Presentation on theme: "By Chris Kuberski/March 12, 2009 Persistent Problems: An Analysis of Richard Hofstadter’s ‘Anti-Intellectualism in American Life’"— Presentation transcript:
By Chris Kuberski/March 12, 2009 Persistent Problems: An Analysis of Richard Hofstadter’s ‘Anti-Intellectualism in American Life’
Introduction/Biography Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) was an American historian, professor and intellectual. He was a leftist and Communist in college. Later in life he broke from any vestige of Communism, but retained his criticisms towards capitalism.
Introduction/Biography He was especially influenced by the work of Charles Beard, which shaped Hofstadter’s perception that most struggles were rooted in class & economic issues.
Introduction/Biography His 1963 book, ‘Anti- Intellectualism in American Life’, studies the reasons towards, symptoms and effects of antipathy towards scholarly pursuits in this country, spurred by the vehement conservative climate of the 1950s. It won the 1964 Pulitzer for Non-Fiction.
Introduction/Biography The book analyzes the role and/or lack of education in America, as well as the influence of Christianity, specifically branches of Protestantism. Issues of community, politics, geography and gender identity also come into play.
Introduction/Biography As will be discussed, Hofstadter provides a fascinating look at the 1950s & early ‘60s, as well as the longer history of the country, that repeatedly mirrors the concerns of the modern era.
Chapter 1: Anti-Intellectualism in Our Time Hofstadter wrote the book as an analysis of the 1950s & Cold War culture. He quickly refers to Joseph McCarthy’s Communist hunts and the “unpalatable” Richard Nixon while discussing the gap between intellectuals and the American people.
Chapter 1: Anti-Intellectualism in Our Time In terms of defining what he means by ‘intellectualism’ Hofstadter is never completely clear. However, he explains it is a complex of related propositions, and that the complex and the common strains are what matter. He continues that it is NOT dealing with feuds of the intellectual community, anti-rationalism, or the concerns of widespread attitudes, politics or middle/lowbrow behaviors.
Chapter 1: Anti-Intellectualism in Our Time He gives several examples to further make a point & prepare the reader. Example A: the 1952 Presidential campaign saw the ‘egghead’ insulted as emotional, superficial, feminine, confused, socialist and/or a stuffy prig. Simpsons character Martin Prince comes to mind.
Chapter 1: Anti-Intellectualism in Our Time Example B: President Eisenhower said an intellectual was a man who uses too many words to make his point.
Chapter 1: Anti-Intellectualism in Our Time Example C: The role of expertise over book knowledge is discussed. Maxwell Gluck was the Ambassador to Ceylon; he was clueless and fired within one year.
Chapter 1: Anti-Intellectualism in Our Time Example D: The issue of science and insufficient funding is raised. This is just the first of numerous examples that will make the modern reader pay attention.
Chapter 1: Anti-Intellectualism in Our Time Example E: the right wing had a hatred towards culture. They argued that the ‘real’ Americans were in the Midwest and rural regions and were too busy working. Once again, this sounds familiar, especially in lieu of the 2008 election.
Chapter 1: Anti-Intellectualism in Our Time Example F: Universities were targets, due to clashes of Communism and freedom. Example G: There remained a Jacksonian hatred of ‘experts’. Example H: There were many crackdowns on ‘unusual’ art. Example I: Right wingers complained of relative morals that pervaded society.
Example J: School curriculum needed to involve action, since pure knowledge was viewed as decadent. Example K: There were endless clashes between well- meaning parents and the wicked, corrupting teachers who exerted influence over their kids. Example L: The 3 R’s weren’t needed for everybody and everything. Chapter 1: Anti-Intellectualism in Our Time
Hofstadter concludes that most Americans were non- intellectual, not anti- intellectual. Also, intellect could be overvalued and should be properly balanced in one’s mind, work and life. Chapter 1: Anti-Intellectualism in Our Time
Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect Hofstadter contrasts intellect (viewed as bad & critical) & intelligence (good for an excellent mind). Max Weber had the notion that one should live off of ideas, not for them.
