Quotes on American Anti-Intellectualism

Isaac Asimov, 1980:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

This theme was famously expounded in Richard Hofstadter’s 1966 books Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.

This Wikiquote page includes the Asimov quote and couple by Hofstadter — and also, surprisingly, one from Gene Wolfe (who’s a devout Catholic, not there’s anything wrong with that) which I will also reproduce here.

This, then, is the new illiteracy, the illiteracy of those who can read but don’t. […] This new illiteracy is more pernicious than the old, because unlike the old illiteracy it does not debar its victims from power and influence, although like the old illiteracy it disqualifies them for it. Those long-dead men and women who learned to read so that they might read the Bible and John Bunyan would tell us that pride is the greatest of all sins, the father of sin. And the victims of the new illiteracy are proud of it. If you don’t believe me, talk to them and see with what pride they trumpet their utter ignorance of any book you care to name.

From a 1987 short story, “From a House on the Borderland” [which I don’t recall having ever read].

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