Sunday, June 21, 2015

anti-intellectualism


wikipedia |  In The Powring Out of the Seven Vials (1642), the Puritan John Cotton wrote that 'the more learned and witty you bee, the more fit to act for Satan will you bee. ... Take off the fond doting ... upon the learning of the Jesuits, and the glorie of the Episcopacy, and the brave estates of the Prelates. I say bee not deceived by these pompes, empty shewes, and faire representations of goodly condition before the eyes of flesh and blood, bee not taken with the applause of these persons.'[15] Not every Puritan concurred with Cotton's contempt for secular education; some founded universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth.

Economist Thomas Sowell[16] argues that American anti-intellectualism can be traced to the early Colonial era, and that wariness of the educated upper-classes is understandable given that America was built, in large part, by people fleeing persecution and brutality at the hands of the educated upper classes. Additionally, rather few intellectuals possessed the practical hands-on skills required to survive in the New World, leading to a deeply rooted suspicion of those who may appear to specialize in "verbal virtuosity" rather than tangible, measurable products or services:
From its colonial beginnings, American society was a "decapitated" society—largely lacking the topmost social layers of European society. The highest elites and the titled aristocracies had little reason to risk their lives crossing the Atlantic and then face the perils of pioneering. Most of the white population of colonial America arrived as indentured servants and the black population as slaves. Later waves of immigrants were disproportionately peasants and proletarians, even when they came from Western Europe [...] The rise of American society to pre-eminence as an economic, political and military power was thus the triumph of the common man and a slap across the face to the presumptions of the arrogant, whether an elite of blood or books.
The source, Thomas Sowell, describes the effect the American Revolution had on the development of American government, as established by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In his opinion, the tendency to "disregard" the impartiality of the law depending upon "who you are" rather than what the author describes as the impartiality of the "supremacy of the law" conflicts with the American creed of the common man. According to Sowell, this fundamental right uniquely distinguishes the American character, forged by "the beaten men of beaten races," from that of the arrogant and privileged elites of the European aristocracy.[17]
19th century
In the history of American anti-intellectualism, modern scholars[citation needed] suggest that 19th-century popular culture is important, because, when most of the populace lived a rural life of manual labour and agricultural work, a 'bookish' education, concerned with the Græco-Roman classics, was perceived as of impractical value, ergo unprofitable—yet Americans, generally, were literate and read Shakespeare for pleasure—thus, the ideal "American" man was technically skilled and successful in his trade, ergo a productive member of society.[citation needed] Culturally, the ideal American was a self-made man whose knowledge derived from life-experience, not an intellectual man, whose knowledge derived from books, formal education, and academic study; thus, in The New Purchase, or Seven and a Half Years in the Far West (1843), the Reverend Bayard R. Hall, A.M., said about frontier Indiana:
"We always preferred an ignorant bad man to a talented one, and, hence, attempts were usually made to ruin the moral character of a smart candidate; since, unhappily, smartness and wickedness were supposed to be generally coupled, and [like-wise] incompetence and goodness."[15]
Yet, the egghead's worldly redemption was possible if he embraced mainstream mores; thus, in the fiction of O. Henry, a character noted that once an East Coast university graduate 'gets over' his intellectual vanity—no longer thinks himself better than others—he makes just as good a cowboy as any other young man, despite his counterpart being the slow-witted naïf of good heart, a pop culture stereotype from stage shows.