What is the difference between the two? Attitude! He writes intellectuals should be a society’s moral antenna, to clarify & realize larger moral issues. Zealotry in any form is a defect, and one must avoid too much mischief or piety. Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect
Playing & doing were key functions to learning about the world, and he cites men like Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson & John Maynard Keynes as people who were very accomplished, yet practical in life. Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect
Hofstadter constantly discusses the push for practicality that has dominated American thinking. Many have asked how much education is necessary for a practical life. Further, intellectualism is often perceived with fear and resentment as belonging solely to the powerful & privileged. Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect
The public often resigns itself to passivity in regards to corporate control. Scientific experts are OK, but social science experts are not, and are thus targets of the “type of mind that elevates hatred to a creed.” (37) It is sacred for an intellectual to work as a prophet, scholar or artist who is respected for sacrifice. It is profane to for an intellectual to try to have sway over public opinions. Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect
Experts are distrusted and perceived as a threat to the sensibilities of the individual; further, they might go so far as to destroy an entire society! Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect
The term ‘intellectual’ comes from France, where the right wing viewed it as a slur and the left wore it as a badge of honor. Issues arose for keeping freedom against the encroachment of the church, army, royalty & aristocracy. Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect
Liberals were historically & increasingly connected to progressive and radical causes. Problems developed in America when these traits were linked to the right’s enemies, a la Communism. During the 1930s 400 intellectuals signed a manifesto supporting Hitler’s Germany, and errors such as these were not forgotten by the right. Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect
Decades after World War II right-wingers were reluctant to stop hunting their Communist enemies, since they needed some target to remain vital. This included Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United Nations, African & Jewish-Americans, taxes, fluoridated water and modern religion. McCarthy complained of “20 years of treason”, which was proceeded by another 20 years starting with the 1913 Income Tax Amendment. Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect
They struck at famous figures, and often tried to get revenge for decades-old slight. In their minds: New Deal Welfare State Socialism Communism In this method, Communism became not the target, but the weapon to hurt opponents. Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect
Looking further back, from 1890-1920, America was still a mostly rural nation, with towns that were comfortably isolated. They began to recoil from what they viewed as the unpleasant realities of the 20 th century, which led to a loss of ruralism & tradition. Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect
By the 1950s, with the weight of the World and Korean Wars, the heartland rumbled with revolt. The catalysts included the new religions, literature, art, morals, sexuality, communications, the Scopes Trial, and the works of Freud, Marx and Keynes. Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect
Intellectuals were blamed for problems, and some of this attitude is justified, since thinkers’ ideas often jeopardize the old order. Still, much of the case against is exaggerated, if not wholly false. Avoiding any form of intellectualism can divorce one from a fully- realized life, but rationality is a danger to religion. This country was founded on breaking away from Europe’s decadence, and resulted in a more stubborn and hardscrabble existence. Chapter 2: On the Unpopularity of Intellect
Chapter 3: The Evangelical Spirit Here Hofstadter explores how the American attitude has been shaped by Puritans & Protestants. The was a focus on purely useful ideas, and emotions trumped everything else. Dating back to Europe, church attendance was more liked to social class. Lots of lower class people emigrated to America, and they wanted direct access to God and their own Bible, not more social authority they had to give in to.
Chapter 3: The Evangelical Spirit Faults were found in Anglicanism & the old Presbyterianism, and professional preachers were ignored, while new sects sprang up, including: Millenarians, Quakers, Seekers, Ranters, and the New Model Army. One definitely needs to look back to the Puritans to understand the new religions, as well as the causes & impacts of the Great Awakening.
Chapter 3: The Evangelical Spirit Puritans have a negative image, but were an intellectual ruling class. They had faith in learning, and founded Harvard University. Many graduated from Cambridge or Oxford, and stressed Humanist training. This resulted in tremendous overall productivity.
Chapter 3: The Evangelical Spirit The secular & sacred were merged together in America for survival and morale, especially during the bloody Indian Wars of the 1670s. It was still an age of relevant intolerance, but the clergy was still diverse, even if they couldn’t make the masses realize and accept every ideal.
Chapter 3: The Evangelical Spirit The clergy were actually more liberal, with a decent social record, while the civic leaders had to pander to the masses. By the late 17 th century the balance between intellect & emotion in the church split, and this set the stage for the Great Awakening by the middle of the following century.
Chapter 3: The Evangelical Spirit The Great Awakening prepared the way for later attacks on intellectuals. Established churches lost people because the services were dull. The revivalists were direct. Men like Gilbert Tennent were noisy and exciting, and challenged the notion that ministers had to be educated or orderly. Jonathan Edwards was rare, combining old Puritan toughnness with a modern 1730s zeal.
Chapter 3: The Evangelical Spirit The ministers responded brusquely, complaining of unintelligence and superstition in the new breed. Awakeners kept the Bible as the only necessary book, and often burned all of the others. In the burgeoning religious democracy pepole wanted their own tools for salvation. This grew into a militant anti- intellectual & anti-authority movement.
