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View Diary: Anti-Intellectualism Is Destroying Democracy In America (20 comments)

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  •  My brother has an Ivy League MBA & was CEO of (4+ / 0-)

    one of the largest chemical companies in the country, an officer of NAM, a member of the boards of a couple of the world's largest multinationals, and the Chair of the Board of Trustees of a major technologically-oriented state university.  

          He PROUDLY claims that he has NEVER read ONE book since finishing business school.

          Like our parents, who averaged 10 years of formal education between them, he depends for most of his information about the world on reading the NYT, the WSJ, and the WaPo.  And, unlike our parents, he supplements those sources with Faux News.

          You can tell by my Twain sig quote what I think of my brother's sources of intellectual stimulation.  As a compulsive reader, undergrad English major, and university psychology teacher, I'd wonder if I hadn't been an adopted stray if I didn't look so much like my brother.  But I think it's a generation thing.  

          My brother is Scalia's age and, like him, went to a Jesuit college in the 1950's where Scholasticism was still the order of the day and Thomism still the mainstay of philosophy and theology courses -- you were taught that tradition = truth, and any challenge to tradition was to be assumed invalid.   By the time I went to the same college 9 years later post-Vattican II, theology focused on form criticism and other modern analyses applied to scripture and metaphysics focused on existentialism.  We might as well have been 400 years apart instead of 9.  

          Of course, this generational divide is obviously not a total change -- witness Clarence the Sphinx.  But IMO increases in minority population is not the only demographic catastrophe the Repubs are facing.  IMO the hold of anti-intellectualism on the American population is getting weaker & weaker among its younger cohorts:  see the 2012 vote, the generation gaps on issues like gay marriage and climate change, and the popularity with young cohorts of satirists Jon Stewart, Colbert, Maher.  

    Addendum:  A favorite column from one of my favorite commentators was one by Katha Pollitt way back during the whole "Closing of the American Mind"/"teach the tradition" brouhaha.  She said that the reason so many academic traditionalists were so obsessed with making sure that undergrads read the "classics" during college was that they realized that their instruction was totally ineffective in inculcating a love of reading in their students, so that many or even most of them were unlikely EVER to read a serious book after leaving the halls of academe.  My brother is the perfect illustration of Pollitt's thesis -- he'll, he hasn't read ANY book in 50 years.  

    "If you don't read the newspapers, you're uninformed. If you do read the newspapers, you're misinformed." -- M. Twain

    by Oliver St John Gogarty on Tue May 07, 2013 at 10:43:35 AM PDT

    •  "classics" : prose vs. subject matter (0+ / 0-)

      The first thing that comes to mind is that whether a book is a great work of literature - superlative prose, characterization, narrative, etc. - doesn't necessarily mean it has a whole lot to say.  The "classics" can suffer as much from irrelevancy as from unapproachability - these are the stories of other, long-dead, mostly aristocratic cultures that have been preserved much like objects in a museum, that have acquired meaning that is perhaps far beyond what they originally had simply by virtue of being really, really old.  Take away the formal, archaic, and poetic language (including the mountains of description necessary for a pre-television audience) and you can end up with material that's about as deep as amateur fanfic: a mixture of bone-dry fan wank, cheesy melodrama, and romance novel-esque gushing about how hunky Achilles and Beowulf are.

      It's not just a problem with the Western canon; try wading through Tale of Genji sometime.  It's unreadable - a soap opera about how hard a hot rich guy's life is - and that's after they cut out the pages and pages of description of everyone's fancy court outfits.

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