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What is causing anti-intellectualism in the US?

 
 
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 01:48 pm
American 15-year-olds rank 24th out of 29 countries in math literacy, and their parents are as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution; roughly 30 to 40 percent believe in each. President Bush says "the jury is still out" on evolution and even if he's just pandering, people buy it. People spend millions on magnetic insoles, ionic bracelets, astrological charms, herbal enhancers and whatever bunk they hear at the revival tent or read on the Internet. They recite urban legends and simplistic platitudes as though they were gospel from their Doctor, "people only use 10% of their brains you know", or "things happen for a reason you know".

And many people seem proud of it. Like it was a badge of honor to be so free that you can believe whatever nonsense you like.

Where did skepticism go? What happened to real critical thinking, did it just get boring, or was it pushed aside by something else?

Was it religion that knocked us off kilter, or was it politics or was it something buried more deeply in the culture?

Background info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-intellectualism
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Type: Discussion • Score: 22 • Views: 5,379 • Replies: 97
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 01:55 pm
Anti-Intellectualism in the US is a myth (at least as compared to other countries).

First the math test myth... this has been pushed for decades. Yet, the US continues to excel in producing technology, science and business. The US education system continues to do just fine (as far as preparing the next generation).

Second... sure you can find lots of people in the US, including leaders, who believe some silly things for various reasons; including religious and political considerations. I fail to see how this is any different in any other country,

I don't believe it is any worse now than it ever has been.
I don't believe it is any worse here than it is anywhere else.

Human nature doesn't change much.
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 02:07 pm
love to talk about this, but jerry springer is on tv right now
0 Replies
 
Diest TKO
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 02:12 pm
@rosborne979,
I think about this everyday. Fortunately, I work with outstandingly intelligent people. The downside to that is going out into public is like jumping into a ice cold pool.

Who is too blame? Religion and politics certainly were heavy contributors, but I'm going to add popular media to the list. Don't know if it was the killing blow, but it's significant in my mind.

In film we are experiencing some of the best cinema I think we've ever been offered. Sadly, it's being downed out by some dumb piece of **** movie where the protagonist uses everything but their mind. It's this damn Michael-Bay-one-dimensional characters that appear everywhere.

In Music, it's about selling an image. The Buggles had it right: "Video Killed the Radio Star." Viacom and Clear Channel own everything and they make music into a marketing tool, not a creative platform.

Everything is so industry, and no art. No mind. We aren't conditioned to question authority without a Mt. Dew in hand, and independence is the jeans you wear.

For viewing pleasure, and to relieve some frustration, go watch the movie "Idiocracy." It always calms me down.


I never would have guessed after Beavis & Butthead, but Mike Judge is pretty tongue in cheek.

T
K
O
0 Replies
 
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 02:12 pm
@ebrown p,
I think inappropriately shallow use of the internet is (or at least has the potential to be) a contributing factor to anti-intellectualism. People have adopted it, many times, as their sole tool in terms of researching an issue. And while it could potentially provide depth as well as breadth on almost any subject, I don't believe most people use it in such a way that it does.

Because instead of reading an entire book on an issue, as used to be the norm in research - now people read articles and feel they're properly informed and educated, when many times the source they're using may not even be factually accurate or even verifiable as such.

Although in other ways I agree with ebrownp- I see no evidence that there are fewer bright people. And technical innovation is still taking place at what seems to be , if anything, an increased pace.

Maybe the intellectual focus has been removed from literature and the arts to technology because of the context of the times we live in.

ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 02:24 pm
@aidan,
Aidan,

How is what you are saying about the "shallowness" of the internet any different than any communication medium before it?

The same thing is true about TV (which quickly had inappropriately shallow use). The same thing is true about Radio before this. And the same thing was true about the printing press (with yellow journalism and trash novels).

Mass shallowness really started 3500 years ago with the invention of papyrus.

aidan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 02:30 pm
@ebrown p,
I disagree in that television, radio and journalism (to a lesser extent) were and are not tools used (usually) in scholarship. The internet has become that.
I think that those who didn't learn and weren't taught methods of scholarly research before the internet age, have a very different mindset and perspective on what constitutes good scholarship - which I think is a foundation for intellectualism or study.

I think the internet has made information more accessible for sure, but it also has the potential to present information and 'scholarship' as soundbites.

