Do you think our culture is anti-intellectual? - Page 5 - Mothering Forums

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Old 08-14-2008, 06:34 PM
 
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Originally Posted by library lady View Post
Public schools are the savior for a lot of kids. I will not argue that at all.

It was too cliquish and I felt the teachers were as much a part of it as the students.

Schools perpetuate the stereotypes and do not encourage you to explore anything.

Frankly, I didn't see much point in busting my butt over stuff that would have no meaning to me once I got out of school.
Oh, yes, I think public schools are a savior for many kids, especially low income kids. But that's another topic for another thread. I don't think the failings of public schools (of which there are many) indicate that we as a culture do not value intellectualism.

Life is cliquish. Or can be, if you let it. High school is microcosm of life. Looking back, the smartest kids always seemed to not care too much about the social strata.

I know I didn't give a crap. I was very unsocial. I had my nose in a book and studied, not just what was required, but read ahead and read related books, etc instead of going to prom or social whatever. High school is what you make it. I never felt any peer pressure, and if I did, I could just as easily disregard it as follow it.

Why didn't you see much point in busting your butt to study the prescribed curriculum? I know what you mean about thinking that the homework, etc wouldn't mean much later in life. A lot of people say that, and maybe it's true. I don't know...when I was in high school, and junior high, too, I felt I was too young to know at that time what I would need and what I wouldn't ever use.

And most of it, I use in some way. It taught me basics. It taught me what I needed so that I could learn even more in college. It tought me how to research and to reference...how to study and how to seek the information I wanted. Those are life skills.

And who said you can't be stimulated by homework?? I never just did the assigment and that was it, never to think about that particular concept again. I always looked things up and studied more, checked out library books on a topic and learned more than they taught. Homework is just the baseline. I always felt encouraged to explore more.

I remember my teachers always saying, wow, you went above and beyond, good for you!
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Old 08-14-2008, 06:37 PM
 
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Please don't take offense. My intent was not to be rude or to place blame. Someone else in a preceeding post had mentioned how their negative school experience was mainly due to their attitude.

I was curious why you had a bad experience and threw out several potential reasons that I could think of...teachers, other students, the curriculum, your own attitude, and a few others. Your attitude was just one of many I listed.

Many people might view what I experienced in school as miserable. I didn't have many friends and I was made fun of because of my family, because I was poor and wore rags, AND because I was very smart. I put aside all the bad and had a good attitude and loved school. So, attitude does play an important part.
Well, I think a lot of it had to do with my attitude. Some of it was basic incompatabilty between my personality and modern schooling. Starting in 1st grade: I was bored stiff. I hated having to get up, go to school and do the same thing each day. I hated having to sit in a desk for hours. I hated doing worksheets, reciting time table, all the typical 'rote learning' stuff. I was reading at a fairly advanced level by then and what I was reading in books was so, so, so much more interesting than listening to what my teacher was saying in class. So, I read in class whenever I could, but when I got caught I got in trouble. When I was young I was hyperactive, so I got punished for not staying in my seat as well. I remember telling people 'I hate learning' when I was a kid, even though I ADORE learning - I thought 'learning' meant sitting at your desk, filling out papers and turning in homework.
What I was interested in, I was learning about on my own. I wasn't interested in doing homework on something I knew all about when there were books to read and experiments to do. I passed because I always did well on tests - I went years and years doing nearly zero homework and rarely completing projects.

As I got older perhaps I could have made a concious effort to 'play the game' as my mom said, but it just seemed impossible for me to a) see school as anything but a boring, miserable place that I was trapped in with no hope of escape, or b) care at ALL about getting good grades or doing busywork. WHY? FOR WHAT? WHo cares what the teacher says about what you turn in?! The system didn't make sense to me, and it made me so angry and frustrated!

By the time I was 9 or 10 I had developed depression and anxiety, due mostly to school and how trapped and miserable I felt.. additionally home wasn't so good either, my mom and I fought constantly, mostly over school. It got worse and worse until I was about 17, so that didn't help either.

As far as the social aspect, even though I am a weirdo I am assertive and proud of my weirdness, so I never was bullied, and when teased I had more hurtful insults to throw back. I never wanted lots of friends but I had many friendly aquaintences and a few very close friends. Besides the fact that I was always attempting to quietly do my own thing in class, I was well-behaved and teachers always liked me.. they were just always asking me why I wasn't using my potential (to get good grades). There were a few teachers that I remember being good, but no one ever really developed an influential realtionship with me (may have tried, but I don't think I was interested).

Anyway I chose to drop out and move from my parent's home as soon as I could, and it was a GREAT choice for me (if I could have dropped and left at 15, that would have been ideal). I got my GED, have no plans to go to college yet, may not ever. I enjoy reading and learning every day and have many areas of interest.. and as a result of my school experience I plan on obtaining Montessorri training in order to homeschool my own children. If they wish to attend a public school, they may, of course - plenty of people do fine in them. I still have a lingering feeling, though, that school ruined my life.. at least the beginning of my life.

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I think with rising level of education and professionalism, i.e. achievement, is a rising level of respect for people and mature conduct.

I disagree, but I think this is noteworthy: You're associating intellectualism with achievement again here, as well as with professionalism and maturity. Some of the most accomplished individuals I've encountered have been among the least mature and professional (to say nothing of respectful). It's extremely rare, in my experience, to encounter someone who is intellectual, professional, mature, *and* has achieved a significant level of achievement. The most intellectual people I know haven't achieved all that much. The most mature people I know are all over the place, intellect-wise, and the most professional people I know are average/bright but certainly not gifted. In my experience, people who've achieved the most are slightly less likely to be respectful of others than average.
ITA with your statement, eilonwy.
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Old 08-14-2008, 06:39 PM
 
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Of course, I have a master's degree and plan to get a Ph.D. someday and DH has two master's degrees. Do we have high fallutin' jobs? Nope. Are we what most people consider successful? Nope not at all and that is okay with us because we focus on knowledge for the sake of knowledge rather than knowledge as a means to financial gain or success. I know I am rambling as always but I just kind of get put off when people equate academic success with being intellectual.
You are right. Academic success doesn't = intellectualism every time, or maybe even most times.

I think intellectualism is multi-varied...it means, to me, you are naturally quick thinking, aware, observant, probably have a good memory, grasp concepts quickly or remember complex things well, have natural aptitude in music, art, science, writing, math, etc., and maybe are creative or innovative.

It's not one thing.

It's definitely not equal to business success or academic success.

But often can be linked to achievement in culturally creative way.

I don't know...right now I'm think of the saying, "to whom much is given, much is expected." I've always held to that saying. I think if you are blessed with high intelligence, then you should try to use that intelligence for a purpose that you are suited for (again, I don't mean in the business or economic sense).
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Old 08-14-2008, 06:45 PM
 
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Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post
Do you think North American culture is anti-intellectual?

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

Kathy
I haven't read any posts but the OP - I do think it is anti-intellectual. Thinking for the sake of thinking, learning for the sake of learning - it's just not seen as acceptable. I think at best it's seen as a cop-out.

I just keep remembering this moment - When I was in the 6th grade, during the first week of school the teacher asked some innocuous science question. I raised my hand, and answered it. She said, "Oh, I can see who the smart one is!" She meant it as a compliment, but those words filled me with a dread like no other, and I kicked myself for being so d@&%ed eager to put my hand up and put myself out there as a hand-raising, trivia-knowing brainiac. (And as I've said before, I don't think I was all that "gifted.") I had forgotten the rule, to pause, to bide my time, to look disinterested, to look around to see if someone else is going to answer. And then maybe inflect your answer like it's a question. "Asteroids?" Because otherwise you look not only Too Smart, but proud of it.

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Old 08-14-2008, 06:58 PM
 
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I'm going to be polite and not comment... I'd totally get the thread pulled.
Wanna send your comment in PM? Cause I would like to hear it and I promise not to get mad and all that. I guess I just want to make sure you fully understand what I was stating cause I know that what I read in what I type is often times different then what other people understand. No pressure though.

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Old 08-14-2008, 07:02 PM
 
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I am not trying to be snarky or rude but I fail to see how conforming in school is going to make everybody an automatic success.
It won't. Nothing is automatic. It's not really about conforming, either. I am not suggesting kids be drones. I definitely did not conform. I just followed the rules well enough to get by, did the homework to get by and get As and Bs, and studied, studied, studied, studied, and read, read, read everything they told me AND everything I wanted beyond that, which was a lot. If I hadn't gone to public school, I wouldn't have had the public school library. So, yeah, that's kind of what I meant about personal responsibility. Taking responsiblity to do what is expected to learn the basics (which do apply to everyone's life) and to take responsibility to learn on your own, based on what interests you.

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Academic success does not mean anything
Well, yes and no. I do see your point and agree. If you just have the degrees or the grades, but nothing to back it up (drive or intelligence), well, yeah, it doesn't really mean anything. You pretty much wasted a lot of time and money.

But academic success COUPLED with either or both intellectualism (/intelligence) or/and drive/ambition. Holy cow! You might be on your way to a Pulitzer, or Nobel Peace prize, or just a very cool, very cultural creative life.

See, I think this is what I am getting at. Intellectualism in a realistic world (economy).

We have this beautiful planet that needs preserving and we need brilliant and capable people to think of innovative ways for humans to live more sustainably. We also have a growing world population that needs caring for. So, we need brilliant people to come up with cures for cancer, better and more sustainable ways to feed, clothe, and shelter the people of the world. Etc, etc.

"To whom much is given, much is expected"

We need brain power to do this. Intellectuals (to whom much is given) need to step up and give back to make this planet better for us all (much is expected).

So, yes, academic performance has it's place. Toeing the line and following the rules has it's place. Drive and ambition have their place. Questioning authority and starting new trends (innovating) has it's place. But none of these are the be all, end all.

We need intellectuals who put up with the imperfect system created by imperfect humans so that they can pursue their true intellectual paths, and contribute back in magnificent, and culturally creative ways.

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Well, I think a lot of it had to do with my attitude. Some of it was basic incompatabilty between my personality and modern schooling. Starting in 1st grade: I was bored stiff. I hated having to get up, go to school and do the same thing each day. I hated having to sit in a desk for hours. I hated doing worksheets, reciting time table, all the typical 'rote learning' stuff. I was reading at a fairly advanced level by then and what I was reading in books was so, so, so much more interesting than listening to what my teacher was saying in class.

Oh, I don't want to give the impression that I was never bored in school. Because I sure was...a lot! Did I love homework? No. A lot of it was stupid and dumbed down. But I could see the progression from elementary school to junior high to high school to college to life.

With each step, I picked up basic skills that were necessary and relevant, but also learned what I needed for the next phase, becoming more and more free to study what I wanted and what I loved, and also to see real world benefits...academics and knowledge applied to make peoples' lives (including my own) better.
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Old 08-14-2008, 07:09 PM
 
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Oh, yes, I think public schools are a savior for many kids, especially low income kids. But that's another topic for another thread. I don't think the failings of public schools (of which there are many) indicate that we as a culture do not value intellectualism.
There is a huge difference between being able to take a test and tow the line in school and actually being able to think for yourself. Most people that think for themselves tend to stand out in one way or another. Look at the people that choose not to follow religion or choose to question it. What about the people that choose to homeschool or follow a different path than what other people do? They are all looked at a little weird. Can you provide an example in real life of when somebody encourages you to read or think about things? If you tell the average person that you don't like sports and would rather read a book, what will the response be? If you want to look at the value placed on intellectualism, look at the ads that are played on TV. Look at the TV programs themselves. I don't see any academic decathlons being widely televised and publicized. I don't see people taking the afternoon off at work to go read a book but you certainly see them taking off to go play golf or go to the beauty salon or other pursuits that have nothing to do with being intellectual.

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Life is cliquish. Or can be, if you let it. High school is microcosm of life. Looking back, the smartest kids always seemed to not care too much about the social strata.
The smart people don't seem to care about the social strata. If that were a large portion of the population, then life wouldn't be as cliquish because people would be intelligent enough to see beyond the cliquishness and not care about it. So, if life is a cliquish and high school is a microcosm of life, then that means high school is just demonstrating the lack of intelligence in society as a whole. Therefore, you are pretty much agreeing that intellectualism is not valued and that the number of intelligent people isn't that great. If there were lots of intelligence floating around in society, that would be reflected more in the school system. (I hope I am making sense. It sounded good in my head when I thought it. )

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I know I didn't give a crap. I was very unsocial. I had my nose in a book and studied, not just what was required, but read ahead and read related books, etc instead of going to prom or social whatever. High school is what you make it. I never felt any peer pressure, and if I did, I could just as easily disregard it as follow it.
A lot of people felt that way. I know that is how I felt but I also recognize that everyone is different.

