Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The triumph of anti-intellectualism

By Laura Handly

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Erica Lowenkron/Collegian

Erica Lowenkron/Collegian

There is a cult of anti-intellectualism in our country, and it did not arise in a single election cycle. Donald Trump represents the newest low in this downward race to the bottom, but there is surely room for further regression. Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov summarizes this phenomenon as the belief that, “democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” The anti-vaccination movement, the denial of evolution by 33 percent of our population, the rise of the common core model of education and the election of a failed businessman and former reality television host as president are all merely symptoms of this disease.

Textbooks in Texas have revised history to present American colonists in a better light. Abstinence-only sexual education now makes up 23 percent of the sexual education provided in public schools in the United States, up from just 2 percent in 1988. According to a Gallup poll, 18 percent of Americans believe that the sun revolves around the earth. A 2015 study showed that 41 percent of Americans believe that humans and dinosaurs once inhabited the earth simultaneously. 50 percent of American adults cannot read books written at an eighth-grade level and 45 million are functionally illiterate. Of course, statistics can be deceptive, but the sheer volume of these claims suggests anti-intellectualism is a legitimate concern for our country.

This doctrine of regressiveness spills over into unexpected channels. Cable news has adopted the model of entertainment television, made clear by the unmistakable similarities between the coverage of presidential debates and the Super Bowl. For his shock value, Trump was rewarded by being mentioned around 60 percent of the time any presidential candidate was discussed on national television in the last year.

Even universities are not immune to this trend, with focus shifting from critical thinking to job preparation and from genuine intellectual inquiry to “value-free” research.

The dumbing down of America serves a number of special interests. The rejection of science and the fact of climate change, the aversion to knowledge of history and international relations and the resistance to thoughtful debate in lieu of violent, substanceless attacks all serve to bolster the case of anti-intellectualism. Distrust of knowledge undermines the defenses we have against charismatic elites, who would seek to divide and agitate while discreetly consolidating their own power. A lack of information regarding foreign affairs allows the military-industrial complex to continue to manipulate policy and profit from the United States’ endless waging of war abroad.

An uneducated population is a disempowered one. The ability to share and benefit from knowledge has allowed human beings to progress to this point. I urge you to challenge the rhetoric of anti-intellectualism and consider the power structures that stand to benefit from such an arrangement.

Laura Handly is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]


10 Responses to “The triumph of anti-intellectualism”

  1. David Hunt 1990 on November 17th, 2016 3:01 pm

    It might speak better of you were you to know that of that 18 percent who think the sun goes around the earth, a fair proportion are liberals.

    As to the *cough cough* fact of climate change, where is the “hot spot” that every single theory calls for? It’s not there. Which means that a fundamental aspect of the theory is not only not proven, but contradicted.

    It might help if you decided to – you know – read and listen to skeptics rather than just dismiss them as anti-intellectual. Heaven forbid you learn something.

  2. David Hunt 1990 on November 17th, 2016 3:08 pm

    For starters, read these two blogs daily for a couple of weeks. The animated graphs at the first one show clear fraud on the part of NASA and NOAA in terms of altering the climate data to match the theory:

    Now watch this video by the founder of Greenpeace:

    And then watch this BBC special:

    But you won’t. That would mean, you know, being an intellectual… and open to new information.

  3. b on November 17th, 2016 3:34 pm

    Calling a billionaire a failed businessman is like calling Hillary Clinton a failed presidential candidate.

    Oh wait that’s right, she lost, and that’s why you wrote this article about how having part of a bachelor’s degree in a non-technical field makes you better than everyone that voted for Trump.

  4. asdf on November 18th, 2016 9:57 pm

    lol that 9 year old tv special has been debunked numerous times

  5. chris on November 19th, 2016 1:13 am

    David Hunt 1990 : “That would mean, you know, being an intellectual… and open to new information.”

    *Posts video from 2007*

    Love that new information bro. It’s funny that all it takes for people to discredit hundreds of scientific papers is one poorly sourced alternative. Some of the people interviewed in that video weren’t even told what it was for and had their quotes horribly misused out of context. I’m guessing you think vaccines cause autism too?

    How do you get off implying you’re an intellectual by citing blogs and 9 year old youtube links as your go-to information? The fact people can view scientific government funding as anything close to what oil companies make (in terms of corrupting power) is hilarious to me as a researcher. Have you seen Saudi Arabia? Jesus christ. You’re clearly super well-informed man, drill baby drill, don’t worry – nothing bad and large-scale could possibly be caused by billions of people over decades of time.

  6. David Hunt 1990 on November 21st, 2016 10:24 am

    @asdf And have the studies in that also been disproved?

    You people are cultists; I’ve debated enough creationists to recognize the absolute impermeability of your minds to anything that doesn’t match what you already believe.

  7. David Hunt 1990 on November 22nd, 2016 9:46 am


    So where is the “hot spot”?

    You see, I understand that when *cough cough* scientists openly collude to conceal and alter data… they’re LYING.

  8. elizabethw on November 28th, 2016 7:47 pm

    Academia was once a trustworthy source of information, of knowledge and was useful for the public in that regard. However in my opinion it has lost that trust; no longer is it a trustworthy source of information. Universities and professors decided they were on a mission and no longer respect the truth or objectivity and deliberately insert their opinions, allow faculty to do so and manipulate the truth to support or promote viewpoints, ideas, political agenda.

    So why should intellectuals be respected or trusted? What gives them the basis to complain about the rise of anti-intellectualism, it assumes they have some authority or credence.

  9. David Hunt 1990 on December 14th, 2016 10:07 am

    @elizabethw: Get them while they’re young. That’s what Totalitarians do.

    This scene from the movie “Cabaret” comes to mind whenever I think of what today’s college professors do to their students:

    As founder said, “Inside every progressive is a totalitarian screaming to get out.”

  10. David Hunt 1990 on December 14th, 2016 10:08 am

    er, founder, former Communist and self-described “red diaper baby” David Horiwitz….

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