Are Americans hostile to knowledge?

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by Connemara, Feb 18, 2008.

  1. GoSurface

    GoSurface Senior member

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    It's not the younger generations fault that we've become a culture of immediacy. Our predecessors enabled it by succumbing to ambition and their desire for excess. More, faster, now! All we're doing is living by example.
     


  2. Brian278

    Brian278 Senior member

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    What do you guys think about the role of the internet in all this? It seems that kids today really don't read nearly as much as they used to and instead rely about the factoid-style information found on-line. Do you think that the modern Western attention span is too short for in-depth research anymore?
    Maybe, but I know a lot of shit about stuff that my friends don't because I read a lot on the internet. Wikipedia, etc., while they aren't the traditional methods of in depth research of higher education, do provide an easy source of usually accurate information that wasn't available before.
     


  3. edmorel

    edmorel Quality Seller!! Dubiously Honored

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    I think (therefore I am) that it is two things. We pride ourselves on being a nation of "doer's", not thinkers, in the classical sense. The old "those who can, do and those who can't, teach". You are supposed to work 25 hours a day and try and make as much money as possible. Second thing is the information age. We have more information available to us then anyone can possibly even begin to use. Think of the most arcane subject and you can find all the info you need on wiki or similar. So do you sit around all day and contemplate the meaning of life or do you get venture capital and figure out a new search engine/medical breakthrough/ipod etc etc.

    Quite frankly, while needed, intellectualism is a bit overrated. The two things that have mattered in the world from day one have been money and guns (power).
     


  4. matadorpoeta

    matadorpoeta Senior member

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    Quite frankly, while needed, intellectualism is a bit overrated.

    as always, it is a matter of balance. the intellect, like anything else, can be abused.
     


  5. Fuuma

    Fuuma Franchouillard Modasse

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    What do you guys think about the role of the internet in all this? It seems that kids today really don't read nearly as much as they used to and instead rely about the factoid-style information found on-line. Do you think that the modern Western attention span is too short for in-depth research anymore?

    I encounter a lot of college students and some of the things they think are just amazing. It's as if most of them have never read independently, so all they do is lap up whatever their professors and teachers serve up, usually with a healthy dose of whatever political bent the instructor wishes to impart.



    I phrased that poorly, I meant intellectuals of renown, someone known outside of the local bistro, like a Cornel West or Noam Chomsky.


    Well the guy I mentioned disliking (Bernard-Henri LÃ[​IMG]vy) has an almost overwhelming media presence and is a member of a highly connected and media-savvy group of intellectuals called "the new philosophers". They frequently meet each others and their cronies on back-slapping televised circle-jerk fests.

    If you discuss someone like Chomsky you probably know that he had a series of well publicized debates with French intellectual Michel Foucault, whose influence on structuralism/post-structuralism (a thoroughly French movement) and post-modernism as a whole is enormous. Pierre Bourdieu, one of the leading sociologists of the 20th century, who can be linked to Foucault as a publicly active intellectual figure, has also been highly critical of BHL's writings and interventions. More recently Serge Halimi published a series of articles in Le monde diplomatique questioning the role of intellectuals in modern day France where he was also metaphorically kicking Bernard in the balls.

    Those are just a few examples that I used without going out of my way to seek some that were outside specific intellectuals or groups that were already discussed, even though we only had slim pickings in that area (I mentioned BHL in a previous post, you listed Chomsky and West in your latest one).

    BTW I'm pretty sure the term "intellectual" itself and the way it is used today came from the French language.
     


  6. Fuuma

    Fuuma Franchouillard Modasse

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    I do believe there is an intellectual crisis in France but it is definitely not of the same nature as in the USA and linked to the role intellectuals play instead of the valuing of intellectuals themselves. I definitely would not say the situation is worse in the US, so entrenched in the contemporary way of doing things is the French problematic.
     


  7. RJman

    RJman Posse Member Dubiously Honored

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    Bourdieu is dead, non?

    While the US may be anti-intellectual, we still have morons on TV telling us what to think, even if they're not independently wealthy bespoke shirt-wearing pretentious bores like BHL who think that interviewing Woody Allen is taking the pulse of America.
     


  8. Dewey

    Dewey Senior member

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    Americans are not hostile to knowledge. They are practical, utilitarian about knowledge. If it is useful knowledge, they love it.

    On the other hand, Americans are hostile to falsification. It's considered intolerant, aristocratic, oppressive, and un-American to tell other Americans that they cherish bad knowledge.

    Exhibit A might be casino gambling. Exhibit B might be the irrational love of oversized and inefficient cars. Exhibit C might be the once-widespread idea that a guy who makes $60K should be allowed to borrow $500K to buy a crappy house in a bubble market. Exhibit D might be idiocy about intelligent design and evolution.

