Today, we find ourselves immersed, up to our eyeballs, in an era of anti-intellectualism.
We are all busy and bombarded with information every day but this is something we need to be aware of and not fall under it’s sway.
Anti-intellectualism is not something new. It has existed for quite some time. It is usually associated with authoritarian governments and political parties, who use the technique to control public opinion for their own ends. Like now.
Basically, it manifests in the position that knowledge and science are inferior to street smarts and plain old common sense.
Issac Asimov once said: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always 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.”
Today, we can see examples of this in many places:
- the re-emergence of childhood diseases that were essentially eliminated are re-occurring due to parents not getting their children vaccinated because they don’t believe in it
- belief that trickle down (or supply side, If you prefer) economics boosts growth when numerous validated studies and statistics that show the opposite is true
- disbelief in climate change, in spite of virtually unanimous expert scientific consensus
- There is even currently a go fund me campaign to show the earth is flat
The rise of anti-intellectualism today is aided by several factors:
- Sound bites have replaced nuanced analysis
- The sheer volume of data being published is huge (not all of it factual)
- Americans have developed a severe lack of attention span and intellectual curiosity
- Self publishing by “non-expert” experts of opinion positioned as fact
- We look at too many “screens” and they are being viewed as a portal to reality (when often, they aren’t). In a word, we are overwhelmed.
- Parties are deliberately publishing dis-information in furtherance of corporate and political agendas. Big money and current law, makes this possible.
- The educational system has been dumbed down, thereby crippling critical thinking
Expertise and it’s importance is under attack and as a result. we are losing the ability to make good decisions both in our personal lives and in public policy.
The best way for you and I to deal with this dangerous trend is to do the following:
- Read about and keep up to date on current events. By that I mean well sourced news from award-winning journalistic outlets. Some good sources include; The Washington Post, The New York Times, Atlantic, The National Review, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and “some” for Fox’s News (not non news programming).
- Try to understand both sides of an argument. If you can’t elucidate the other person’s position, you don’t understand the subject
- Ask questions. Remember the Stephen Covey adage “seek first to understand then to be understood”
- Don’t assume what you read or hear is true. Dig deeper to ensure you aren’t getting false info masquerading as facts. Check that the facts presented are true and not taken out of context (see the graphic for this post).
Just remember, much of what you read today about public policy may be highly distorted. For instance, a tax cut today may sound great but it might leave us much worse off 10 years down the road. Is that really alright with you?
Your voice is important. Make it count!
Image from The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions