Anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism have become almost epidemic in America. In fact, a talented writer by the name of Susan Jacoby wrote an important book several years ago titled The Age of American Unreason. The only hesitation anyone should have about reading that book is that it is pretty scary stuff.
According to Jacoby, more than 40 percent of Americans under 44 never read a single book in the course of an entire year. Americans of all ages are losing their ability to concentrate and analyze what they hear. In fact, the rule of thumb for a political candidate was that they needed to deliver their political message in around 40 seconds; today that political sound bite needs to be delivered in eight seconds to match our ability to concentrate.
Today in American schools, teachers who used to be able teach civics, humanities, and classic literature are now forced and ordered to stuff students’ brains with just enough information to pass standardized tests that are required by short-sighted politicians. Those politicians cajole school administrators, teachers and students into perpetuating a system that lacks the design to help children learn and think critically. Instead, they are taught to simply regurgitate numbers and words.
If you want to gain a little perspective on how dumbed-down we have become, take a map of the Middle East to work and ask one of your coworkers to point out Iraq. Ask them to find that place where 5,000 Americans have died for a war based on lies, that place where we will spend $3 trillion on an endless war—a war motivated by nothing less than empire building.
So the question is are we really preparing Americans to listen to the inane fraud-talk that flows out of the mouths of shallow demagogues that overwhelm both politics and the media? Or are we content with a culture that is morphing into a mass of people incapable of critical analysis?
Jacoby is one of several contemporary writers who believe that it is impossible to sustain democracy if we are unable to intellectually analyze those times when the very people who are leaders in that democracy are lying to us.
If the Susan Jacobys are right and anti-intellectualism is a trend in America, then spoon-feeding our children with facts and figures designed merely to pass a standardized test will never prepare them to preserve democracy.
The truth is when we firmly grasp timeless themes that can be found in novels like The Grapes of Wrath, Elmer Gantry or Nineteen Eighty-Four, we are on our way to better protecting democracy against the Mitch McConnels, the Rush Limbaughs, the Rand Pauls, Peter Kings, Louie Gohmerts, the Bill O’Reillys and Glenn Becks who infect the process of intelligent conservative rational thinking.
Joshua Holland will be on the show today – he wrote a piece for Alternet that gives us an idea about how serious the problem really is.
In 2011, Newsweek asked 1,000 Americans to take the standard U.S. Citizenship test, and 38 percent of them failed. One in three couldn’t name the vice-president. A 2009 study in the European Journal of Communications looked at how informed citizens of the U.S., UK, Denmark and Finland were of the international news of the day, and the results weren’t pretty.
“Overall,” the scholars wrote, “the Scandinavians emerged as the best informed, averaging 62–67 percent correct responses, the British were relatively close behind with 59 percent, and the Americans lagging in the rear with 40 percent.” We didn’t fare much better when it came to domestic stories.
Joshua Holland concluded that widespread ignorance of objective reality poses a genuine threat to democracy. The people of the United States have ignorance in abundance.
What happens when lots of citizens don’t have a solid grasp of what’s going on in the real world?
By this time, most people who follow non-corporate media have heard about the Dunning – Kruger study that, in a nutshell, established that most Americans are too stupid to recognize that they are stupid. But add to that a German study by Dr. Mato Nagel, and you begin to understand that the more politically conservative you are, the more GOP you have in your blood and brain, the less capable you are of recognizing how incompetent and woefully underinformed and ill-equipped to make rational decisions about politics and Democratic policies.
The truth is when you look at the studies, if you fall into that knee-jerk, always right wing conservative camp of politics, you are what is considered the low hanging fruit in politics.
You are the most likely to accept massive, irrational lies delivered by manipulative neo-nut demagogues. You are the ideal target for extreme politics like fascism.
These are not new ideas surfacing in these studies. Take a few hours and read Eric Frumm’s classic work called Escape From Freedom, and you will conclude that it is typically the least informed, most irrational, and the most extreme conservatives that are the most susceptible to dictatorships and facism.
Chances are, if you are one of those corporate media-following bone heads who still believe that:
– Weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.
– Or Saddam Hussein blew up the Twin Towers
– Or Obama is a secret Muslim
– Or Obama wants to take your guns
– Or Obama has FEMA prison camps set up for Teabag Republicans…
Then search no further – you truly are the undereducated, child-like, impressionable, irrational, dangerous cog in America’s political system that puts Democracy most at risk.