Look Inside. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction Anti-Intellectualism in American Life is a book which throws light on many features of the American character. Its concern is not merely to portray the scorners of intellect in American life, but to say something about what the intellectual is, and can be, as a force in a democratic society. Hofstadter unfolds the fascinating story, it is no crude battle of eggheads and fatheads.
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By understanding the motivations behind objections to teaching evolution, science educators can teach evolution more effectively. The foes of evolution would eventually begin to strategically and systematically portray their opposition to evolution as itself intellectual in nature.
He also observes that textbooks and teachers of the day were guarded on the subject of evolution. And a contemporary survey found that two out of three high school science teachers believed that a teacher could teach biology effectively without teaching evolution Behnke, Although Hofstadter might not have been surprised to learn that anti-evolutionism continued in the 50 years after his death, he appears not to have anticipated that it would increasingly disguise its anti-intellectual underpinnings.
Tennessee repealed the Butler Act in , the Supreme Court ruled a similar statute in Arkansas to be unconstitutional in , and the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the last remaining ban in Anti-evolutionists promptly regrouped.
In the s and early s, bills requiring the teaching of creation science were introduced in the legislatures of dozens of states.
In both Arkansas and Louisiana, such legislation was enacted in — and promptly challenged in the federal courts. A creation science counter-establishment — a panoply of institutes, museums, societies, journals, and conferences, to say nothing of a few dozen colleges where creation science is taught — still persists. But immediately beneath the scholarly veneer of such programs is a rough-hewn faith in the inerrancy of the Bible even on matters of science, requiring the rejection of a vast amount of established scientific knowledge.
As the Louisiana lawsuit wound its way to its end, a different supposed alternative with which to balance the teaching of evolution — intelligent design — was under development.
Like creation science, intelligent design maintains a counter-establishment. But unlike creation science, intelligent design is generally careful not to require any particular faith commitment for participation — although it is telling that a network of campus-based intelligent design clubs, now moribund, specifically required aspiring club leaders to be Christians Brown, The intelligent design counter-establishment is not as productive, popular, or prosperous as the creation science counter-establishment, largely because creation science is willing to appeal overtly to the religious predilections of its base and intelligent design by and large is not.
What was new was the use of such catchphrases unaccompanied by any reference to supposed alternatives to evolution, whether creation science or intelligent design.
A particularly popular version of the fallback strategy involves academic freedom bills. Which theories are deemed controversial in such legislation? Often evolution is specifically mentioned, either by itself or in the company of the origin of life, global warming, and human cloning, but even when such a bill offers no definition or inventory of controversial theories, it is usually apparent that evolution is the primary target.
Since , more than 80 academic freedom bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country Matzke, , with relatively few successes: Mississippi in , Louisiana in , and Tennessee in Owing to the radical decentralization of American education, it is unclear to what extent teachers in these states have taken advantage of the license thus afforded them to miseducate their students about evolution.
The anti-intellectual underpinnings of the belittling strategy are disguised not by a counter-establishment, as with creation science and intelligent design, but by the co-option of the vocabulary of the intellectual.
The selective focus of the supporters of these bills best reveals their anti-intellectual nature. A particularly striking case occurred in Florida in , when a state senator, Ronda Storms, introduced Senate Bill , a standard academic freedom bill targeting evolution. Her commitment to academic freedom was tested when a colleague proposed to extend the bill to also protect age-appropriate sex education.
On the other hand, despite its pessimism, such a verdict is compatible with the possibility of holding the line — and even making advances — against the forces of anti-intellectualism. So progress is possible.
And Hofstadter points the way. These strategies are already in use in many schools and classrooms, to be sure, but there is doubtless room for further development and wider dissemination. To allay the sentiment that evolution is speculative and useless, which springs from the unreflective instrumentalist type of anti-intellectualism, it is helpful to emphasize that in fact evolution is practically important. David P. To allay the sentiment that evolution is taught dogmatically by the acolytes of a scientific priesthood, which springs from the populist anti-elitist type of anti-intellectualism, it is essential for students to encounter evolution through inquiry-based learning.
Such an approach — promoted by the best educational resources, such as the Next Generation Science Standards NGSS Lead States, — aims at helping students appreciate the processes as well as the results of contemporary scientific inquiry.
Merely making students and parents aware of such possible models is helpful in diminishing the perceived threat. Perhaps, as Barbara Forrest suggests, the arc of history bends toward teaching evolution. But there is no reason for complacency, especially when the forces of anti-evolutionism persist. The fallback strategy of anti- evolutionism has yet to receive a definitive rebuke in the courts. The story of anti- evolutionism in the United States is by no means over.
