Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Early Roots of American Anti-Intellectualism

In discussing the long history of anti-intellectualism in the U.S. in her book The Age of American Unreason Susan Jacoby writes:
"[George] Washington, whose education was sketchier than that of many of the other framers of the Constitution, held higher learning in such esteem that he left a bequest of several thousand dollars worth of securities in his will in an effort to persuade Congress to appropriate money for a national university. His legacy went unclaimed in a political dispute that set the tone for many future controversies of the federal government's involvement in education. Congress, afraid that the use of Washington's bequest to found a national university would be seen as an assault on colleges founded by religious institutions, wanted nothing to do with the project."
Or, as nonframer Rick Santorum put it over 200 years later:
"If you look at the popular culture and what comes out of Hollywood, if you go to our schools and particularly our colleges and universities, they are indoctrinated in a sea of relativism and a sea of antagonism towards Christianity.

"Abortion is a symptom. Marriage is a symptom. Pornography [is a symptom]. All of these are symptoms to the fundamental issue that we've gotten away from the truth and the 'Truth-Giver."
Jacoby's book is pretty good, if a bit strident. She's probably not a woman you'd want to get in an argument with, unless you could keep from taking it personally.

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