Anti-Intellectualism

Modern Education

I’m a product of “modern education”, so I take this personally.

A couple of years ago, North Carolina passed Amendment 1, which makes it unconstitutional to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions. After the vote I was upset, and I engaged (unwisely, perhaps) in a number of debates on Facebook that ultimately led to my unfriending or being unfriended by several people. In one of these debates, a now-former friend told me that I was a prime example of why people shouldn’t go to college: I was just parroting what the liberal propaganda machine told me to say. This was not my first brush with anti-intellectualism, but it’s the one that remains strongest in my memory. Whenever I read a meme like this, I think back to that heated discussion and wonder how everything went so wrong.

Anti-intellectualism is a distrust of anything academic. Vocal anti-intellectualists present themselves as champions of the common man and as defenders against the nefarious forces of political elitism. In the mind of an anti-intellectualist, a college graduate is a glorified button-pusher and yes-man who has been allowed to think of himself as elite in return for his unquestioning compliance. The irony of this stance is that, for me at least, college is where I really learned to apply critical thinking and began to question the long-held assumptions that had until then governed my life. My worldview changed dramatically in college, thanks in part to professors who would not let me be complacent in my thinking.

Of course I realize that everybody’s academic experience and outcome is different, but that’s exactly what makes a meme like this irrelevant. People who complete their formal education are not merely drones in the industrial-political hive. If anything, education has the potential to enhance your individualism.

I want to be clear: I’m not besmirching anybody who didn’t go to college. A college diploma is not the only gateway to an inspired, fulfilling life. If you opted out of jumping through academic hoops and found peace and happiness through other avenues, I’m quite glad for you. I feel that we can be happy for each other, because we’re both important to our fellow humans. All I ask is that you not assume the worst about those who pursued an academic goal.

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2 thoughts on “Anti-Intellectualism

  1. Additional irony: lower levels of education (public schools) CAN legitimately be criticized for being overly focused on repetition and on making people qualified to do jobs that require little thought.

    • I’m going to respectfully disagree with you; I don’t think public schools are the drone factories that it has become fashionable to portray them as. I think the decline in the college- and career-readiness of public school students has more to do with the expanding number of students living in poverty.

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