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Why didn't you see much point in busting your butt to study the prescribed curriculum? I know what you mean about thinking that the homework, etc wouldn't mean much later in life. A lot of people say that, and maybe it's true. I don't know...when I was in high school, and junior high, too, I felt I was too young to know at that time what I would need and what I wouldn't ever use.
Because, it was prescribed by someone else based on what they thought was best for me. It didn't take into account what I was interested in. It didn't take into account my own personal abilities. It didn't take into account that when I got out of school it would matter if I had memorized sine, cosine, and tangent. If I couldn't remember, I knew I would have the ability to look it up.

Homework took me away from the stuff I enjoyed doing. My parents had a business and I really enjoyed going to car auctions and helping them out. I learned more about life and cars and everything else hanging around with my dad. I feel like I could have skipped school and gone with my dad and I would have learned more practical information than I ever did at school. In math class, there were all of these situations that didn't apply to anything. At home, dad wanted me to help him figure out how many supplies would be needed for him to fix the roof. Dad showed how that stuff could be put to use in real life rather than some meaningless crap in the classroom that was dreamed up by people that lived in fantasy worlds.

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And most of it, I use in some way. It taught me basics. It taught me what I needed so that I could learn even more in college. It tought me how to research and to reference...how to study and how to seek the information I wanted. Those are life skills.
The basics are fine but at the same time whether or not you know the basics is usually gauged by how well you can memorize and take a test. It does not take into account the fact that if you forget something in real life, you can go look it up. I am a librarian so I completely get the value of learning how to research and find information. Knowing how to research and find information does not make you intellectual or even intelligent. It means that you have some very valuable life skills. Knowing life skills such as reading, writing, arithmetic, research, etc. is quite a bit different than being intellectual.

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And who said you can't be stimulated by homework?? I never just did the assigment and that was it, never to think about that particular concept again. I always looked things up and studied more, checked out library books on a topic and learned more than they taught. Homework is just the baseline. I always felt encouraged to explore more.

I remember my teachers always saying, wow, you went above and beyond, good for you!
Homework can be stimulating if it is a topic that you are interested in. I hated chemistry with a passion. Chemistry homework and anything to do with it was just not on my radar. I didn't want to be in the class and they tried to put me in the advanced class with little or no regard to what I wanted. The only way I could get out of the class was to deliberately flunk out of it. I just did not want to do the work involved in it because I knew by that time that I would never ever choose a career that involved high level chemistry. Cooking is about as high level I want to get with chemistry. Math on the other hand was a completely different story. I would sit for hours and play with proofs and other mathematical concepts. When it came to literature and English, I wanted to read what I found interesting rather than what the teachers dictated. Homework and stuff like that got in the way of me reading and studying what I found to be interesting. Reading something other than the assigned materials was not always looked too highly upon.
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Old 08-14-2008, 07:12 PM
 
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Yes, you had a high drive but that does not mean that you were somehow smarter or better than those that did not have that drive.
Very, very true.

I would never say I was better. Never, ever. I don't think anyone is better than anyone else, in terms of worth. People can be kinder, smarter, more generous, less generous, more evil, but not worth more.

I agree, too, that drive does not in any way equal intelligence. I know a lot of driven people who aren't that smart and I know a lot of smart people who aren't that driven. The last one makes me sad because smart people with no drive could accomplish so much and contribute so much. I always think it better not be some very intelligent slacker who could have come up with the cure for cancer and doesn't because they didn't want to do their homework, you know?

I was only talking about drive being a key ingredient for kids who are intelligent but who come from unstable and/or low income homes. They have to try harder. Yeah, it's unfair but it's true.

I was one such kid. I came from a terrible, impoverished, violent, and very unstable home. I had natural intelligence (always scored among the highest on any standardized test ever given in school, always won spelling bees without studying, always won essay contests, always won art contests, and was a champion on the quiz bowl team, etc, etc) Academia and books were my salvation.

But my intelligence wouldn't have meant squat if I had no drive and no personal responsibility. I did the homework because it was a means of getting out of the economic situation I was born into. I was going to pull myself up by my bootstraps and knew that from the time I was about 6 years old. Yeah, the homework could be very boring. Yeah, I wasn't always interested in class. Yes, there were cliques and all that social drama. But I didn't let it distract from the real and important issues.

Everything I learned in school (public school) I have used in some way. Some of it (most of it), I could have learned on my own. I probably could have gotten my GED in about 8th or 9th grade (as most people can) but high school was a stepping stone for college, where I learned things I couldn't have learned on my own. And college was a stepping stone for grad school, where I definitely learned things and was exposed to people and ideas I wouldn't have gotten anywhere else. And all of that was as progression of stepping stones to my career, where I had the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills and make it into something useful to society (public service).
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Old 08-14-2008, 07:16 PM
 
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I remember having a discussion in one class about right vs. wrong and all that. We were talking about morals and how there are three ways people consider it 1) There's one right answer and the others are wrong 2) There are multiple right answers and multipul wrong answers 3) There is no inherent right or wrong answer because everyone is different. Basically everyone falls into one school of thought. Well a woman sitting at the front said:

"The problem with the idea that there are no right or wrong answers in that people who believe that are just too lazy to really study the issue."

Well the woman next to her, who is a dear friend of mine and can't let something like that go without comment replied:

"Or they have spent years looking into an issue only to find there really [i]is[/is] no right or wrong answer?"

Not sure how this relates... I guess I'm trying to point out that it's all in how you look at it.

Each persons experiences will influence whether NA society is anti-intellectual. My experience says it is. Others will say it's not because they experience things from the other end.

I've met intellectual people who look down on those who aren't, just like I've met the straight A's in school people who look down on those who get less then straight A's no matter what the reason they didn't do as well is. I've met people who look down on those who question what is known now, and people who look down on those who look to find answers to what isn't known.

