Anti-intellectualism: “dumbing down” of America

There is a disjunction between Americans’ rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history

anti-intellectualismSomehow, reading Ray Williams’ article The cult of ignorance in the United States: Anti-intellectualism and the “dumbing down” of America made me sadder than other pieces I’ve read on the subject.

For one thing, Williams’ article is from 2014. He cites Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason from 2008, who said in an article in the Washington Post, “Dumbness… has been steadily defined downward for several decades. She specifically cites “a disjunction between Americans’ rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science, and history.”

This is not a recent trend. Richard Hofstadter won a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 (!) for his book, Anti-Intellectualism In American Life.

We’re creating a world of dummies. Angry dummies who feel they have the right, the authority and the need not only to comment on everything, but to make sure their voice is heard above the rest, and to drag down any opposing views through personal attacks, loud repetition, and confrontation.

The article blames a variety of factors for this disturbing trend includes:

* Training people to get jobs rather than educating them
* Anti-science religiosity influencing education
* “The new elite are the angry social media posters, those who can shout loudest and more often, a clique of bullies and malcontents baying together like dogs cornering a fox”

Sure, there is vapidness in pop culture. “Fashion, entertainment, spectacle, voyeurism – we’re directed towards trivia, towards the inconsequential, towards unquestioning and blatant consumerism.”

The article addressed many problems but offers little in terms of solutions beyond that the trend “should be a cause for concern for leaders and the general population, one that needs to be addressed now.”

No doubt in my mind this is all true. But what does one DO about it? Je ne sais pas. And THAT’S what frightens me, not just for myself but for my child.