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Anti-intellectualism inhibits learning

  1. Sep 22, 2007 #1
    Anti-intellectualism inhibits learning

    A large percentage (studies suggest over 90%) of the meaning we derive from communication, we derive from the non-verbal cues that the other person gives.

    How does one communicate with an unseen audience that can be anybody in the world? In face-to-face communication there is so much information about the audience at hand that does not exist on the Internet.

    Does one use language for the 12 year old, or the 18 year old, or the 25 year old, the educated, the non-educated? How to speak coherently to the 12 year old while not infuriating the 18 year old and how to mold an essay for the 30 year old without losing the 18 year old.

    People who write books have editors to act as a third party who understands the material and understands the anticipated audience.

    How do I, who have been studying the matter at hand for months and even years, know what words to provide a parenthetical definition that some may need but others may consider to be condescending?

    Anti-intellectualism (opposing or hostile to intellectuals or to an intellectual view or approach) is so prevailing in the United States that almost every reader has a strong anti-intellectual bias that they are completely unconscious of. This anti-intellectual bias constantly inhibits their effort to read anything that smacks of being ‘intellectual’.

    People might pay me money to lecture them on the proper way to swing a golf club but to lecture anyone on matters intellectual is pompous (excessively elevated or ornate—having or exhibiting self-importance).
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2007 #2
    well----write a book on the subject

    (but make sure you get a good editor)
  4. Oct 2, 2007 #3
    I agree with this, because of my own experiences with college professors in political science classes. Some of the anti-intellectual demagogues have shown such biased opinions that it has made learning difficult compared to the more philosophical reason not value or agenda based professors.
  5. Oct 2, 2007 #4
    Can you give us an example of this?
  6. Oct 3, 2007 #5
    I have been inclined to blame religion and capitalism for most of our bias against intellectualism; your statement about professors is a new idea for me. Perhaps professors have close associations with intellectuals and tend to belittle their accomplishments because they have not made similiar accomplishments themself.
  7. Oct 3, 2007 #6

    He said that he bases this on his personal experience, is that not enough?
  8. Oct 3, 2007 #7
    You can blame U.S. high schools for this one. If something doesn't surround partying or having a good time then you're going to have to provide a very nifty explanation for why you need to learn the material. Most teachers I've come across when posed with this question are insufficient in their answers and simply give the "you need it for the regents." So instead of it being a "expand your knowledge base" type atmosphere, it turns into a cat and mouse race of cramming everything into your brain for the regents. And then once your done it's ok to forget it all.

    I think something that's missing in U.S. high schools are logic and critical thinking courses. I say this because most kids that are just coming out of high school can't even defend their own positions adequately without throwing out personal insults. I mean christ, ad hominem is a basic logical fallacy that they can't even understand. What the hell are we doing to these kids?!
  9. Oct 3, 2007 #8
    With the exception of ideological professors. I can think of two categories that professors fall into that makes them anti-intellectual. The first is the young professor who just got the job and feels overly prideful of their accomplishments and the second is the tenured professor who with age feels overly knowledgeable. Both causes of arrogance promote a type of anti-intellectualism that is against new and creative thinking. I suppose it's more like polluted intellectualism than direct anti-intellectualism.