In every group there are people who think the 'others' need to conform. It's just one of the ways that each human is different. Some people are scared to hear alternate ideas. They run from anything that opposes what they believe or what they think is right. There are people like me who could literally spend their whole life looking up opposing opinions just to see what those ideas are, where they come from, why people think like that. And there are people in the middle who could care less either way. And I do believe that each type of person has their own purpose for being that way. People who stick to things as they are done here and now, rejecting change, help prevent society from sliding backwards, people who questions what is done here and now and seek ways to improve it, change society sometimes for the better sometimes not. People who insist on things being done they way there were in the past help mediate that by retaining the older traditions so society can fall back on how things were when new changes turn sour and those in the middle, just along for the ride so to speak, are the ones who hold the tie braking vote. They essentially gauge the effect of new change or old tradition and affect movement in the right direction.

Um... Does that make sense?

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Old 08-14-2008, 07:34 PM
 
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There is a huge difference between being able to take a test and tow the line in school and actually being able to think for yourself.
Absolutely! ITA.

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Most people that think for themselves tend to stand out in one way or another.

Can you provide an example in real life of when somebody encourages you to read or think about things?
Yes! ITA.

Yes!

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If you want to look at the value placed on intellectualism, look at the ads that are played on TV. Look at the TV programs themselves.


I have an idea suddenly. I think we need to distinguish something. We might be talking about two different questions:

Is intellectualism valued? Yes, I think it is, IMO.

Is intellectualism common? That is, are most people intellectuals? No, I don't think so. But does that mean it's not valued? No.

You analogies of the tv commercials, and tv, and sports, and golf, and not reading books, etc, show that the majority of people, or average person, is not an intellectual. That is probably true (I believe that).

But none of that means society or culture doesn't value intellectualism. What smart person isn't valued for being smart? (With no other issues factored in that they're nto being valued for).

Humans can value intellectualism while pursuing with their lives a majority of non-intellectual pursuits because they themselves are not intellectuals.

The average Joe probably has a healthy respect for Albert Einstein or Bill Gates or, I don't know, any number of scientists or authors, but that doesn't mean that they will live their lives like the great intellectuals and cultural creatives.

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I don't see any academic decathlons being widely televised and publicized.
The only one I can think of is the national spelling bee.

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The smart people don't seem to care about the social strata. If that were a large portion of the population, then life wouldn't be as cliquish because people would be intelligent enough to see beyond the cliquishness and not care about it. So, if life is a cliquish and high school is a microcosm of life, then that means high school is just demonstrating the lack of intelligence in society as a whole. Therefore, you are pretty much agreeing that intellectualism is not valued and that the number of intelligent people isn't that great. If there were lots of intelligence floating around in society, that would be reflected more in the school system. (I hope I am making sense. It sounded good in my head when I thought it. ).
I see what you're saying. But I think just because someone is not an intellectual doesn't mean they don't value intellectualism.

Even if they don't pursue things of an intellectual nature in their own lives, doesn't mean that they don't have a healthy respect for it.

The majority of people aren't intellectuals, so it doesn't surprise me that life or high school or whatever are cliquish. Actually, I think cliques make people feel like they belong due to group think which is a hallmark of anti-intellectualism.

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Because, it was prescribed by someone else based on what they thought was best for me. It didn't take into account what I was interested in. It didn't take into account my own personal abilities. It didn't take into account that when I got out of school it would matter if I had memorized sine, cosine, and tangent. If I couldn't remember, I knew I would have the ability to look it up.
Can't kids do both? I always thought, and I think this about my own child, that I could do my homework, listen in class AND still study what I wanted to study.

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The basics are fine but at the same time whether or not you know the basics is usually gauged by how well you can memorize and take a test. It does not take into account the fact that if you forget something in real life, you can go look it up. I am a librarian so I completely get the value of learning how to research and find information. Knowing how to research and find information does not make you intellectual or even intelligent. It means that you have some very valuable life skills. Knowing life skills such as reading, writing, arithmetic, research, etc. is quite a bit different than being intellectual.
All very true. ITA.

But like I said, learning these basic things are stepping stones to learning more advanced topics, challenging your intellect, adding to it.

I was a pretty smart kid. But what I knew as a kid would not have served me well as an adult trying to function in the world. I needed all the stuff school taught me. I needed to be educated as well as intelligent. They are two different issues, separate issues.

Also, it was about progression. An example is this. I didn't like algebra. It took me a while to get it. I am not a linear thinker. I am a spatial person. However, I did what the algebra teacher told me and I struggled to get my B or whatever...because...I needed algebra for geometry.

It turns out I LOVED geometry. I'm a spatial thinker. It clicked for me. I understood it and enjoyed it. But see, I would never have been able to do geometry without algebra.

There are so many examples of this in school. Academic subjects build upon one another...more so math and science and foreign language than other fields, but all fields to some extent.

If I hadn't done algebra, I would have missed out on so much. I would have stifled my intellectualism because I wouldn't have had the basics to get to the next level.
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Why didn't you see much point in busting your butt to study the prescribed curriculum? I know what you mean about thinking that the homework, etc wouldn't mean much later in life. A lot of people say that, and maybe it's true. I don't know...when I was in high school, and junior high, too, I felt I was too young to know at that time what I would need and what I wouldn't ever use.

And most of it, I use in some way. It taught me basics. It taught me what I needed so that I could learn even more in college. It tought me how to research and to reference...how to study and how to seek the information I wanted. Those are life skills.
Perhaps this is the root of the issue. When it comes to "learning the basics," how to research, reference, and study, gifted children are short-changed and highly gifted children are up the creek without a paddle. How the heck was I supposed to "learn to study" in my third grade math class when my mother spent the summer teaching me and my brother algebra? What, exactly, was I supposed to be learning to learn? I taught myself to use a dictionary when I was three; How was I supposed to learn to look things up in a dictionary in fourth grade?

I, and the overwhelming majority of highly gifted children, already knew how to learn, how to study, how to research and how to reference by the time I started school. By second grade, I was absolutely certain that school had nothing to do with learning anything, and thought of it as glorified daycare. And for me, and the other children like me, that's all it was.

