As an APUSH student, this is a trend that I’ve seen repeating itself every single time America makes an effort to modernise itself. It is not only the people’s resistance to change but also the people’s resistance to new information. The American people throughout their history has always preferred easy information and take pride in collective ignorance. What I mean by easy information is information that talks to the heart and the emotions rather than information that requires brain power to fully understand. While this laziness to think is somewhat of an energy-saving method employed by our evolutionarily-outdated brain, this doesn’t excuse the overwhelming culture of anti-intellectualism in America compared to other countries.
Part of this attitude stems from one of the core principles that Americans take pride in, that is, equality. Equality is nice and good until people start using it to defend their ignorance. A person not knowing about something or possessing inaccurate information about the subject in question thinks that they are entitled to their opinion and are equal in terms of authority to an expert. One of the biggest things I have a problem with is the belief that everyone is entitled to their opinion and that is dangerous. No one is equal to everyone else in everything. Clearly, an expert in the field has more authority over an average person in that particular field and therefore, their “opinion” will be more valid. If someone is smarter than you, it’s not something to be offended by; that’s just how it is. If you’re wrong, you don’t need to think that your opinion is worth less, you just happened to be wrong. But some people just Google something, read the Wiki page on it and think they’re an expert.
For more on this: Click here
The other thing is the belief that prioritising education and science over work and religion betrays American values. This, I don’t believe, is that prominent today, but there are still undercurrents of this type of thinking. Even to today, there is a percentage of public school teachers that still teach creationism in biology class. In the late 1900s, one hundred years after Darwin published his discoveries, there were still some states that required disclaimers to be put on the inside cover of the biology book saying that “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is a theory, not a fact.” As far as progressive goes, this is not. I understand that the theory of evolution goes against the creationism preached in church but state and religion were separated for a reason and maintaining that distinction is important in keeping America among the smartest nations in the world (which, right now, we are not). To see some stats, click here (be warned, these stats are a bit outdated, but you can still see how the US ranks in education around the world).
For reasons that have always baffled me, why are people complaining about immigrants stealings their jobs? Are they the garbage truck drivers, the construction workers, the ones who have to do the unwanted jobs? No. The (stereotypically “Mexican”) immigrants take those jobs. You, as an established American citizen, should have more of a chance to rise up the social ladder because you have ready access to postsecondary education and yet you want to yank what jobs immigrants have and have them for yourselves? I don’t understand. But I don’t need to. This type of irrationalism wasn’t new. The immigrants have always been attacked and blamed for society’s problems. One of the earliest examples of this were the Irish. They were seen as the bottom feeders that stole honest working-class Americans’ jobs. Then, scarcely a generation later, those same Irish people were saying the same thing to the incoming German immigrants. So you see this is a deep-seated and contagiously irrational mindset that have persisted over several centuries and there seems to be no way to correct it. Enough about immigrants, let’s move on.
Then, there have been multiple surveys and studies that had school children (K-12) answer questions about topics they should have known already. There should be no surprise that the kids failed miserably. There also have been multiple instances of where foreigners knew more about America’s history and geography than Americans themselves. If you want some examples of this, there are a plethora of videos on YouTube that involves asking people on the streets questions that they should know the answer to.
Some stats: An article from 2014
Despite being one of the top spenders on education in terms of funding per student, the US lags behind in tangible results for the amount of money spent. So that means either whatever the money is used for is ineffective or that money isn’t the issue and it’s the attitude of the whole country that is the problem. For example, I went to take my first SAT test a week ago and while I was waiting in line to get checked in, a group of friends behind me were boasting about how much they didn’t care about the test. They were each trying to outdo each other in how much they didn’t care. Some of them said their parents forced them to do it, a couple of them even said that their parents promised some sort of reward if they take the test regardless of results. This sort of flippantly uncaring attitude is common among American students and as such, most people are content with mediocrity. So when someone dares rise above the masses and claims that they are more intelligent and more qualified and that all these other people satisfied with mediocrity are settling for something subpar, the masses retaliate by saying that he looks down on hard work and lack basic values and that he’s arrogant because he thinks that he’s better than they are just because he has more education. The students, on the other hand, just shrug and say that they just aren’t smart and give up. The kids that are popular in class are the ones that can talk the best and look the most acceptable. The ones who get the best grades and are the smartest are only paid attention to when everyone needs an answer to a difficult problem. There is a serious lack of appreciation for the smarts in school and this is bringing down the value of education as it is in the country.
Despite the mediocrity, these same kids are being praised and awarded with participation awards for it. This is part of the reason why America has a slew of loud opinions and little fact to back them. Everyone believes in what they’re saying and that is enough. As long as they say what they believe enough times in loud enough voices, they are right and everyone should think the way they do. Fact isn’t the main decider of who’s right here, it’s the intensity and the emotion that counts. If something is sensationalised, then all the better because it makes for better stories and emotion is hard to divert once it bursts forth. The US’s most pointless war was with Spain in 1898 and it was all due to the sheer force of emotion and the stories that were the drivers of that emotion. The president of the time, McKinley, couldn’t stand up to the misplaced fury and the bloodthirst of the America people and gave in to the chant of war. In the end, little came of it and yet, people refuse to learn from their mistakes. I shouldn’t be surprised though; American history doesn’t seem to be the forte of the American people and I should be surprised if people on the street can name ten out of the forty-five presidents.
But that’s enough for my rant. I could go on about how geek culture is rising, but that’s clear to see on TV (like the rise of GoT, for example, and Sherlock, but then, that’s TV and reality sadly doesn’t reflect it and some people aren’t even aware that some of these stories actually came from books). In any case, we’d like to hear your thoughts on this topic as well and we’ll talk to you later.