    The most anti-intellectual attitude or "polluted intellectualism" that I have seen, from a professor, was an elderly woman from Florida State University with radical leftist views who was clearly disenchanted with the right wing changes that have taken place after the 60's. She made it clear that she was interested in grading according to your political values rather than how well you can think. People like her use their position to attempt to enfranchise people they support and disenfranchise people they do not support. It's more of a political game than an intellectual game for professors with very strong personal beliefs and values.
    The ultimate condition of professors and teachers thinking and acting anti-intellectual or acting with "polluted or biased intellectualism" can be found in countries with strong ideological beliefs, like the former USSR, North Korea, and probably Iran, China, Saudi Arabia and many others. I've read that Mendels genetic experiments were discouraged in the USSR, because they did not fit nicely into the ideological assumption that environment or class is the largest determination of individual behavior.
    To a degree some of what I am talking about may be part of the intellectual rivalry that is part of the scientific revolution, but it's hard to say when someone, academic or not, has taken their position too far.
  10. Oct 3, 2007 #9
  11. Oct 10, 2007 #10
    I think part of the problem is most people will create a false black-and-white view in their mind such as the following: emotion= living the life/human cerebral= calculated/robotic/faceless. Why do you think people hate mathematics and numbers? Because a) they don't understand the concepts and b) numbers are not very humanlike. This is why statistics always get a bad rap. It's not human enough. People are scared of prediction, they want the element of surprise. Omniscience is boring, if you know everything then what's the point of living? I think it's fallacious thinking and falls into the same trap that people fall into when dealing with the violence vs. peace argument.

    Firstly, there will always be the element of surprise. It's taking us forever to embrace intellectualism and render religion obsolete. I know I'm extrapolating here, but could you imagine how many years it'd take to even sniff at omniscience? That's saying we don't go extinct beforehand.

    Secondly, emotions are not the be-all of being human. I hate it when people think in this manner. Even the most intellectual of arguments is derived from some emotion so the fact that people think intellectualism is completely void of emotion are foolish.
  12. Nov 17, 2007 #11
    Following up with what Lightbulbsun has said - it's true as far as I can see it, according to Mario Damasio in his book "Descartes' Error", emotions are important even to *gasp* Logic and Rational thinking!

    Oh my, what a cruel world!

    None the less, I'm from Orange County, and throughout High School I was exposed to that 'anti-intellectual' attitude. Not just because my family is 'that way' but also because I had really religious science teachers, and get this, when I was in tenth grade my biology teacher made sure to drop his 2 cents in to bash the whole "evolution" thing, and promote creationism. High School is a really excellent place to smash the hopes and dreams of a young America, unfortunately this is what is what is actively happening.

    Though, you have all said what I have to say, so I'll leave it at that.
  13. Nov 18, 2007 #12


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    I'm not really sure what examples of anti-intellectualism there is, but I tend to find lots of people who call themselves intellectuals are haughty and arrogant.
  14. Nov 18, 2007 #13
    Pythagorean - haughty and arrogant they may be, but their love of learning could be great.

    Show me a person who loves to learn, and I might be ready to dismiss any of their flaws.
  15. Nov 18, 2007 #14
    Anti-Intellectuals are more prevalent than thought

    Hello there. Yes, Coberst that would be a good book if you write it.
    There have been several High profile anti-int. in the US during the last 30yrs. The most infamous was and is the unibomber. His transcripts are available online. To my knowledge, the most hated intellectual of all by his own compatriots was Antoine Laurent Lavoisier Mr. Lavoisier was a true intellectual of his time, infamously and famously that is! His desire to tax everyone within his walled french city caused his beheading and was one of the sparks for the French revolution. He was know for the "conservation of matter/mass among other things, he just could not conserve taxes or his head for that matter. Anyway, at one time intell's were know to benefit mankind. Now it seems that intell's are self-serving($$$$) and clanish(focused on writing papers for their particular organization and not for the benefit of humanity)

    Many people of average to good intelligence have a sour taste for intell's because of what I just mentioned above. Even our top scientists are no longer unified in abhorrence to the words ills of genoside, poverty, war etc.

    From the top down. Starting with Harvard U. our American PHD's of social science, economics, history, political science etc. continue to write arcane research papers that only satisfy a few while they ignore our great social issues. If they would spend just 5 to 10% of their annual intellectual work on these issues collectively our country would be 10^x better for all versus our current condition.With all of our current issues: high crime rates, poverty, drop out rates, teen suicide rates,unjust wars, turture,confinement without chages etc; American Intellectuals are revered by americans just like Stalin loved his russian intellectuals!