Chapter 3: The Evangelical Spirit In the Southern & Middle Colonies this zeal led to the creation of the Revivalist as we often perceive him: ecstatic, crazy, and howling, a stark and uncivilized contrast to that in the original colonies.
Chapter 3: The Evangelical Spirit Many believed that learnig was contrary to God’s wishes. After the American Revolution people kept pushing further west, away from any type of structure or restraint. As they went, American Christianity took on a more pronounced primitivism.
Chapter 3: The Evangelical Spirit Many families made at least 2-3 moves, and they traveled light. They were often squatters with no furniture, just utensils, simple beds, clothes and spoiled food. Kaskaskia, IL didn’t have a single Bible, and China, Indiana was noted in 1833 for a “dearth of intellect.”
Chapter 3: The Evangelical Spirit Pragmatically toughness and fortitude were more valuable on the frontier than literacy, and these traits would remain central, even as the remainder of the country became settled and civilized.
Chapter 4: Evangelicals & The Revivalists This new American Christianity was marked by liberty, with people choosing their own churches. YOU were responsible for getting religions, not vice versa, and there began a fierce drive for revivalists to convert the laypeople.
Chapter 4: Evangelicals & The Revivalists In an especially interesting turn, Revivalist preachers took on the styling of modern pop stars. They were dynamos who traveled the revival circuit and argued that piety was primary, and thus incompatible with the intellect.
Chapter 4: Evangelicals & The Revivalists They were responsible for spreading Protestantism to villages and cities, not the churches, and this led to an explosion in congregational enrollment. Hofstadter then focuses on 3 main groups, the Presbyterians, Methodists & Baptists.
Chapter 4: Evangelicals & The Revivalists Presbyterians were the most intellectual, but they were still limited. Charles Finney was prominent, and his goal was souls. He’d practiced law and spoken in the Puritan style, saying school couldn’t help ministers, and that elegance led to depravity.
Chapter 4: Evangelicals & The Revivalists Methodists grew to accept education. One key figure was John Wesley, a serious reader and Oxford cleric. He brought intellectual vigor & credibility. However, Francis Asbury, founder of American Methodism, said clerics should move around to stay fresh & free.
Chapter 4: Evangelicals & The Revivalists Methodists were tough, and worked the circuits harder than anyone. They earned a reputation for true seriousness, and focused on the uneducated and poor to grow their ranks. Only later when they wanted respect and more stability did they focus on education and learned discourse. Baptists had much in common with Methodists, with little focus on central authority, compromises or an educated & salaried minister.
Chapter 4: Evangelicals & The Revivalists New civics and industrial changes spread after the Civil War. Dwight L. Moody was an independent preacher who’d spoken to millions in the UK and was a “lovable” figure in American Protestantism. (107) He focused only on religion, countering knowledge, culture & science. He had the will and confidence of Ulysses Grant, and the business acumen of Andrew Carnegie and P.T. Barnum.
Chapter 4: Evangelicals & The Revivalists Moody had financial assistance, agents and advertising to take advantage of a pre-millenial cynicism & desire for meaning. He also brought respectability in that he wanted to purge the bestial elements from his crowd, and to speak plainly.
Chapter 4: Evangelicals & The Revivalists Moody’s successor, Billy Sunday, worked nearly 40 years, until 1935, and he similarly gained support from men like Theodore Roosevelt. His meetings had the flair of a circus; he spoke plainly to his working class crowd, and helped them believe that Jesus was just like them, a poor working man, and the “greatest scrapper of all time.” (114)
Chapter 5: The Revolt Vs. Modernity Revivalists Sunday fought modernist elements like Darwinism, city life and mobility fiercely, leading a militant religion. Here Hofstadter discusses the “100% Mentality” in which there would be no challenges, wavering or weak peace. (118) Intellectual sympathizers with Germany during World War I led to further hatred and the “generally prejudiced mind.”
Chapter 5: The Revolt Vs. Modernity These minds are generally rigid in their religion, and are also intolerant and prejudiced. This all fed the 100% Mentality. Fundamentalists began to lose their influence, congregations and meal tickets, and Sunday raged that “scholarship can go to hell.” (122)
Chapter 5: The Revolt Vs. Modernity Here the reader further sees the development of the urban/rural & left/right split that is still typical in the nation.
Chapter 5: The Revolt Vs. Modernity By the 1920s fundamentalists became the dissenters, and elements such as the Ku Klux Klan, Prohibition, the Scopes Trial indicated how hard people clung to the ‘old’ ways. Education was again blamed as the cause of all the modern strife, with William Jennings Bryan swearing he would forego all science & education if he could.