A gifted child is not just a child who knows more things, but one who learns in a qualitatively different manner than an average one. Gifted children don't "study, study, study;" They read a few times, retain, and synthesize new ideas. What you're describing is actually a perfect example of anti-intellectualism's effect on our culture, because you're describing "bright," calling it "gifted" and then going on to say that the American admiration of bright, hard workers is in fact proof of favoring intellectualism. Just the opposite is true-- you're allowed, even encouraged, to be bright and hard-working, but to actually be a gifted child in this country can be a tortuous experience. Intellectuals start out as those geeky little kids who sit in the back of their classes reading and not paying any attention to their teachers, who are trying to "teach" them things that they taught themselves years earlier. They start out as little boys who are much more interested in reading about the physics behind the flying car they're trying to build than listening to a teacher read a book that they've already read on their own two years prior.

As to the drop-out rates, I'll go looking for links later (I promised myself I wouldn't go googling until I finished working on the neverending Master Laundry Pile ). I may have read about that on the Davidson Institute's website, though. A ridiculously high percentage of all drop-outs are gifted, though, a far higher percentage than their overall numbers would indicate. Profoundly gifted children do in fact drop out of high school in droves... when they make it that far at all. These days, many such children are withdrawn from schools which are unwilling and unable to meet their needs.

Again, that's anti-intellectualism at it's heart. If this society gave a flying hoot about intellectualism, highly gifted children wouldn't be forced to either conform to the average or to leave school entirely-- there would be more options, and parents would be encouraged and enabled to explore them.

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And who said you can't be stimulated by homework?? I never just did the assigment and that was it, never to think about that particular concept again. I always looked things up and studied more, checked out library books on a topic and learned more than they taught. Homework is just the baseline. I always felt encouraged to explore more.

I remember my teachers always saying, wow, you went above and beyond, good for you!
In eighth grade, I was assigned a paper on crystals. I went looking through the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, and found something that interested me-- quasicrystals. I was incredibly stimulated by the project, and really enjoyed researching and writing my paper. I handed it in, feeling rather pleased to be able to share with someone I presumed to be interested. The paper was returned with a B-- "It's very well written, as always your grammar, spelling, and format are beautiful, but I think it's about physics and it's supposed to be Earth science." I kid you not-- "I think it's about physics." (There were only three or four equations in it!) I did what I had to do to make that assignment interesting, and I was penalized for it. That's not valuing intellectualism-- that's punishing a child for trying to make the best of a bad situation.

Can homework be stimulating? Not if you're two or four or eight years ahead of the material. Explore in more depth? Only to a point-- beyond that, you start losing points for "not doing the assignment." Homework is not about thinking for yourself or exploring things further-- it's about beating information into a child's head and watching them spit it back out again, unchanged. For children who already know how to read, being bludgeoned with activities designed to explore the alphabet "in further depth" are never going to be stimulating. It really just gets worse as the gap between what the kids know and what they're being taught widens.

If intellectualism was valued, *all* children, even those on the far right-hand side of the bell curve, would be encouraged to *learn* new things. They'd all have opportunities to learn, rather than being forced to sit still and wait for their cohorts to catch up. Whether or not a child can sit still when they're bored out of their skull shouldn't be the issue-- it would be "How can we provide for this kid so that he's not bored out of his skull?"

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Is intellectualism valued? Yes, I think it is, IMO.
I disagree, though it isn't an absolute, black and white, everywhere, type devaluation.

Sure, being smart is valued. Because it means not having to work hard to get "stuff" easily. The pride in being smart was not in getting good grades, but getting good grades WITHOUT WORKING FOR IT. And intellectual is absolutely equated with achievement - if you can use your brains to get good grades, get scholarships, get a great job, then yes, intellect is celebrated.

However, there is a strong meme in our society that says:

* academic/intellectual endeavors are hard and unpleasant, and that people only (should) do them to get ahead.

* it is okay, and in fact normal, to dislike school and education in general. This message is portrayed by TV and other popular media, by teachers and parents a like. It is just expected and assumed that kids will dislike school and education.

* Education means a class with teacher or school, with the important information fed to the student, and a test at the end to "prove" that you know it. Most people are not taught how to teach themselves without a class (this is very apparent in technology, where people MUST keep learning on their own in order to keep up - the number of people who just don't know how to do this is astonishingly high).

* Learning for learning sake (and not for any other reason) is odd and slightly suspect. Just think of the reaction you'd get at a party if you informed a neighbor that you decided to learn Calculus for the hell of it (assuming you never had it before). I can see the wrinkled nose and surprised look accompanying the question "why the hell would you do THAT?"

* "real" fun comes from games, TV, parties, social activities, or sports. Some more intellectual events (Shakespere, art gallery, etc) may be marginally seen as "fun" but also seen as elitist or high brow - as more HARD WORK than "real fun" stuff. Everything else is "work". And work is "not fun".

You know the attributes for a great adult? Initiative, creativity, intellectual curiosity? They make for a helluva kid...
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Old 08-14-2008, 08:15 PM
 
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Perhaps this is the root of the issue. When it comes to "learning the basics," how to research, reference, and study, gifted children are short-changed and highly gifted children are up the creek without a paddle.
The basics aren't just how to research, reference, and study. I think the basics are how to write and practice writing; how to spell; grammar; basic math and exposure (at the very least) to algebra, geometry, and trigonomety; basic chemistry and exposure to lab practices; basic biology and exposure to labs; some foreign languane exposure; computer usage and maybe some exposure to computer programming; literature; typing; history; sociology or citizenship or civics; and some exposure to art and music. Did I overlook anything?

So, to me, the basics that a person needs, at minimum, in life are somewhere between the requirements to graduate high school and the requirements to enter most 4 year colleges.

I think we don't challenge most students enough, and we don't provide the right structure for highly gifted students, just like you said.

But that doesn't mean we don't value intellectualism.

I made the assertion earlier that not all people (maybe even not most people) are intellectuals themselves but they still respect and value those who are.
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The paper was returned with a B-- "It's very well written, as always your grammar, spelling, and format are beautiful, but I think it's about physics and it's supposed to be Earth science."
This is the type of statement that would have had my dad in the teacher's face, with the principal in the room, questioning her qualifications as a science teacher.

'Course I didn't tell my parents half of what happened in the classroom - the science teacher who tried to teach us the "science behind the bible" -i.e. the plagues of Egypt were fact or another teacher who told us she expected us to remember nothing from her class...