I'm not referring to the internet as a means of communication.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 02:35 pm
@ebrown p,
If only 5% of the population were goobers (despite a multitude of degrees), that would make a goober population of about 15 million people. Thats as big as some European countries. We also suffer in silence and recognize that the world sends its elites to our best Universities.
I believe in an anti-intellectualism current that ebbs and flows every few years and is , as R Hofstatder griped, "is a product of Evangelical Christianity as much as anything"
0 Replies
 
saab
 
  2  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 02:40 pm
@rosborne979,
If USA is such an anti-intellectual country how come you have most of the best universities in the world? About 50% of all good universities world wide are in USA
http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/rank/2005/ARWU2005_Top100.htm
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 03:08 pm
@aidan,
I am not sure if I understand what you are saying. TV has the potential to present information and 'scholarship' as soundbites, as does radio, as does print.

Can you give me a concrete example of a misuse of the internet that didn't exist in earlier media?

aidan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 03:17 pm
@ebrown p,
What I'm saying is that students did and do not routinely use tv or radio to reasearh information for essays and papers.
Students of all ages use the internet to do just that.

If used correctly, it can be a magnificent tool. Unfortunately, I think that most people google, cut and paste or read one or two articles and feel fully informed about an issue, whereas it used to be necessary to (at least when I was doing research papers) read and digest information from at least three sources (which were BOOKS back in the old days).


It forced one to take time to read and synthesize and integrate the information into a comprehensive and cohesive whole.

There was no such thing as cut and paste, so there was not a cut and paste attitude to scholarship. I think that's become more common in the internet age. I think it undermines real, in depth scholarship which, in my opinion is the foundation of intellectualism.

I don't think it HAS to - I just think that people being people (and wanting to take the easy way out) many times it does.
Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 03:21 pm
@rosborne979,
'mericans naturally fear the intellectual breadth of Canadians!
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 03:21 pm
@aidan,
Oh, horse pucky . . . in "the old days," all you had to do was go to the library, find a book on the subject, take three names from the bibliography, and then copy out the encyclopedia article, to work up as your paper. Kids who don't want to do the hard work of reading and understanding will find a way to avoid it, and they always have.
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 03:26 pm
@Setanta,
Jesus - I always read the books....
but I think it's easier to seem well informed than it used to be- and I think it's easier to seem falsely intellectual and really believe you are
but you think whatever you want.
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 03:29 pm
My English teachers would have argued that many a kid turned in a fake book report based upon a movie they watched on TV and not the book they read.

Also, the same intellectual capacity for good research is here on the internet. Just like in the "old days" you need to know how to seek it out and how to weed out the wheat from the chaf.

The library shelves are stuffed with books on many subjects. That does not guarantee that many of those books qualify as comprehensive/expert opinion on the subject.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 03:29 pm
@aidan,
Your response supposes that i think differently, and of course, you don't know what i think. People have always been able to present a false image of themselves, and online, as in real life, with enough perseverance and enough time, it is possible to out the phonies. But who cares? If i hear some yob talking bullshit about American history in a coffee shop, i immediately don't respond. I can't cure his ignorance, and don't care about anyone simple enough to take him at his word. The only reason i discuss history here is because that is what this venue is for . . . it's not a coffee shop . . . at any rate, the brown piss water i was given didn't resemble what i'd call coffee.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 03:32 pm
@aidan,
I don't see any qualitative difference between books and the internet. There is a lot of trash in books; from conspiracy theories, to creationist science, to outright hate literature). A student using books has to have the same ability of understanding to know what is supported fact, and what is garbage that a student using the internet.

My teachers made sure that my sources of information (i.e. the books I used) were valid (according to their judgement). Teacher's today insist that students list their sources as well-- whether they are printed sources or electronic sources doesn't make a difference.

You may have been a better student than I.... but the fact that I was scrounging through books (instead of electronic documents) didn't ensure that I took the time to understand. Topics that interested me got my attention... but on more than one paper, I was skimming books to pull out little snippets quickly without taking the time to "read, synthesize or integrate". If I wasn't "cutting and pasting", I was sure coming close.

You seem to be saying that there was no shoddy, half-assed work done by students before the internet. I don't think this part of "scholarship" has changed at all.

It used to take a bit longer to be a poor student... but I see no evidence that this has changed the percentage of "scholarship" that is shoddy.
0 Replies
 
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 03:32 pm
@Setanta,
And anyway - even if you did that- reading the encyclopedia article and rewriting, at least you were physically WRITING which Mr. intellectual- does help and force one to integrate the information much more effectively than reading alone- which with cut and paste you don't even have to read the damn thing.
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 03:35 pm
Set wrote:
at any rate, the brown piss water i was given didn't resemble what i'd call coffee.

From my extensive experience within the USA, very few Americans understand the meaning of that word...
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jan, 2009 03:36 pm
@Francis,
What do you mean by that?

... we know what piss is.
 

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