A Student of History

February 15, 2008

Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?

Filed under: New books,The world today — John Maass @ 7:29 pm

From Thursday’s NYT:

Patricia Cohen has written a brief article titled “Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?”  It describes  Susan Jacoby, author of “The Age of American Unreason,” which bemoans the state of American culture.

Ms. Jacoby feels there is a generalized “hostility to knowledge,”  a budding anti-intellectualism (the attitude that “too much learning can be a dangerous thing”) and anti-rationalism (“the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion”) have fused in a particularly insidious way.  “Not only are citizens ignorant about essential scientific, civic and cultural knowledge, she said, but they also don’t think it matters.”

She first got the idea for this book back in 2001, on 9/11.

Walking home to her Upper East Side apartment, she said, overwhelmed and confused, she stopped at a bar. As she sipped her bloody mary, she quietly listened to two men, neatly dressed in suits. For a second she thought they were going to compare that day’s horrifying attack to the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II:

“This is just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said.

The other asked, “What is Pearl Harbor?”

“That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War,” the first man replied.

At that moment, Ms. Jacoby said, “I decided to write this book.”

The rest of the article is good, but too brief!

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1 Comment »

  1. I’m too stunned to comment.

    Comment by elektratig — February 15, 2008 @ 8:31 pm | Reply


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