    Off with their heads!!!!
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2007
  16. Nov 18, 2007 #15
    It all right there in Plato. The allegory of the cave:

    Your entire life you are chained and immobilized in a cave, forced to look only at the dark wall. Behind you there is a fire, and puppet masters who wave their puppets to cast shadows on your wall; the shadows are your entire reality. Eventually someone releases you from the chains and turns you around to face the fire. It is so hot and bright that you want to go back, or you want to die, but the guide pushes you forward until your eyes adjust and you can see the puppets behind the shadows. From this position the puppetmasters laugh sadistically, as they tease the less fortunate who are still in chains and wave the puppets which control the entire world of those who are chained.

    (the world of shadows is like TV, MySpace, etc and the puppetmasters are the politicians, businessmen, lawyers, etc )

    But you guide takes your hand and pulls you onward towards a small, jagged tunnel in a corner of the cave. You follow him in but the walls are tight and sharp, you plead to stop but he drags you onward. Eventually you find yourself at the exit to the cave, and immediately outside there is an enormous moonlit lake. The moonlit reflections cast in the lake are so much more beautiful then anything in the old cave...and yet you are discouraged to find that these reflections have a similar transience to things in the cave.

    (the thorny tunnel is the study of mathematics and philosophy, those who become too discouraged at the transience of the moonlit reflections have had their world view broken too many times, and they go back into the cave to preach that everything is an illusion, there is no truth i.e. they become relativists)

    But you persevere until dawn, and you are rewarded with the sights and smells of real trees, real grass, and you know at once that you can never again be satisfied with tree puppets, or shadows, or the cave money used to buy these things. You finally see things as they truly are (universal truths), and this is the highest level most of us can reasonably expect to attain.

    But the only reason it is possible to see is because of the Sun, and the Sun is to seeing as the Good is to knowing. It is the light of the Sun which makes it possible to see real things, and it is the form of the Good which permeates all of the universal truths and makes them knowable, makes them good. So the final level of Plato's aspirational human journey is to look into the Sun itself, to know the form of the Good.

    And finally, blinded by the knowledge of the Good and desiring nothing but to live amongst the true forms of real things basking in the sun, Plato says this person, now a philosopher-king, should descend back into the cave to become a guide similar to the one who led him so far. But upon his return to the dimly lit cave, our king finds his eyes poorly adjusted, and to the puppetmasters and shadow people he appears foolish and clumsy. The puppetmasters silence him easily, as though our king has experienced Justice itself, this is not the sort of justice practiced in the cave, and he is easily convicted and sentenced to death for corrupting the minds of the youth.

    So the highest knowledge possible is to know the form of the good, to understand why knowledge of the universal forms of triangles, circles, love, beauty, justice, etc is good. I have come far enough to know that the essence of these things participates in the form of the good, but I do not yet know the essence of goodness that makes them good (Plato said it would take till at least age 50 to learn the form of the good, I think the printing press and the internet speed things up somewhat).

    That's what Plato would have said, he thinks everyone can come out of the cave and at least bask in the sunlight and enjoy the goodness.

    I hope now you see why it is not easy for the scholars to help people in the cave, since the Good appears clumsy and foolish compared to the tantalizing but transient pleasures offered by the puppetmasters, who Plato compares with pastry chefs dishing out empty but delightful treats.

    What people are really expecting from academics is a quick-fix pill, that doesn't require them to change their sick ways.

    I was thinking of this just the other day, how Americans don't just avoid the Good but seem to intentionally piss all over it every chance they get. Plato said the world would be nothing but chaos until philosophers become kings, or kings become philosophers. At the very least, we will not get rid of anti-intellectualism as long as Businessman, Doctor, Lawyer, Politician are considered the most ambitious and highly thought of careers.
  17. Nov 18, 2007 #16
    That was very insightful. I have much reading to do. I admit, I will be taking a classics course next semester. Your level of understanding and clarity is great motivation for me.:smile:
  18. Nov 18, 2007 #17
    Crosson - I think I love you.
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