I am reminded of a scene in Little Man Tate when the math genius kid is asked by his fourth grade teacher "which of these numbers is divisible by two?" with the numbers 4, 5, 9, 12 on the board. He looked at her like she was a moron, and said "Uh, ALL of them?!?"

You know the attributes for a great adult? Initiative, creativity, intellectual curiosity? They make for a helluva kid...
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Old 08-14-2008, 08:23 PM
 
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How the heck was I supposed to "learn to study" in my third grade math class when my mother spent the summer teaching me and my brother algebra?

Can homework be stimulating? Not if you're two or four or eight years ahead of the material. Explore in more depth? Only to a point-- beyond that, you start losing points for "not doing the assignment." Homework is not about thinking for yourself or exploring things furtherl
If you were 2 or 4 or 8 years ahead of the material (or any child for that matter) why didn't the teacher, or your parent (who was obviously involved if he/she was teaching you algebra in 3rd grade) or even you find a way to skip a few grades?

I was bored in school, too, but I still did the assignments, and pursued learning on my own, and eventually, a few teachers noticed I was ahead and also that I tested well, and handled the home work well, so they skipped me up a few grades.

Also, it's not uncommon for students who are advanced in certain fields to take math or science or reading or whatever with a class two or three grades up.

That happened all the time in my school.

There were some students who were quite advanced musically, having started playing their instrument at home years before most students started in school. Those advanced students were in the high school band during junior high.

Quite a few junior high math students who were advanced took algebra, geometry, and trig with the high school students.

Etc.

I think the larger the school, the more advanced and wider the course offerings, but even small schools can make accommodations.
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Old 08-14-2008, 08:27 PM
 
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If intellectualism was valued, *all* children, even those on the far right-hand side of the bell curve, would be encouraged to *learn* new things. They'd all have opportunities to learn, rather than being forced to sit still and wait for their cohorts to catch up. Whether or not a child can sit still when they're bored out of their skull shouldn't be the issue-- it would be "How can we provide for this kid so that he's not bored out of his skull?"
That's IF public schools, or education policy had unlimited funds. Now, you could argue that if we as a culture truly valued intellectualism, we would have better funding for schools.

I agree, and think we should have better funding. But there are a lot issues groping for available public funds (and the people who decide disbursement and policy may not be intellectuals...I don't know. ).

But, again, the failings of education policy aren't proof positive that we have a culture that does not value intellectualism.

Do we value intellectualism outside of achievement? I am not sure. Maybe not. But, certainly we value intellectualism, either on it's own, or when coupled with achievement.

Achievement on it's own is flat. And it rarely happens. There is usually some intellectual or cultural creative (also an intellectual in my book) behind the achievement.
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Old 08-14-2008, 08:30 PM
 
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I am reminded of a scene in Little Man Tate when the math genius kid is asked by his fourth grade teacher "which of these numbers is divisible by two?" with the numbers 4, 5, 9, 12 on the board. He looked at her like she was a moron, and said "Uh, ALL of them?!?"


I love that line!

I know that I had a few run ins like this in school. I wasn't that young, of course, and it wasn't such an obvious mistake, but there were definitely times when I disagreed with a teacher and the teachers actually encouraged me to prove my point and show their error. I did, and the grade was corrected.

Active teachers, or active parents, or active students - or all three - are key to making the institution of public schools work. You have to modify the school to fit your own needs!
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The basics aren't just how to research, reference, and study. I think the basics are how to write and practice writing; how to spell; grammar; basic math and exposure (at the very least) to algebra, geometry, and trigonomety; basic chemistry and exposure to lab practices; basic biology and exposure to labs; some foreign languane exposure; computer usage and maybe some exposure to computer programming; literature; typing; history; sociology or citizenship or civics; and some exposure to art and music. Did I overlook anything?
What about basic logic and argumentation? I think every student should come out of school with the basic ability to evaluate information. All of the things that you have listed are fine and most people would agree with that. My 7 yo can do some or all of that on some level or has at least been exposed to all of those things. In some cases, she may be behind and in some cases she is well ahead of where the school system would put her.

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So, to me, the basics that a person needs, at minimum, in life are somewhere between the requirements to graduate high school and the requirements to enter most 4 year colleges.
I don't think anyone will argue that. This thread isn't about the basics. It is about intellectualism and whether or not it is valued and whether or not society as a whole is anti-intellectual

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I think we don't challenge most students enough, and we don't provide the right structure for highly gifted students, just like you said.

But that doesn't mean we don't value intellectualism.

I made the assertion earlier that not all people (maybe even not most people) are intellectuals themselves but they still respect and value those who are.
Intellectualism isn't about being challenged. It is about learning for the sake of knowledge. It is not about being smart either. There are some people that don't want to be challenged and would find that to be highly annoying. The structure of school just does not work for some people and no matter what types of challenges or enrichment you provide it will simply not work.

I still respectfully disagree with you. Those that are not intellectuals typically do not value or even respect those who are unless the intellectual ones end up being the ones that sign their paycheck. My DH and I run across anti-intellectuals all the time. For example, my MIL constantly talks about how she hates reading and doesn't see the point in it. DH and I lived in an area where thinking for yourself or being intellectual was highly frowned upon. We do not flaunt our abilities but we tend to stick out no matter how hard we try to "fit in". I can provide example after example of how intellectuals are not respected. Respect is not gained unless you have a high paying job or end up being somebody else's boss.

How many people say they want to grow up and be smart? I would love to hear a kids say, "Oooo, I want to grow up and be a geek mommy".
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Old 08-14-2008, 08:51 PM
 
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If you were 2 or 4 or 8 years ahead of the material (or any child for that matter) why didn't the teacher, or your parent (who was obviously involved if he/she was teaching you algebra in 3rd grade) or even you find a way to skip a few grades?
It was the summer before third grade, and yes, she was involved as best she could be. Why didn't she find a way to skip me a few grades? If intellectualism is so highly valued, why isn't grade skipping more common? Does grade skipping take into account other factors, like the fact that gifted children learn more quickly even when they are presented with new material? How many schools do you know of which will allow a child to complete two or three years of schoolwork in nine months *after* they've skipped a grade or two or three?

This is more than a problem with public schools-- this is anti-intellectualism. My mother really did the very best that she could with what she had, but she was not able to advocate effectively for my education. Her hands were tied by the anti-intellectualism upon which our educational institutions are founded.

