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Anti-Intellectualism
A Non-Comprehensive Compilation of Facts of Feelings

Anti-Intellectualism
  • Sidelights on Contemporary Socialism (by )
  • Anti- Intellectualis M in American Life (by )
  • The National Mind (by )
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A poll was taken in 2014, that revealed one in four Americans thinks that the sun revolves around Earth. Most people agree that global warming is real, but many of these same people believe that it will only affect other people. Non-scientists argue with scientists and doctors about whether vaccines are good or bad. Are these three ideas latent traces of a manifest-your-own destiny, a power-of-the-mind ability to turn feelings into facts? 

This is the battle of intellectualism versus anti-intellectualism.
Anti-intellectualism has been around since the invention of the book. It was rumored that witchcraft hovered around the man who sat still for hours on end reading the first book in public, nose in a pile of papers as if in a trance. Over the years, reading stories and histories, applying oneself to the chalkboard, formulas, star-gazing and scientific experiments, have led to an invisible rift between those who study and those who apply their lives to manual labor. 

It’s not an uncommon tactic of governments and leaders to exacerbate divisions between the working man and the intellectual. History has often seen intellects made to be scapegoats, or they have otherwise silenced their voices in times of revolution in order to monopolize public opinion. Examples can be seen in 1970’s Cambodia, in the histories of Armenian diasporas, in Germany during World War II, and even as far back as China in 220 BC.
As for anti-intellectualism in America, the stage was set at its birth. Most men and women of the 13 colonies were peasants, proletarians, indentured servants, or slaves who grew to harbor understandable disdain for the British motherland that failed to treat the colonies as anything but a colony. The Americans won the subsequent American Revolution, and held onto their wariness of the ruling, educated upper class.

The new Americans were working class, distrusting of educated elites, self-made people, and adventurers in the New World. In much of the expanding country, intellectual endeavors failed to bring in money or food, and was looked upon as an activity of leisure rather than one of real work. Many people favored a life of experience rather than a life of thought, and failed to see the crossover between the two. For certain groups of people, this combined with capitalistic individualism, and together it morphed into branches of true independence of thought—or rather, the ability to think independently from facts. 
Anti-intellectualism has taken different forms over the years, but the crux has always related with hostility towards facts and those who would promote them. Science philosopher Larry Laudan said, “The displacement of the idea that facts and evidence matter by the idea that everything boils down to subjective interests and perspectives is—second only to American political campaigns—the most prominent and pernicious manifestation of anti-intellectualism in our time.” Perhaps the best tactic to counter the anti-intellectual narratives is to reform our education system in such a way that emphasizes education rather than job training. 

For an in depth reading on anti-intellectualism, check out Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter, Sidelights on Contemporary Socialism by John Spargo, and The National Mind by Michel Demiskevich.

By Thad Higa
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