Pushing Back at Anti-Intellectualism

One excellent selection from the commencement address President Obama delivered at Rutgers University last Sunday.

Which brings me to my third point:  Facts, evidence, reason, logic, an understanding of science — these are good things. These are qualities you want in people making policy.  These are qualities you want to continue to cultivate in yourselves as citizens. That might seem obvious. That’s why we honor Bill Moyers or Dr. Burnell.

We traditionally have valued those things. But if you were listening to today’s political debate, you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from. So, Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real, or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about. And yet, we’ve become confused about this.

Reading the text is good but the listening to the president speak is even better (for those not part of the Fox “news” fan club). If you have 45 minutes, watch the whole address:

Speaking of the current “strain of anti-intellectualism” in American society, I also recommend reading an opinion piece, “A Cult of Ignorance”, written more than 35 years ago by the great Isaac Asimov.

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

I’m hopeful Asimov’s essay and the president’s remarks will not still be valid in another 35 years. But I’m not optimistic about that.

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