“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always 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.”
I have been accused of all sorts of things over the years due to anti-intellectualism, you know the sort of thing. The idea being that if you value knowledge it makes you some sort of elitist.
Just this week a friend (and by extension, in context, it also applied to me) was accused of being "over-educated."
This cropped up because she had objected to the poor English in some of these "memes" that go around with otherwise worthy messages. Like me she feels unable to share the semi-literate ones.
Somebody said "not everyone has the benefit of an education."
If you don't know by now, I dropped out of school at 17, I am officially UNeducated. What education I did get was poor, really poor. I had very little benefit there. What I had was the desire to learn more. I saw no value in ignorance. Virtually everything I know of any worth, I taught myself.
Have I done that more than necessary? Definitely. And I shall continue to do so.
But what does over-educated mean anyway? Is it simply a sort of envy - "you know more than I do and it's not fair!" or what? I don't think it is possible to be over-educated. How can you learn too much? Without a doubt, what you do with that education may not be all to the good but that's a separate issue.
It's all nonsense anyway. If you needed specialist surgery, you would not object to the doctor being over-educated. You'd want him to know as much as he possibly could.
I have no time whatsoever for reverse snobbery in regard to education. In Africa there are young children who walk miles every day for the opportunity to get an education. And you really don't need me to tell you the story of Malala Yousafzai.
If, for whatever reason you are unable to learn, or you never got the chance to learn, or you don't want to learn, please don't turn it around and object to those who do. To put it another way, there's nothing clever about ignorance.
This morning I went to my local post office and was served by a very pleasant clerk. She is polite, friendly, and efficient. None of these, especially the latter, being guaranteed in post offices as I'm sure you know.
It would have been a very unremarkable visit if not for one off the cuff remark she made.
"I have never heard of Serbia."
I said nothing. I smiled. Not much you can say, is there?
I suppose I could have asked her if she'd been aware of any world events in the last 25 years, but one doesn't. She'd have felt silly, and I'd have looked like an arse.
I'm not sure which bothers me the most, that she works in a post office and has never been taught, or bothered to learn, at least the NAMES of all possible international destinations. Or that anyone, regardless of their job, can be oblivious like that.
I suppose she just doesn't care. I don't care that I've never heard of certain TV presenters, rap artists, or NASCAR drivers. I am not ashamed of my lack of knowledge in these areas. I suppose it's just a difference in areas of interest, or what one considers important.
I'll leave it Mr Fry to sum it up for me.
“There are young men and women up and down the land who happily (or unhappily) tell anyone who will listen that they don’t have an academic turn of mind, or that they aren’t lucky enough to have been blessed with a good memory, and yet can recite hundreds of pop lyrics and reel off any amount of information about footballers. Why? Because they are interested in those things. They are curious. If you are hungry for food, you are prepared to hunt high and low for it. If you are hungry for information it is the same. Information is all around us, now more than ever before in human history. You barely have to stir or incommode yourself to find things out. The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care to know. They are incurious. Incuriosity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is.”