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I was bored in school, too, but I still did the assignments, and pursued learning on my own, and eventually, a few teachers noticed I was ahead and also that I tested well, and handled the home work well, so they skipped me up a few grades.
I started school at four and a half, but I was never a teacher's pet. Teachers couldn't stand me-- I was not the child who had the answers, but the child who asked the questions. Hard workers, people who complete their assignments and behave in class are valued. Intellectuals, people who think and create and develop new ideas, are shunned if they don't fit into the former category... and most don't.

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Also, it's not uncommon for students who are advanced in certain fields to take math or science or reading or whatever with a class two or three grades up.

That happened all the time in my school.
Oh sure, I did plenty of that. I took three AP classes my sophmore year. I still did not encounter anything in school that I didn't know *cold* walking in before I was 16 and in AP Chemistry. I'm telling you, a few token AP classes in high school isn't enough, any more than once-a-week pullout gifted programs are.

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There were some students who were quite advanced musically, having started playing their instrument at home years before most students started in school. Those advanced students were in the high school band during junior high.

Quite a few junior high math students who were advanced took algebra, geometry, and trig with the high school students.

Etc.

I think the larger the school, the more advanced and wider the course offerings, but even small schools can make accommodations.
Well yeah-- I took algebra, geometry, and trig in junior high school (not with the high school students, though). I liked algebra, I thought it was a lot of fun... the first time I learned it, when I was seven. At eleven, it was drudgework to have to spend time writing out equations designed to "teach" something that I already knew. My algebra I teacher was fantastic, but her hands were really tied-- what could she do? I used to sit in her classroom after school and play games on her computer for hours on end. It was probably the greatest impact she had on my education. Oh, yeah, and she gave me a high B even though I never turned in homework; She respected my test scores and recognized that I knew the material, so she didn't get her shorts in a twist when I decided that reading the new Orson Scott Card book was more important than factoring quadratic equations.

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Old 08-14-2008, 08:56 PM
 
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How many people say they want to grow up and be smart? I would love to hear a kids say, "Oooo, I want to grow up and be a geek mommy".
Chibi and Bean say that often. They're proud to be little freaky geeks. : But then... well, I'm a freak. :

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My DH and I run across anti-intellectuals all the time. For example, my MIL constantly talks about how she hates reading and doesn't see the point in it. DH and I lived in an area where thinking for yourself or being intellectual was highly frowned upon. We do not flaunt our abilities but we tend to stick out no matter how hard we try to "fit in". I can provide example after example of how intellectuals are not respected. Respect is not gained unless you have a high paying job or end up being somebody else's boss.
Well, as always with MDC opinion sorts of theads, it depends where we live and with whom we associate.

I live in an area that appears to value intellectualism, as well as higher education and public education.

The people I see and run into read a lot of books, newspapers, and magazines. They are well read and current with news and politics. They have a real love of learning, and you see it being fostered in their children.
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Old 08-14-2008, 09:00 PM
 
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How many people say they want to grow up and be smart? I would love to hear a kids say, "Oooo, I want to grow up and be a geek mommy".
I don't know how many kids say that, but hope they are thinking about it. I know I thought that when I was a kid.

But I don't think being smart = being a geek. Or a freak.

You can be a smart geek freak.

But you can also be a not so smart geek freak.

Geek and freak are separate from being smart.
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Do we value intellectualism outside of achievement? I am not sure. Maybe not. But, certainly we value intellectualism, either on it's own, or when coupled with achievement.

Achievement on it's own is flat. And it rarely happens. There is usually some intellectual or cultural creative (also an intellectual in my book) behind the achievement.
Intellectualism outside of achievement is devalued and looked down upon in my opinion. I have had coworkers and various people ask me why I have wasted my education by staying home with my kids. Because I have ability and an education, I am supposed to be out conquering the world. In an earlier post, you indicated that intelligent people that don't do anything substantive bother you. I feel like I would bother you because I have chosen to homeschool my kids and provide them with whatever intellectual stimulation they need.

If intellectualism without achievement is not valued, then it would be safe to say that intellectualism had no meaning on its own. There is no value in having knowledge for the sake of knowledge. That knowledge must lead to some higher good.

I have seen a lot of really hard working people achieve an aweful lot. They are not intellectual in the least but they are very successful people. They have achieved a lot more financial success than DH and I ever will and they are not smart people and they are certainly not intellectual by any definition. They work their butts off. DH and I are lazy and just don't have it in us to work that hard unless it is something that we value rather than something that society values. Most of the time our values and societal values do not line up and we are cool with that. We are the crappy people that are used to having everything fall into place and come easy to us. I never had to study in school. It all just sort of fell into place. I came from a very dysfunctional family. After the crash in the 80's, we were actually considered poor. I don't feel like I had to work for anything when it came to school. I got my A's without any sweat. In college, I don't feel like I had to work for my grades. I just had to show up for the most part. If something required too much work or I didn't enjoy it, I just avoided it. That is just the way I am. Yea, some might consider me lazy but it has gotten me this far. We are not successful in the traditional sense but we are happy for the most part.
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Old 08-14-2008, 09:06 PM
 
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Hard workers, people who complete their assignments and behave in class are valued. Intellectuals, people who think and create and develop new ideas, are shunned if they don't fit into the former category... and most don't.
I don't know about that. All of those characteristics and traits aren't mutually exclusive or inclusive. Kids can have a lot of combinations of those traits.

I don't know if I could say most intellectuals do not fit in either category.

You seem to imply that to be intellectual you must rebel and not fit in any category. I don't think that's true.

I think the cultural creatives among us think outside the box, and most intellectuals probably fit into that category.
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Old 08-14-2008, 09:11 PM
 
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Intellectualism outside of achievement is devalued and looked down upon in my opinion. I have had coworkers and various people ask me why I have wasted my education by staying home with my kids. Because I have ability and an education, I am supposed to be out conquering the world. In an earlier post, you indicated that intelligent people that don't do anything substantive bother you. I feel like I would bother you because I have chosen to homeschool my kids and provide them with whatever intellectual stimulation they need.

If intellectualism without achievement is not valued, then it would be safe to say that intellectualism had no meaning on its own. There is no value in having knowledge for the sake of knowledge. That knowledge must lead to some higher good.
I didn't say that, nor did I mean that, nor do I believe that.