Chapter 5: The Revolt Vs. Modernity The Great Depression intensified this isolation and rancor, with many fundamentalists joining the right wing against the New Deal. Many of Sunday’s followers became fascists, leading to groups like the John Birch Society. Here the passion and energy began to argue for the way ‘the people’ really wanted to live in America. This sentiment moved from supporting the Cross to supporting the Flag.
Chapter 6: Decline of the Gentleman Hofstadter starts this chapter discussing why, if the Founders were so educated and intellectual, did the national attitude eventually change. He continues that as the country transformed from an elite to a more popular democracy, political & social divisions widened, and standards fell.
Chapter 6: Decline of the Gentleman Once parties began to form, the Federalists first attacked Presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson, calling him too much of a timid philosopher to follow such a giant as George Washington. Also, as an atheist, he might be a threat to the Christian community.
Chapter 6: Decline of the Gentleman It was unimportant that Jefferson worked hard on behalf of many of the oppressed. Here one sees the formation of the argument that CHARACTER (!), not intellect, mattered. This is another idea so ingrained in our national mind that we should analyze its development.
Chapter 6: Decline of the Gentleman William Loughton smith argued that a curious and active mind results in a feckless man, and that the military is where one truly displays and develops character. As America grew, the idea remained that education was the domain of the rich European oppressors who would hurt the poor & less-fortunate.
Chapter 6: Decline of the Gentleman Teachers were treated like any other laborer, and free education was demanded for all common people. Of course, here is the notion that commoners are somehow privy to a deep well of innate, folksy wisdom. Just as evangelicals saw no need for a church hierarchy, Americans found no use for a rigid school system.
Chapter 6: Decline of the Gentleman People wanted independence, and this feeling transferred naturally to politics. The rise and election of Andrew Jackson led to the belief that anybody could prosper and lead.
Chapter 6: Decline of the Gentleman Compared to the cold, bookish and disastrous John Quincy Adams, Jackson (of the log cabin and hard cider) was viewed as real, and a real alternative. A popular slogan in the 1824 election split the choices between “John Quincy Adams who can write, and Andrew Jackson who can fight.” (159)
Chapter 6: Decline of the Gentleman It also didn’t matter that Jackson was a wealthy & highly intelligent lawyer. He had an authentic air about him that most rural Americans could easily identify with.
Chapter 6: Decline of the Gentleman Riding this wave, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier, represented such egalitarianism as he went to Congress, saying he’d ever read the law, but he’d made plenty of good, solid decisions.
Chapter 6: Decline of the Gentleman If men like Crockett could rise so high and defend the working class, what was the point in education, if the alternative was the stuffy Martin Van Buren, living in luxury?
Chapter 6: Decline of the Gentleman Thousands of Americans identified with Jackson & Crockett, and the refined gentleman began to disappear. By the 1850s congress was a wild club replete with bad manners, drinking, failure and Bowie knives. (167) These were the minds arguing for or against issues like slavery, and it is no wonder that from such a rancorous environment exploded the Civil War.
Chapter 6: Decline of the Gentleman The Jacksonian legacy kept a low regard for civil service, along with low pay. Old ways died as more people rotated in and out of public offices. While it was keen to let more people participate, this further devalued the opinions of experts who had actually studied & focused on particular issues and sectors.
Chapter 7: Fate of the Reformer The gentleman was sidelined, Abraham Lincoln aside. After his death reformers were limited, and nobody really addressed the crop of problems during and after Reconstruction. Reformers were perceived as rich, righteous and distant Yankees, not the self-made type.
Chapter 7: Fate of the Reformer To be fair, many intellectuals and reformers loathed bumpkin farmers, workers and immigrants. In this wake, many bosses a la Tweed in New York worked with and for immigrants, further marginalizing intellectuals and reformers.
Chapter 7: Fate of the Reformer The issue of civil service was the root, and this system was based on that run by England’s gentlemen. Debates sparked over whether merit should be judged by education, military service or character. Would wounded veterans who’d fought so valiantly for America be denied work in place of bookworms who’d sat out the war?
Chapter 7: Fate of the Reformer Politicians responded by attacking higher education and culture, which were out of reach for most of their constituents anyway. Men were to be engaged in practical civic endeavors, and women weren’t, which leads to a whole other dimension based on sex and gender.
