attitudes are leading to more informed choices than ever before. Media libraries, genealogical sites and the need for medical history have greatly increased the ability of adoptees from closed adoptions to trace their roots and discover their medical history. Common wisdom, public stigmatism, societal attitudes and modern perceptions of single parenthood and adoption today are much different than those of previous generations. But how do we learn all these things about the good and the bad sides of adoption, from experience and common sense, or through book learning?

Adoption is a complex topic. Individuals on all sides of the adoption triangle need to be aware and beware of all aspects of the topic and continually monitor those who are most vulnerable and likely to need assurance, comfort, and assistance.

Some adoptees and parents use street smarts to develop a shrewd awareness, experience, and resourcefulness needed for survival in difficult and unique social environments. Intelligence to them means being well informed and clever and quick in thought and action; the ability to figure out other people, and the ability to correctly interpret what others really mean when they say and do things. A street smart person is generally someone who is intelligent and knows how to handle important situations that is often not well-educated academically. Street smart people have the knowledge and experience required to handle dangers and potential difficulties in life, particularly in urban settings. They believe that practical experience is the mother of wisdom and more beneficial than academic learning without experience. They observe through personal observation what others face when they go through an adoption. It is through firsthand experiences they are able to read the warning signs and discern when a situation is going south, or when circumstances are fine and safe. It also means staying flexible to adapt to changing circumstances, and developing tools and resources to deal with whatever life throws at you. Street smart people learn to trust their initiative and instincts to help them prepare for disaster. Street smarts tend to give you the tools and mental capacity to work out solutions in a more natural way when faced with a potential disaster.

On the other hand, adoptees and parents with book smarts are studious, educated, and scholarly. They are good at gathering information and they have a lot of facts and information. They are very good at knowing stuff, retaining things, and remembering things but book smarts is an expression often used to imply someone who lacks understanding of the world and common sense. Book smart people obtain knowledge from study and books. They acquire knowledge through reading. They are typically less knowledgeable when it comes to handling important situations faced outside of school and academic circles because unless you actually go out and experience life in person, you can’t really say you are smart about that particular scenario or subject. 

Regardless of how we acquire our life experiences and gather knowledge about the relationships between parents and children, whether we are more street smart or book smart, it is always important to learn as much as we can about the predictable outcomes and the associated problems and opportunities adoption creates. When we learn to understand the association between thunder and lightning, we are finally beginning to see the broader picture, learn the associated repercussions of our actions, grasp the consequences of adoption, and understand the predictable collateral effects of the choices we make.

Judith Land


About Judith Land

Judith Land lives in Colorado and Arizona with husband and coauthor Martin Land. Judith is a former nurse, retail shop owner, college instructor and avid outdoor person. Her book "Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child" is a true story detailing the journey of Judith Romano, foster child and adoptee, as she discovers fragments of her background, and then sets out to solve the mystery as an adult. She has reached readers in 192 countries. "Mothers and fathers everywhere in the world need to understand that children are forever and always." --Judith Land
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