I am actually a college educated, career driven, highly motivated, achievement oriented SAHM at the moment.

Anyway, I didn't say "must." I said "should." That is my opinion. I refer back to the saying I quoted earlier "to whom much is given, much is expected."

I think that is true. But I don't ever talk about anything in a $$ or economic or business sense. That is the antithesis of everything I believe.

I think there are many ways to give back. And I think the economic achievement often comes at the lapse of something else...sometimes ethics, sometimes service, not always, but more than it should.

I just think if you have it, and can give back, then by all means do so. . It's not a must, it's an option.
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Old 08-14-2008, 09:14 PM
 
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Intellectualism outside of achievement is devalued and looked down upon in my opinion.
I don't believe that for a minute.

I know there are people who say that very thing about SAHMs, specifically, and shame on them, by the way! I personally think it has more to do with being a SAHM (for whatever reason, being a SAHM is a trigger for some people. I don't get it. )

I think an education, including a college education, is always valuable no matter what one does with it.

And, for the record, a SAHM uses a college education.

Education is a valuable pursuit on it's own merit. ...that is, if it's used (and again not in an economic sense. We talked earlier about people who went to college and didn't end up using their degrees...do you mean just not for a job...or not at all...just kind of went through the motions?
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Old 08-14-2008, 09:19 PM
 
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Intellectualism is defined as "devotion to the exercise of intellectual pursuits."

Intellectual means:
of or relating to the intellect or its use
developed or chiefly guided by the intellect rather than by emotion or experience
rational
requiring use of the intellect
given to study, reflection, and speculation b: engaged in activity requiring the creative use of the intellect

Do I think our culture is anti-intellectual? (OP question) No, I don't. I think our culture is not anti-intellectual.

However, I don't think we are a culture or society of intellectuals. Does that make sense?
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Old 08-14-2008, 09:22 PM
 
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I don't know about that. All of those characteristics and traits aren't mutually exclusive or inclusive. Kids can have a lot of combinations of those traits.

I don't know if I could say most intellectuals do not fit in either category.

You seem to imply that to be intellectual you must rebel and not fit in any category. I don't think that's true.

I think the cultural creatives among us think outside the box, and most intellectuals probably fit into that category.
I think the main point is that there are a lot of different combinations and certain combinations are preferred. The well behaved intellectual is going to be valued over the rebellious intellectuals. If you are not the well behaved teacher's pet, it is more likely that you will be labeled a trouble maker or referred to the counselor or doctor for meds so that you can sit still.

I think the point you are missing is that there is a large population of intellectuals that don't realize that there is a box. It is fine if you think outside the box because at least you realize that there is a box that you can work within when you have to. Some people/kids are looking around wondering where in the world is this box that everyone keeps talking about. My 7 yo is more of the think outside the box kind of kid and everyone loves her to pieces. My 4 yo is the kind of kid that doesn't know that a box exists so a lot of people hate her because she is the one with lots and lots of questions and will not be put off. The kids that are outside of the box do pretty well. The others are the ones that get left out. If our society were truly intellectual, it would take into acount all intellectuals rather than just the few that have certain characteristics.
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Old 08-14-2008, 09:26 PM
 
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Do you think North American culture is anti-intellectual?
No.

Consider the strides (albeit not perfect by any means) that public education for the masses has made in the last 50 years. (think of rural areas and areas of widespread economic hardship such as Appalachia).

Think of the strides public funding has made in the past 50 years in terms of funding college education for the masses (the student loan program, not to metion the GI Bill). (Yes, I know the recent trends are not so good, and that needs to change).

Education is way more accessible for middle and lower classes than it used to be. We are no longer an agrarian society with an 8th grade education as a mean.

Sure, one can argue (and correctly so) that much of this progress was tied to plans for greater and more widespread economic prosperity, but some of it was because America placed value on an educated populace.

At least part of the motive is connected to value of intellectualism.

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

Our culture is not a culture of intellectuals. There are non-intellectual pursuits all around us.

We have to be dilligent to raise kids who maintain their inate curiosity, amid all the eye candy and ear candy of this electronic and fast paced modern world.
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Old 08-14-2008, 09:35 PM
 
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I think the main point is that there are a lot of different combinations and certain combinations are preferred. The well behaved intellectual is going to be valued over the rebellious intellectuals. If you are not the well behaved teacher's pet, it is more likely that you will be labeled a trouble maker or referred to the counselor or doctor for meds so that you can sit still.

I think the point you are missing is that there is a large population of intellectuals that don't realize that there is a box. It is fine if you think outside the box because at least you realize that there is a box that you can work within when you have to. Some people/kids are looking around wondering where in the world is this box that everyone keeps talking about. My 7 yo is more of the think outside the box kind of kid and everyone loves her to pieces. My 4 yo is the kind of kid that doesn't know that a box exists so a lot of people hate her because she is the one with lots and lots of questions and will not be put off. The kids that are outside of the box do pretty well. The others are the ones that get left out. If our society were truly intellectual, it would take into acount all intellectuals rather than just the few that have certain characteristics.
No, I didn't overlook that point. Someone earlier mentioned a highly intelligent child who could not sit still during class. And that is somewhat related to the rebellious intellectual.

I think both are outside of the intellectual debate. There are rebels who are and who are not intellectuals. Just as there are sensory seeking or ADHD kids who are and who are not intellectuals. Their individual needs should be addresed individually, not attributed to society being anti-intellectualism.

I was getting around to responding about the sensory seeking child example. I have a sensory seeking child myself. I can envision a day when my child will not be able to sit still during class. Will I talk to the teacher about allowing for more movement during class? Yes! Will I work with my child after school to make sure all needs, including homework, are met? Yes. Will I prepare my child as best I can to manage the school day? Yes!

I will not however blame an instance of any unqualified teachers, insensitive teachers, or ignorant teachers on society as a whole being anti-intellectual.

I'll just work around the ignorant people and make sure the school district and teachers are held accountable for their responsibilities.

Edited to add: my kid may or may not be highly intelligent. I don't know since my little one is just that - little. I know for sure that my child is sensory seeking and has few other "quirky" kid behaviors. But I separate that from intelligence. To me, that's a different issue...sort of like separating the rebellion and intellect of a rebellious smart kid.
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