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Do you think our culture is anti-intellectual?

post #1 of 229
Thread Starter 
Do you think North American culture is anti-intellectual?

How do think our collective attitudes towards intellectualism affect our children - and their future?

Kathy
post #2 of 229
Well, it varies widely depending on the various circles in which you travel....but you are asking about North America as a whole. I think society values high achievers more than it value intellectuals. Intellectuals who are also high achievers are valued. So, society values "intellectual," inventive achievers such as Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, etc., but also values the physical achievements of professional athletes, the financial achievements of the rich, the self-evident beauty of the beautiful, etc. Many children will want to achieve the type of success that is valued by society as a whole.
post #3 of 229
Yes, I do. Ever heard the phrase "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."? That about sums up the US-American culture about education/knowledge.

Our society values people who make money and/or accumulate a lot of things. It doesn't value intellectual achievement. I can't tell you how many conversations I've stopped just by telling people that I'm a professor. You don't get the same reaction if you're an engineer or a construction worker or a doctor, but you do if your occupation is clearly intellectual.

I worked at a store during high school where they rented camping/skiing equipment. I remember one of the owners in particular who would rant about how those "engineers and academics" didn't know anything useful.

I'm probably biased because I live in a state that doesn't adequately fund any level of education, especially higher education!
post #4 of 229
Definitely. And in the African-American community (which I'm part of) it's chronic.
post #5 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post
Do you think North American culture is anti-intellectual?
Yes, I do. Traditional U.S. culture promotes the idea that people can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and achieve anything with hard work. I think this strong belief is directly at odds with the concept of varying degrees of natural intelligence. Plus, I think traditional U.S. culture is kind of macho and it perceives intellectualism as being stuck-up and pretentious.
post #6 of 229
Thread Starter 
I think on a whole, North American culture is anti-intellectual.

My son is a classic underachiever. I think part of this is due to be under-challenged but part of it is probably due to absorbing messages that being smart is uncool. Goodness knows Itry to combat these messages, but I do not seem to be getting far...... Maybe it will have an effect over time.

I have also noted, repeatedly, that it is OK for parents to claim their kids are good at sports or drawing and no one says a word. Say your child is gifted and 1/2 the population thinks you are a hot housing-swollen headed-delusional.

Ah, well, my vent for the day.

Of course, figuring out how to help children shine in the face of cultural pressure is the question.

Kathy
post #7 of 229
I will try not to get on my soapbox but be forewarned just in case.

The US is very anti-intellectual. People look up to Bill Gates and value his intelligence because he has MONEY. His intelligence has nothing to do with it. People look up to his money. People value Albert Einstein now but during his time he was not valued. You can look up Einstein and see that he had to have help getting a job and was passed over for promotions. (Quick look up in Wiki.)

Who gets picked on in school the most? It certainly isn't the jocks. It is the geeks (aka intellectuals). My husband is very intellectual and ended up having to play football to gain acceptance in school. My husband and I have a group of friends and we are always talking about people like us. When we all met, we tried to be cool and hide the intellectualism because that seems like an automatic mark against you. When we all let our guards down, we figured out that most of us had been labeled gifted as kids. We had all graduated in the top of our class. A couple of us have master's degrees and the list goes on. We were laughing at how big of freaks we all are and how we don't fit in if we be out intellectual selves. Any and all acceptance comes from the neighborhood you live in, what kind of car you drive, the type of clothes you wear, and how much money you spend.

Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is completely devalued. When I worked outside the home, I told somebody about homeschooling and eventually staying home and I was asked why I was going to waste my degree. How can any education ever be considered a waste? What happened to learning stuff just because? Most people pursue education for the money that it will enable them to earn. It has absolutely nothing to do with expanding your mind or learning how to think. Being able to think and be intellectual is not valued. I think it is actually discouraged and turned into something bad. The US has turned into a nation of test takers. It is all about passing the test. It is no longer about learning. It is no longer about thinking for yourself. It is no longer about teaching you valuable skills about how to think.

(Stepping off my soap box.)
post #8 of 229
Library lady (the name says it all; I am also a library-fan): I am not worthy!


Quote:
Say your child is gifted and 1/2 the population thinks you are a hot housing-swollen headed-delusional.
It's even worse if you make the mistake of pointing out that your NON-VERBAL children are gifted.
post #9 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by VanessaS View Post
Library lady (the name says it all; I am also a library-fan): I am not worthy!
DH and I are both librarians. We couldn't figure out what we wanted to do so we became librarians because we love all knowledge. Can you get more intellectual that that?

Quote:
Originally Posted by VanessaS View Post
It's even worse if you make the mistake of pointing out that your NON-VERBAL children are gifted.
I learned a long time ago that being gifted is not something that you talk about. Nope, nu-uh, not gonna happen.

People can go around bragging about getting full tuition scholarships for playing football or other sports but if you tell somebody you got a full tuition scholarship for being an egghead, you just become a freak that brags.

Muscle power and spending power is awesome! Brain power sucks!
post #10 of 229
"People look up to Bill Gates and value his intelligence because he has MONEY. His intelligence has nothing to do with it. People look up to his money."

