Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Criticism of Anti-Intellectualism

"Hey, can I read the first two pages of chapter 5 to you?", my husband asked me on Sunday evening. 

I growled in response.  His dissertation,which was all fun and games in the beginning, has become an increasingly complex, perplexing monster that I have proofread, chapter by chapter (proofread - as in, for spelling errors, dropped words, and oddly formed sentences - certainly not for the actual content) over the course of the last six months. I invest some serious energy, attention, and time to reading and checking over his work (why in the heck would I want to hear it out loud, too?) 

I eventually gave in, and he began reading the fifth chapter to me - just to see if i could understand the concept he was writing about. If so, success! - his writing is clear and concise.  If not - then, maybe it needs some more work. I didn't listen very closely. Therefore, I didn't understand.  Before you judge, please realize that I'm not trying to be mean... I just didn't feel like trying to "get it".  This is just one of many examples of me being the "anti-intellectual" that my husband accuses me of being.  He doesn't get angry or upset with me, he laughs.  He shakes his head and moves on, accepting that while his life forever exists inside the ivory tower, mine exists in, well, a little bit of everywhere (the mall, my job, TV, etc.)  Some days, I'm energetic about thinking critically and exploring new ideas.  Some days, I can totally stomach discussions about politics and religion.  But some other days... I just can't hack it.  On those days, I have a Bath and Body Works sale, or a pair of new shoes, a tasty piece of cheesecake or Edward Cullen on my mind.  That's right - some days, my mind is preoccupied with consumerism, pop culture, and unhealthy food: three no-nos if you're trying to be all intellectual and crap.

My husband's fave reads
(Karl Marx vomited in my apartment.)

But wait a minute.  If i feel like "being" intellectual sometimes, am I really an "anti-intellectual"? I'm certainly not a proud "non-reader" like Kanye West.  I have a college education and I read on a regular basis, so am I still "anti-intellectual"? 

Wikipedia defines anti-intellectualism as hostility toward and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectual pursuits, usually expressed as the derision of education, philosophy, literature, art, and science, as impractical and contemptible.  Anti-intellectuals usually perceive and publicly present themselves as champions of the common folk, proposing that the educated are a social class detached from the everyday concerns of the majority, and that they dominate political discourse and higher education. 

I admit it - when I'm tagging along at a conference in an effort to learn about my husband's field, listening to someone's presentation (see! Intellectual brownie points there!) and the audience starts asking questions, I roll my eyes.  I feel that a lot of "intellectuals" ask questions simply just to hear themselves talk, not because they really wanna know anything.  As they talk in circles, asking a question, then answering their own question, then asking about the answer they gave their own question while the presenter stands at the front of the room looking utterly hopeless, I feel my eyes practically sticking inside the top of my head. Oops, I'm "anti-intellectual" now. 

Some of my book collection - Twilight, Russo, Sparks, and Shoe Addicts Anonymous
(but give me credit - I read a biography of MLK and I loved it!)

But then, i take a stroll through the campus I'm visiting.  I stop by and admire the sculptures outside the student center, take a minute to check out the student art gallery.  I am NOT "anti-intellectual" then, am I? I don't mistrust those who are educated - I am educated.

Do I see myself as a champion of the common folk?  Well... nah.  I'm not really a champion of anything unless it's knowing quotes from the Office or lyrics to Britney Spears songs. Do I feel that those who are educated are a social class among themselves, estranged from the "common folk"? No - it isn't that simple - although I've certainly met individuals who think of themselves in that regard.

I truly love my husband's work - his research is interesting, he has more determination and desire to pursue a career in academia than anyone I've ever known.  I'm super supportive, easy-going, and ready to rock and roll to whatever school, whatever conference, whatever college town, whenever, wherever.  I'm game.  I love talking to him about the future, and I enjoy the discussions we have about his work - but just not all the time.  My life is consumed with this stuff, and I sometimes just need to take a break and rest my mind a little. I sometimes wonder where people get the energy to fight-fight-fight all the time, whether it be about politics or child-rearing or whatever... serious discussions about serious topics give me a headache and scare me away! I guess it depends on your passion - which, for me, is the importance of Facebook and using a good quality hand soap.  I could go on and on about those two topics for hours on end.

Where do you stand?  Do you consider yourself "anti-intellectual"?  Or are you like me - a mixed bag o' everything?  

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Kerri said...

Oh I so get this! The last sentence explains me too....where do people get the energy to fight the fight all the time...whether it be politics or child rearing, etc. I've never had a super strong opinion about anything...or the need for other people to see MY way....I just go with the flow. So I guess that makes me not all that intellectual! I have a college degree...but have never loved learning the facts!

I love the Office too...and am sad that Michael will not be back next year. :(

Rebekah said...

I think I'm a mix of things. I love to learn about things and I'm very interested in new things, but I don't like to dwell on one thing too long. Indecisive? I don't know. We sound a lot alike!

Aimee said...

I am definitly a mix. I don't get anti-intellectuals. Why would someone pride themselves on not reading and not knowing anything. Confusing.

I like to read a lot (but sometimes I tend to read chick lit lol). I like to learn new things. BUT I also like to spend too much time on facebook, watch Greys Anatomy, read wedding blogs, and sleep. So I understand.

Oh and my word verification is buttsms... I am educated and the word butt makes me chuckle.

love jenny xoxo said...

I'm definitely with you on the mixed-bag :) I've been reading more "intellectual" books - at least in my opinion - and it just seems overdone and like they are trying too hard. Give me twilight over that any day :)


Katie said...

hahaha any reference to Kanye is a keeper in my book :) I would growl too if I had to check papers... oh the things we do for husbands!!

Christina said...

Oh are we the same person...!? I could have EASILY written the same post...wow! My husband is finishing school in December to be a professor...and I work with Kindergarten Autistic boys. Different worlds? I think so!

Thanks for sharing :)

Amber said...

First off, you deserve a big cookie for "playing along" with your hubby's dissertation stuff! My hubby would bail so quickly if I tried to involve him in my project. Ha. Secondly, I completely get this post and I enjoyed it a lot!! I would say I'm a mixed bag of everything---there are times for intellectualism and there are times for being "anti-intellectual"...or something like that....life's a balancing act!
Great post!

Crazy Shenanigans-JMO said...

Can I just say that Kayne West is the biggest tool.

I have to say I like your reading list more than your husbands lol.

Whitney said...

I'm a little bit of a mixed bag, like you, but my passions probably fall into the intellectual category a good portion of the time.

I mean, I love reading about theoretical physics, politics, and religious studies, but I also really, really, love checking OhNoTheyDidn't! and perusing mommy blogs for shots of cute babies.