Chapter 7: Fate of the Reformer Intellectuals and college graduates were derided as “the 3 rd sex,” “namby-pamby, goody-goody gentlemen” and “political hermaphrodites.” (188) Reformers were mocked as “long- haired men and short-haired women,” an ugly attitude that would resume during the civil rights era and continue to exist. (190)
Chapter 7: Fate of the Reformer Manners were, frankly, gay, and politics was a man’s arena. If women crossed into it, they might upset the natural national order.
Chapter 7: Fate of the Reformer Theodore Roosevelt tried to overcome these stereotypes. Despite his patrician New York background, manners, glasses and education, he demonstrated a rare example of a well-rounded politician’s life.
Chapter 7: Fate of the Reformer Roosevelt was a brilliant speaker, author of numerous books, and highly informed on a myriad of topics. He also fought in the West, urged a militant nationalism and stressed his famous concept of the fulfillment one gets from leading the ‘strenuous life’.
Chapter 7: Fate of the Reformer Here college man & cowboy combined greatly to guide a new American Progressivism. That wouldn’t always be the case with our cowboy Presidents.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts At this point Hofstadter explains how the gap between intellectuals and the powerful began to close. Decades of uneducated rascals in power left a tremendous national mess, and democratic government was improved by the knowledge of educated experts.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts As an example he delves into FDR, the New Deal and his Brain Trust. Forty years hence, Robert M. LaFollette stressed the practical college education. In Madison, WI experts were trained to serve ‘the people’.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts These experts were set to work on tax reform, railroads and legislation, among others. Republicans split between Progressive & Conservative camps, the latter complaining of too much socialism. Progressives broadened their base to examine many aspects of life. Still, ideas didn’t lead to a revolution, but there was a new style and tone developing.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts The people needed to know things about the way America functioned, but intellectuals were skeptical of the way Woodrow Wilson limited Progressivism. World War I resulted in lots of liberal support, with hundreds of intellectuals on boards and clubs. Most of them fully supported the war from a governing standpoint, but by the end the intense anti-war sentiment in the nation led intellectuals to be viewed as liars, bureaucrats and Reds.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts World War I resulted in lots of liberal support, with hundreds of intellectuals on boards and clubs. Most of them fully supported the war from a governing standpoint, but by the end the intense anti-war sentiment in the nation led intellectuals to be viewed as liars, bureaucrats and Reds. Conversely, intellectuals viewed their attackers as cretins.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts The New Deal and World War II brought intellectuals back to the public’s good graces. There were lots of problems that needed solving, and hundreds of new jobs were created as a result. Still, conservatives complained that the Brain Trust, not the Cabinet or Congress, really ran the nation. Old resentments resumed and biases were exaggerated.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts Questions arose to whether they were black or white, or practical men. FDR said he was just getting advice and nothing else from the Trust. WWII needed experts to manage such an enormous task, but after 1945 the old disgusts resumed. This was the end of the next wave of intellectualism and popular democracy fusing for a common goal.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts In 1952 Adlai Stevenson was viewed as a relief after the Truman administration. Intellectuals felt FDR had disappointed them, and they saw hope in the Senator from Illinois. However, Stevenson was tremendously overmatched in 1952. Democrats had been in power for 20 years and it was time for a change. The Korean War and prosecution of Alger Hiss did nothing to help the party.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts Regardless, against Eisenhower, the great General, nobody else had a chance. Stevenson won more popular votes than Roosevelt or Truman, but it was hard to lead his party. Further, his sharp wit and intelligence were viewed unfavorably, especially when a Detroit woman whined, “we should have something in common with a candidate for President,” (225) as if it was too much to ask an American to identify with an intelligent person. The idea that we should want to share a beer with our President didn’t help fifty years later, either.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts The animosities formed during the New Deal reared up once again, and Stevenson was tarred as not being masculine enough, unlike Ike the Warrior. People began murmuring about “pinko professors”, and Stevenson joked to his fellow eggheads that they had nothing to lose by their yolk.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts President Kennedy demonstrated that books weren’t effeminate or destructive. He worked with intellectuals both for the media appearance and for their genuine contributions.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts While Kennedy filled his ‘manhood’ quotient by serving in the Navy and playing football, he also authored a book, and played White House host to poets Robert Frost & e.e. cummings, and classical cellist Pablo Casals.
Chapter 8: Rise of the Experts Kennedy knew he had to keep looking for talent if America was going to reach the new frontier, and that FDR had the right idea when he assembled his own team of intellectuals.
