Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Being Anti-Intellectual

Can someone please tell me why our politics have increasingly become anti-intellectual? But politics in its purest form is the science of governing. The most absurd thing about anti-intellectualism in politics is that our framers were great intellectuals.

Being baffled by this, I wondered if I indeed understood the meaning of intelligence. Dictionary.com defines intelligence as "the capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc."

Now, why wouldn't we want an intelligent president and vice-president?


John O'Leary said...

Judith, here's an email I received comparing the educational credentials of the candidates...

If you were The Boss, which team would you hire?

With America facing historic debt, multiple war fronts, stumbling health care, a weakened dollar, all-time high prison population, skyrocketing Federal spending, mortgage crises, bank foreclosures, etc. etc., this is an unusually critical election year.

Let's look at the educational background of the candidates and see what they bring to the job.

Obama: Occidental College - two years. Columbia University - B.A. political science with a specialization in international relations. Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Biden: University of Delaware - B.A. in history and B.A. in political science. Syracuse University College of Law - Juris
Doctor (J.D.)


McCain: United States Naval Academy - class rank 894 out of 899 (like George Bush, McCain was at the bottom of his class).

Palin: Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester. North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study. University of Idaho - 2 semesters -
journalism. Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester. University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in journalism.

Now which team would you hire to lead the most influential nation in the world?

judith ellis said...

Thanks, John. It's just amazing. The better choice seems so incredibly clear. On top of Obama and Biden's educational background is the fact that both came from the working class and excelled beyond what many may have expected. This I'm appreciative of. The same would have been true in reverse if they were of the upper class and related to others of various classes. BTW: Please understand that there are class differences and until such things are abolished from the psyche of the masses, there probably always will be. So, I have used the class categories here in this vein. Plus, for me, it doesn't matter the class. What matters most for me is the person.

- A - C - said...

Judith, this is a very good question. It is an unfortunate trend worldwide and the only explanation I can give is that candidates are fighting to the last vote, as there is hardly a definite shift in the public opinion and they need to win those who aren't decided yet.
It is easier to "speak to the guts", particularly through mass media, than to make someone understand.
This emotional reaction outweighs the intellectual one because the statistical distribution of education favors the lower end. Education isn't intelligence of course, as intelligence doesn't necessarily imply intellectuality. They are though fairly correlated.

mark jf said...

Good point from -a-c about intellectual vs. intelligent. I'm not convinced that electorates are more anti-intellectual than they ever were. There's always been a mistrust of theorisers and dogmatic people. I think electorates are looking for leaders who can identify the big problems and articulate convincing solutions, which involves describing what the future could look like.

It's that vision thing again. After Mrs. Thatcher in the UK, we were change- and vision-weary and were happy to settle for a period of consolidation. (And complacent: our leaders should have been better prepared for the credit crunch!) I think people want someone now who will talk straight, talk frankly, provide a framework and surround him or herself with credible people who can implement the ideas.

wmmbb said...

If you are going to be following someone, it occurs to me, it might be a good idea to keep in mind quality of the thinking presages the quality of outcomes, often in very practical ways.

The Bush Presidency is the classic example, and I am confident that the Republican Play Book will not work under the current conditions. Of course, expect to see, a big effort to reduce the voting rights of potential Obama-Biden voters.

Sarah Palin's academic resume suggests she wanted to get out of Alaska. My sense is that travelling interstate or overseas is more successfully undertaken by post grads. Preparation is necessary for a successful transition.

judith ellis said...

Wow! Such brilliant points by all!

a-c-, Thank you. Your words are appreciated. There seems to have been a distinction made between intellectualism and knowledge. Both are said to be based in fact.

What has always been increasingly clear is that the facts keep changing based on more knowledge that require the intellect to attain. One does not need degrees for such an embarkment. But what one most certainly need is an open mind and a solid base from which to start.

My problem with Palin is her base. It is becoming increasingly clear that her base is not expansive, reducing her qualifications for the highest office in the land. For me, some one could speak in broken English and their grammar and syntax could be atrocious. I would be keenly listening, though, to the way in which thoughts are developed and the meaning of the message.

Mark - To a greater or lesser degree the distrust about which you spoke may be national. For example, White Americans, by in large, trust their government more than African Americans. (Here I speak en masse, considering the history of the latter.)

This distruct will change even more over time as things change, including the laws, policies, and attitudes of the government and people relate and even the playing field, all things being equal. It is always, of course, a matter of how such things wil be achieved. I think it begins in the heart of us all.

Perhaps the descendants of the poor working class, the descendants of serfs(?) may have a greater of lesser trust in their government, not feeling like a part of the "We the People," as we say here in the US. Would that be a great majority of the British people, those who have not been knighted? Thanks, Mark, for your astute comment, as usual.

wmmbb- Good to have your comments as always. Leaders indeed have followers. The great disadvantage comes when leaders do not realize that as they lead followers should forever change them. It is the vision that the leader espouses and maintains. "Without a vision the people parish."

How the vision is brought about is the work of the collective. The leader is the caretaker, if you will, of the vision. To exert authority over the people is not to carefully see to it that the vision is brought to life. This would not include the "quality of the outcome" needed.

One can only produce such quality through "thinking presages" that clearly determine the direction and actions (with dangers and pitfalls to avoid as we do this thing together) for the good of all. It is the effort here that is most important, as it aligns with the need of the whole. "Practical ways" will emerge where the honesty of thought for others is present

judith ellis said...

I just heard heard a clip where Senator McCain disdainfully swipes Kathleen Parker for her article asking Palin to step down for the good of her country. He defends Palin by associating the likes of Parker by denegrating Georgetown intellectuals as snobs having frivolous discussions at a cocktail party. This is just so incredible to me.

McCain appears to be interjecting class into the campaign to engender a type of class revolt. Palin herself is not poor. I think her worth is somewhere around $500,000. But it's not about a particular class. In fact, the poor people of Alaska who can actually see Russia from where they live, seemed equally equipped to serve if Palin is indeed ready to lead.

When interviewed the people of this small town spoke off the cuff and made plenty of sense. They wondered why their governor she had never made a visit to their little town. There she would have been able to see the devastation of a struggling people who can actually see Russia from where they live.