I, for one, value his inventiveness and intelligence in the field of computers, not his $. See, I'm not even usuing MDC's quote feature correctly.

"Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is completely devalued. . . . What happened to learning stuff just because? Most people pursue education for the money that it will enable them to earn. It has absolutely nothing to do with expanding your mind or learning how to think. Being able to think and be intellectual is not valued. . . . The US has turned into a nation of test takers. It is all about passing the test. It is no longer about learning. It is no longer about thinking for yourself. It is no longer about teaching you valuable skills about how to think."

I agree with the above. In general, I find Europeans to be more "knowledge for the sake of knowledge" people. I think we may associate intellectualism with elitism in the US. Many people study trades or go to college to get "practical" degrees with which they can get a job and make a living and cannot "afford the luxury" of obtaining a liberal arts degree or do not understand the practical purpose of doing same. (Don't flame me -- I'm one of those elitist liberal arts majors )
post #11 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by Freeman View Post
"People look up to Bill Gates and value his intelligence because he has MONEY. His intelligence has nothing to do with it. People look up to his money."

I, for one, value his inventiveness and intelligence in the field of computers, not his $. See, I'm not even usuing MDC's quote feature correctly.
Your opinion doesn't count because you are one of THEM. (Or should I say us.)


Quote:
Originally Posted by Freeman View Post
"
I agree with the above. In general, I find Europeans to be more "knowledge for the sake of knowledge" people. I think we may associate intellectualism with elitism in the US. Many people study trades or go to college to get "practical" degrees with which they can get a job and make a living and cannot "afford the luxury" of obtaining a liberal arts degree or do not understand the practical purpose of doing same. (Don't flame me -- I'm one of those elitist liberal arts majors )
Intellectualism is associated with elitism because the average person gets a college degree to make money. Period. College degree does not equal intellectual. When I was in college, I was talking to my dad about a major. He dissuaded from doing anything that wasn't practical. I ended up majoring in education at his prodding because teachers can always find jobs. It is a steady gig and you get summer vacations, blah, blah, blah. It wasn't about the knowledge at all. It was all about getting the degree to get a regular paying, steady job. When I would bring up a more liberal arts degree or even a math degree, I was told that with that and a dime, I might be able to buy a cup of coffee.
post #12 of 229
ITA with library lady. I love to learn. Just to learn. No ulterior motive, it's just FUN. OMG, did I just say learning was FUN??? I hope to pass that on to my kids. Just learn because it's interesting, not so you can pass a test/class/get a degree/make more money. It's the whole reason we are unschooling. Just living life, learning what is interesting, even if it doesn't help us 'get anything'.
post #13 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by Freeman View Post
"People look up to Bill Gates and value his intelligence because he has MONEY. His intelligence has nothing to do with it. People look up to his money."

I, for one, value his inventiveness and intelligence in the field of computers, not his $. See, I'm not even usuing MDC's quote feature correctly.
Actually, his inventiveness is his ability to steal great, artistic ideas from Steve Jobs, and then butcher them into crud. But I suppose that is for another post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Freeman View Post
"Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is completely devalued. . . . What happened to learning stuff just because? Most people pursue education for the money that it will enable them to earn. It has absolutely nothing to do with expanding your mind or learning how to think. Being able to think and be intellectual is not valued. . . . The US has turned into a nation of test takers. It is all about passing the test. It is no longer about learning. It is no longer about thinking for yourself. It is no longer about teaching you valuable skills about how to think."

I agree with the above. In general, I find Europeans to be more "knowledge for the sake of knowledge" people. I think we may associate intellectualism with elitism in the US. Many people study trades or go to college to get "practical" degrees with which they can get a job and make a living and cannot "afford the luxury" of obtaining a liberal arts degree or do not understand the practical purpose of doing same. (Don't flame me -- I'm one of those elitist liberal arts majors )
Sometimes a little practicality is also a wise choice. I went to art college. I would have preferred majoring in painting or photography. But I majored in design, because I realized how insane it would be to make any money painting. When I say money, I don't mean wealthy. I mean enough to eat and pay rent. Choosing design allowed me to have the freedom to live on my own, do what I wanted how and when, and have a lot of free time for painting. I was able to support myself, and not be dependent on my family or a man. There is value in that.

I live in Europe now, and I suppose if I had been here all my life, I may have majored in fine art, because the government here would have financially supported me. Again, not wealthy, but I would have been able to have food, clothing, shelter. However, I would not have had my career. I would not have traveled so much, and I would not have met my marvelous DH and had my two lovely children. Who knows where I would be. Maybe in a worse place, maybe a better place, maybe just a different place.

Ramble over. Back to the discussion. :
post #14 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by Freeman View Post
"People look up to Bill Gates and value his intelligence because he has MONEY. His intelligence has nothing to do with it. People look up to his money."

I, for one, value his inventiveness and intelligence in the field of computers, not his $. See, I'm not even usuing MDC's quote feature correctly.

"Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is completely devalued. . . . What happened to learning stuff just because? Most people pursue education for the money that it will enable them to earn. It has absolutely nothing to do with expanding your mind or learning how to think. Being able to think and be intellectual is not valued. . . . The US has turned into a nation of test takers. It is all about passing the test. It is no longer about learning. It is no longer about thinking for yourself. It is no longer about teaching you valuable skills about how to think."

I agree with the above. In general, I find Europeans to be more "knowledge for the sake of knowledge" people. I think we may associate intellectualism with elitism in the US. Many people study trades or go to college to get "practical" degrees with which they can get a job and make a living and cannot "afford the luxury" of obtaining a liberal arts degree or do not understand the practical purpose of doing same. (Don't flame me -- I'm one of those elitist liberal arts majors )
Just a lurker here as neither myself nor my kids are gifted (smart, but I don't think gifted), but I have to say how much I agree with this whole thing! I hear this also as a SAHM, I have a bachelor's degree, but some think I "wasted my time" getting it. Forget all the wonderful knowledge and life experiences I had! Plus, I am proud to say my parents are definitely of the value knowledge for knowledge's sake and the enrichment it provides to life. My mom at age 57 went back to school for her master's in theology just because she wanted to learn more and deepen her faith, and my dad provided all of the physical and moral support so that she could do this. I know a lot of people (my in-laws included) thought it was a bit crazy if she was not going to use it to get a job, but she has greatly enjoyed and benefitted from it, and volunteers a lot at church to use her knowledge. Good for you for keeping this up!
post #15 of 229
Let's put it this way. A good friend of mine pointed out the other day she gets plenty of people being nice to her until she says something to "smart" then they turn tail and run. I say smart in quotation marks because the things she says are smart by societies standards. In our circle most of what she comes up with is average.
post #16 of 229
I do. But the weird thing is that noone that doesn't agree with this is going to look at this post probably. Just the title will turn people off. I don't mean to slam other mdc members, but a post about sales at target would probably get more hits.:
post #17 of 229
Well not to slam MDC mom's either, but the people who would be put off by the title probably hasn't had to deal with being a gifted person or parent of a gifted person in North America.
post #18 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by AllisonR View Post
Sometimes a little practicality is also a wise choice. I went to art college. I would have preferred majoring in painting or photography. But I majored in design, because I realized how insane it would be to make any money painting. When I say money, I don't mean wealthy. I mean enough to eat and pay rent. Choosing design allowed me to have the freedom to live on my own, do what I wanted how and when, and have a lot of free time for painting. I was able to support myself, and not be dependent on my family or a man. There is value in that.
I hate the fact that college degree (in any discipline) is required in order for somebody to be considered intellectual. When I think of intellectual, I think of somebody that is willing to think for themselves and make choices for themselves based on their own knowledge. They seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge whether it is formally or informally. Plenty of people from the older generations have all sorts of knowledge and some of them didn't make it past the 8th grade. I have known plenty of people with degrees that know how to study and pass classes but still can't think. I hope that makes sense.

I don't see anything wrong with choosing a practical degree but at the same time it should be recognized that if you are in a position to learn something (be it formally or informally) you should do it because you never know when it will come in handy.
post #19 of 229
I do think some areas of US society are anti-intellectual.

I'm a nerdy person, 'gifted' as a kid, who reads like crazy and loves to learn. I talk about what I am interested in and things have read with all kinds of people. Most people tell me I'm 'very smart' or that I 'really think about things'. Many people also tell me I'm weird! But I've never felt that I've been looked down upon by anyone because I know a lot of stuff. On the contrary I'm approached by a lot by people who want information that I have. I was always the kid in school that everyone cheated from (and I was always glad to let them, because I wasn't interested in my grades).

However I am also pretty plain about the fact that I dropped out of high school, have no plans so far to attend college, and that I believe higher education is a business and currently highly overpriced, and unless you have specific career goals in mind, a great way to get into debt while you waffle, and never get out.

So I can hardly be counted as an 'intellectual'.

Quote:
I hate the fact that college degree (in any discipline) is required in order for somebody to be considered intellectual. When I think of intellectual, I think of somebody that is willing to think for themselves and make choices for themselves based on their own knowledge. They seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge whether it is formally or informally. Plenty of people from the older generations have all sorts of knowledge and some of them didn't make it past the 8th grade. I have known plenty of people with degrees that know how to study and pass classes but still can't think. I hope that makes sense.
It seems like 'intellectual' these days means, 'someone who is extensively conventionally educated, and believes anyone else who isn't has subpar intelligence'.

I sure know a lot of clueless idiots (maybe not with low IQs, but with no common sense, orginality or critical thinking skills) who went to very good colleges.
post #20 of 229
Quote:
I sure know a lot of clueless idiots (maybe not with low IQs, but with no common sense, orginality or critical thinking skills) who went to very good colleges.
Yeah I know a lot of those too. They have a good education, have a job that is often associated with intelligence, but they are completely and utterly hopeless when it comes to common sense, critical thinking or intelligent decision making.

My friend made an interesting observation back when she started post-secondary. She said, the people who do well in school are the people who are capable of regurgitating the information force fed to them in a way the instructor likes. She also pointed out this was more true in elementary and high school, but still noticeable in later education.
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