Saturday, August 16, 2008

How Anti-Intellectualism Is Destroying America

By Terrence McNally, AlterNet
Posted on August 15, 2008, Printed on August 16, 2008

"It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant." Barack Obama finally said it.

Though a successful political and electoral strategy, the Right's stand against intelligence has steered them far off course, leaving them -- and us -- unable to deal successfully with the complex and dynamic circumstances we face as a nation and a society.

American 15-year-olds rank 24th out of 29 countries in math literacy, and their parents are as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution; roughly 30 to 40 percent believe in each. Their president believes "the jury is still out" on evolution.

Steve Colbert interviewed Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland on "The Colbert Report." Westmoreland co-sponsored a bill that would require the display of the Ten Commandments in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but, when asked, couldn't actually list the commandments.

This stuff would be funny if it weren't so dangerous.

In the 2004 election, nearly 70 percent of Bush supporters believed the United States had "clear evidence" that Saddam Hussein was working closely with al Qaeda; a third believed weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq; and more than a third that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion, according to the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. The political right and allied culture warriors actively ignore evidence and encourage misinformation. To motivate their followers, they label intelligent and informed as "elite," implying that ignorance is somehow both valuable and under attack. Susan Jacoby confronts our "know-nothingism" -- current and historical -- in her new book, The Age of American Unreason.


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