Anti-Intellectualism: Why We Hate the Smart Kids by: Grant Penrod

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Instructor: Dr. Adelheid Thieme
Fall 2003

Anti-Intellectualism:
Why We Hate the Smart Kids

The football team from Mountain View High School won the Arizona State Championship last year. Again. Unbeknownst to the vast majority of the school’s student body, so did the Science Bowl Team, the Speech and Debate Team, and the Academic Decathlon team. The football players enjoyed the attentions of an enthralled school, complete with banners, assemblies, and even video announcements in their honor, a virtual barrage of praise and downright deification . As for the three champion academic teams, they received a combined total of around ten minutes of recognition, tacked onto the beginning of a sports assembly. Nearly all of the graduating seniors will remember the name and escapades of their star quarterback; nearly none of them will ever even realize that their class produced Arizona’s first national champion in Lincoln-Douglass Debate. After all, why should they? He and his teammates were “just the nerds.”

This instance finds plentiful company in the experiences of everyday life; intellectuals almost constantly see their efforts trivialized in the rush to lavish compliments elsewhere. However, such occurrences present only a faint silhouette of true anti-intellectualism; trivialization seems insignificant when compared with the outright disdain for the educated harbored by much of society. That academia’s proponents provoke the wrath of the populace is certain. As an illustration, a commenter under the screen name “ArCaNe” recently posted the following quote on an online discussion board: “Man how I hate nerds… if I ever had a tommygun with me… I would most probably blow each one of their… heads off” (ArCaNe). Were this statement alone in its extremism, it could be written off a joke. Unfortunately, it represents just one statement among countless similar sites and postings, a veritable cornucopia of evidence attesting to society’s distaste for...
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