    It's no surprise that people don't like to be told they are wrong in America. What is weird and distinctly American, I think, is the fact that a majority of people who are not in the wrong will side with the superstitious and stupid when they are corrected. If 10% of the population is morbidly addicted to gambling, and 10% of the population wants to end gambling to help those people, about three-quarters of the remaining 80% will get upset with the do-gooders for having the audacity to attack the bad idea that casino gambling is a harmless pastime.

    This is why Americans are so superstitious and given to wacky religious beliefs. They love knowledge and they refuse to weed it or support others who want weed it.

    Now, someone tell me I am wrong!
     


  9. Fuuma

    Fuuma Franchouillard Modasse

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    Bourdieu is dead, non?

    While the US may be anti-intellectual, we still have morons on TV telling us what to think, even if they're not independently wealthy bespoke shirt-wearing pretentious bores like BHL who think that interviewing Woody Allen is taking the pulse of America.


    Bourdieu and Foucault are both dead. But they're contemporary enough to be used as examples here, no? I know that you've got cretins on fox news or moveon.org or whatever telling Americans what to think but they don't fit an accepted definition of what an intellectual is, no?

    The best way to frame what I was discussing would be to say that I took the thread title as "Is anti-intellectualism rampant in the United States", not the highly generic "are Americans hostile to knowledge". I believe one is a good start for a healthy discussion while the other is an absurdly ballooned hyperbole.
     


  10. HomerJ

    HomerJ Senior member

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    In a rush to drop knowledge I think some of you have gone off topic. The book isn't about intellectuals who are intellectualizing about postwhateverism. It's lamenting dumbass Americans who think Pearl Harbor triggered the Vietnam War or that Europe is a country.
     


  11. Etienne

    Etienne Senior member

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    BTW I'm pretty sure the term "intellectual" itself and the way it is used today came from the French language.
    From what I know, its contemporary use (as a noun) originated at the end of the 19th century in France, during the Dreyfus controversy. I think Clemenceau is usually credited for the innovation.
     


  12. Brian278

    Brian278 Senior member

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    Anecdotally speaking, I think it is. If you chose 100 American universities and asked students from each to write a paragraph on a priori v. a posteriori knowledge, identify the capital of Iraq and name 10 U.S. Presidents, less than 50% would be able to do so. I imagine there are studies that have examined such a phenomenon with similar results.

    I could do 2 of those three (and I could take a stab at the first), but perhaps you've chosen poor examples. There's plenty of engineering, or music, or business students who would not do well on your test but would school you in other areas, and those areas are worthwhile as well.

    I think that far more telling than whether or not the average university student understand our foreign policy is that many of them actively, almost aggressively do not care to learn things they don't know that don't directly affect their daily lives. The eschew it as distasteful pretension, as if any display of something you know that they don't is mere arrogant one-upmanship .
     


  13. FLMountainMan

    FLMountainMan White Hispanic

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    Bourdieu and Foucault are both dead. But they're contemporary enough to be used as examples here, no? I know that you've got cretins on fox news or moveon.org or whatever telling Americans what to think but they don't fit an accepted definition of what an intellectual is, no?

    The best way to frame what I was discussing would be to say that I took the thread title as "Is anti-intellectualism rampant in the United States", not the highly generic "are Americans hostile to knowledge". I believe one is a good start for a healthy discussion while the other is an absurdly ballooned hyperbole.


    Can't find anything to argue with in this post. Great points. And, you're right, while I'm not familiar with Bourdieu, I should've thought of Foucault right off the bat (I even thought of the pendulum guy when I first read your post). My apologies.
     


  14. Fuuma

    Fuuma Franchouillard Modasse

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    From what I know, its contemporary use (as a noun) originated at the end of the 19th century in France, during the Dreyfus controversy. I think Clemenceau is usually credited for the innovation.

    Haha, yeah that's what I thought but I didn't want to state it because it's something I heard often but don't remember reading about.
     


  15. HomerJ

    HomerJ Senior member

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    I think this joke sums it up for Americans.
    Last month, a worldwide survey was conducted by the UN -- The only question asked was: "Would you please give your honest opinion about the food shortage in the rest of the world?" However, the survey was a HUGE failure. In Africa they didn't know what "food" meant. In Western Europe they didn't know what "shortage" meant. In China they didn't know what "opinion" meant. The Americans didn't know what "the rest of the world" meant. And the Italians are still discussing the meaning of the word "honest"
    A great deal of the "that dumbass didn't just say that" moments seem to revolve around geography and global politics. This also tends to piss off the rest of the world.
     


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