Monday, January 28, 2013

What's your anti today?

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Over the past few days it has begun to hit me that our news media has a "thing" about what I will call the anti-approach to news. The papers, web, and TV have all hit me with anti-tax, anti-spend, anti-gun, anti-abortion, anti-fracking, anti-gay marriage, anti-smoking, anti-big business, anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-this, anti-that, and, yes, even anti-Bush.
Does the American public have a rather negative view of things these days? Could we as a society perhaps begin to view our roles in life as promoting what we would like to see rather than merely continually chastising that with which we disapprove? This really hit me when I read items about people who are against flu shots. I mean, anti-flu shot? I guess in the ideal world everyone who wanted a flu shot would get one. (What really flabbergasts me is those who have said they would get one if insurance paid for it, otherwise they would not.)
The antis are really taking over, so it seems. The anti- that really bothers me is the anti-intellectualism that is taking over our society. Paul Stoller wrote a good article entitled "My Struggles With Anti-Intellectualism" that appeared in The Huffington Post on May 8, 2012 (click here). In it, he writes "There is a deep tradition of anti-intellectualism in American cultural and political life. It has a long history, spreading its messages into every nook and cranny of American social and political life. We are the "can-do" nation that values "common-sense" solutions to our problems. We are suspicious of "egg heads," dreamers and "pointy-headed" intellectuals ..."
Written by Susan Jacoby, "The Dumbing of America" appeared in The Washington Post on February 17, 2008. In it, she states "Americans are in serious intellectual trouble -- in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations. "   This article is a must-read, and it actually reminded me of a book by Richard Hofstadter called Anti-intellectualism in American Life. I have not read it, but I will.

Counting my own years in school, I spent 50 years in classrooms. I will be one of the first to point out that there has been a creeping ever-stronger anti-intellectual tide washing over our schools. I attribute part of it to a law of unintended consequences: if you want more horses to be able to jump the fence, lower the fence. (It's easier than raising then ground, and doesn't require stronger horses.)

In a culture of anti-intellectualism, it is much easier to adopt a position against something that is, than in favor of something that isn't.  Anti-intellectualism is most likely the source of the "anti"-culture.

Robert F. Kennedy is quoted as saying "Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their peers, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change."  He was onto something, but what he could have added is that moral courage together with great intelligence is stronger than any weapon of battle. Gandhi knew. 

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