Friday, February 15, 2008

"Americans Hostile to Knowledge"

Susan Jacoby wrote a book I'm ordering today:

The Age of American Unreason

American anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism is on a roll.... and many, if not most, Americans don't even think it matters.

Her thesis isn't new... but I'm hoping it will be accessible enough to recommend to those caught with the disease.

Read todays article: Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?

In the article she equates the desire for many religious Americans to see Creationism taught in school as an anti-intellectual approach. I don't think she's familiar with the many intellectuals who are actually part of the debate. But I will admit many in the debate are not open to discourse or a nuanced point of view.

And I do think she is right that we're offering mainstream courses in our colleges on pop-art and rock music, sacrificing the higher arts and culture in standard education.

It can go without saying that this plight is also in the American church by and large. Church is infotainment, a passive collection of people watching a band and a preacher. Then the preacher asks why the ones on the stage are the only ones doing anything. And the people in the pews say that the system has made it that way....

I don't think it's a church problem. I think the weird, passive, too - much - knowledge - is - dangerous attitude in American culture of today is IN the church. So we should expect this from the seats in the pews to the seats in the subway.

And I think Jacoby is right: this is not a generational thing. It isn't about Baby Boomers vs. Gen Yers. Many parents want youth leaders to help fix their kids, when the parents need fixing too.

Like I mentioned a couple of days ago in "The Music Diversion," maybe we need to not simply fast from music, but also fast from television or seeking entertainment to make us feel 'normal.' Maybe we need to work on a creative project or read a Kathleen Norris book (I recommend The Cloister Walk), or Dick Staub's The Culturally Savvy Christian, or even Living with Questions.

3 comments:

Journey said...

Heck yes they are! And the resistance is on three levels I might think.

Knowledge of God, self, and world, are avoided because each comes with a painful price...which most Americans, including the church, are unwilling to pay...

persifler said...

Dale,
I know it might be a wee bit dated, but I'm reading Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business." It goes very well with this post. I have posted a synopsis of the introduction on my Book Club page over at persifler/wordpress.

Postman talks about how 1984 came and went without Orwell's prophesy coming true, but... Huxley's "Brave New World",it seems, maps how our darling technologies will flood us with information that is more instant and less relevant. He says, "In '1984' people are controlled by inflicting pain... in 'Brave New World' they are controlled by inflicting pleasure."

I was reading on a blog here recently what people were engraving on the backs of their ipods and saw this, "People will pay more to be entertained than educated."

Dale Fincher said...

That's a LOVELY passage in Postman's introduction. Thanks for bringing it to mind.

Yes, this hostility to knowledge is not new... it's been going on for decades and much ink has been spilled over it.

What I like about Jacoby, and many others, is that she's throwing the problem back into the public eye.

This is an area where the church has tap-danced right along with the culture. We bless anti-rationalism as 'faith' and 'spirituality' and we dumb down the Scripture so much it loses its meanings.

It's a discouraging plight and we must guard our own hearts and minds in it. It could be God has given us a voice for such a time as this.