Alliance for Justice. Church and state. Washington, DC: Author. American Association of University Professors. Barnes, M. Behnke, F. Reactions of scientists and science teachers to statements bearing on certian [ sic ] aspects of science and science teaching. School Science and Mathematics, 61 , Berkman, M. Brown, S. Intelligent design gains momentum, raises eyebrows on campuses.
Religion News Service. Bryan, W. Coalition of Scientific Societies. Evolution and its discontents: A role for scientists in science education. Forrest, B. The arc of history bends toward teaching evolution. Shane, L. Meadows, R. Binns Eds. Giberson, K. The language of science and faith. Graff, G. To debate or not to debate intelligent design? Inside Higher Ed. Haught, B. Hill, J. Rejecting evolution: The role of religion, education, and social networks. Hofstadter, R. Anti-intellectualism in American life.
The development of academic freedom in the United States. Matzke, N. The evolution of antievolution policies after Kitzmiller v. Miller, K. Mindell, D. The evolving world: Evolution in everyday life.
Morris, H. The design revelation. Back to Genesis, Next Generation Science Standards: For states, by states. Pew Research Center. Reid, A. Dry facts, debate, despair: How not to teach climate change. Remmers, H. The American teenager. Rigney, D. Three kinds of anti-intellectualism: Rethinking Hofstadter.
Webb, G. The evolution controversy in America. Their plodding, empiricist-based way of thinking is noble for what it can accomplish. They can describe, in detail, all the parts of organisms and how they function.
Where they should tread lightly is in the older field of natural philosophy, which has been divided up and parceled out unfortunately to specialized branches of thinkers psychology, philosophy, theology, etc. When these otherwise useful biologists attempt to unify all of human experience and the natural world, they leave me scratching my head.
Just as an example, can you explain the appearance of 1 bee, let alone the appearance of a 2nd bee? Can a single bee or even a handful of bees actually exist without the rest of their hive in existence? The only group that can contemplate a reasonable and compelling origin for bees is the imagination and creativity of people not indoctrinated by naturalist thinking.
Is it long-term development? The inquiry itself is arrived at and subsequently guided by seeking answers to questions that already presuppose the ruling materialism. All is ideology; the question is: which ideology will you swallow? If one presents 3 Picasso paintings to a molecular biologist, will they seriously believe they evolved into each other?
New York Times April 13, suggests what may unfortunately be a potent enhancer of recent American anti-intellectualism.
The Myth of Anti-Intellectualism
I find it hard to believe Ms. Kagan really needed all that coaching. Had she raised so much money for Harvard Law School by talking down to prospective donors and impressing them with her scholarship? What most people want in a judge, or legislator, is not necessarily the most brilliant or learned person, but the one who will support their values most effectively. Otherwise the higher the intellect, the greater the danger. In an extreme case, the legal theorist Carl Schmitt , and countless other stellar German academics, used their gifts in the Nazi cause. Writers around the world served Stalinism well into the s.
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
The most interesting parts were in the historical observations. The fifth part on anti-intellectualism in education, particularly concerning the state of secondary education seemed irrelevant; at A classic work on the dismissal of intellectual practices in America, differentiated from similar but less prominent movements in other parts of the world. The work was written during the Kennedy His political, social, and intellectual histories raised serious questions about assumptions that had long been taken for granted and cast the American experience in an interesting new light. His work, The American Political Tradition, is an enduring classic study in political history.
Anti-intellectualism and anti-evolutionism: Lessons from Hofstadter
By understanding the motivations behind objections to teaching evolution, science educators can teach evolution more effectively. The foes of evolution would eventually begin to strategically and systematically portray their opposition to evolution as itself intellectual in nature. He also observes that textbooks and teachers of the day were guarded on the subject of evolution. And a contemporary survey found that two out of three high school science teachers believed that a teacher could teach biology effectively without teaching evolution Behnke, Although Hofstadter might not have been surprised to learn that anti-evolutionism continued in the 50 years after his death, he appears not to have anticipated that it would increasingly disguise its anti-intellectual underpinnings. Tennessee repealed the Butler Act in , the Supreme Court ruled a similar statute in Arkansas to be unconstitutional in , and the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the last remaining ban in Anti-evolutionists promptly regrouped.
The Tea Party is timeless
For the ages For Hofstadter, pictured here in , anti-intellectualism was an unavoidable part of a democratic society. Not true. Most academic writers cannot achieve the trifecta of scholarly importance, popularity outside the academy, and unquestioned intellectual integrity. Hofstadter did.
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