Chapter 9: Business & Intellect It was often debated whether business and intellect were compatible. The answer was often ‘no’, in that the two camps had very different views and goals. Further, business had often been harshly demonized in dozens of novels, films, and short stories.
Chapter 9: Business & Intellect From the industrial boom after the Civil War business had often appeared omnipresent and insidious. There would be heroes like Carnegie & Ford who would create foundations to help people, but they would often fight with intellectuals over their status. Also, intellectuals would bite the hand that fed them by accepting money, then attacking their supporters.
Chapter 9: Business & Intellect Business has been a prime motor in America, with a focus that people should go straight to work to earn a living. Further, the attitude towards the past has been negative, since there’s so much to do in the present.
Chapter 9: Business & Intellect Mark Twain viewed technology as the progress of humanity, though he also commented that people will always behave like people. He explored the nuances of human behavior in his novels, with Tom Sawyer representing staid, traditional culture against Huck Finn’s tough realism.
Chapter 9: Business & Intellect Business also supported culture through industry and advertising, so the two fields went hand in hand. Still, people asked whether business was a way of life or a way to a life. (244) It could be a mindset and behavior, but it could also lead one to greater comfort and wealth, as well as social contributions through philanthropy.
Chapter 9: Business & Intellect Still, like all things, business began to deflate. More Americans focused on local situations rather than international trade, and they fell into an isolated bubble. While not everyone could be an intellectual, they could at least have an education. In business, not everybody could be wealthy & successful.
Chapter 10: Self-Help & Spiritual Technology After business, Hofstadter explores the concept of the self-made man and the respect he has traditionally garnered. This is based in Puritan tradition, with Ben Franklin as an American archetype. Often an impoverished childhood was considered a help, to make one’s success appear all the greater.
Chapter 10: Self-Help & Spiritual Technology For self-made men, genius wasn’t necessary, just a good work ethic and common sense. The brilliant often were and are chide for being too difficult and obnoxious. Education was often a barrier, and it was experience that mattered.
Chapter 10: Self-Help & Spiritual Technology Vocational and trade schools were opened, and Cornelius Vanderbilt boasted that he didn’t need school or culture. Carnegie liked to learn, but he was still foremost a businessman. These men argued that education filled one’s head with false ideas, laziness & arrogance.
Chapter 10: Self-Help & Spiritual Technology Still, by the 20 th century it was clear it wasn’t a good idea to have the uneducated & unskilled in power. New corporations developed, but it was still preferable if employees didn’t think too hard or ask many questions. That of course would interfere with business and profits.
Chapter 10: Self-Help & Spiritual Technology Self-help, character, faith and success were all tightly bound together. People would base their businesses on Jesus’ actions, taking a dozen men and working up from the bottom to spread their product for massive success. This was expressed in the book “The Man Nobody Knew.”
Chapter 10: Self-Help & Spiritual Technology This idea also spread to the religious sphere in terms of practicality, as voiced by Norman Vincent Peale. The critical mind was in fact an obstacle since it resulted in a loss of faith, and liberals & intellectuals were railed against as not having a solid grasp on reality.
Chapter 11: Variations on a Theme Hofstadter begins this chapter discussing that while most Americans were farmers, they took appalling care of their land. He points to the distinction in the 19 th century between dirt farmers (who knew little) and gentleman farmers (who used science to improve their crops yields).
Chapter 11: Variations on a Theme Civic leaders wondered if schooling would help farm kids. The 1862 Morrill Act wasn’t very popular, even though it would repair damaged soil. (279) What actually happened was that most kids would leave farming entirely once they possessed a wider array of knowledge. Success and wealth kept them from hard labor farming, and they turned more towards business.
Chapter 11: Variations on a Theme The labor movement was at odds with intellectual values, even though unions had roots in socialism. Many argued that socialism was impossible in America, and that intellectuals had no idea what it meant to do a full day’s honest work. With another clash in personal issues, preferences & tastes most workers were severely anti-intellectual.
Chapter 11: Variations on a Theme The same rigid zealotry could be found in Communists themselves, in that they had to stick to the party line, and often lacked basic knowledge of Marx. Still, there was too much condescension towards the working class, though the work had to be done first before there could be any revolution. Thus, the quandary.
Chapter 12: The School & The Teacher Regarding education, there wasn’t so much an enthusiasm for intellectuals as there was for popular education and practicality. This is the recurring buzzword in this chapter, as Hofstadter discusses free public common schools.
Chapter 12: The School & The Teacher Intellectuals argued that great men like Washington, Jefferson & Lincoln needed education, but a modern apathy and lack of focus negated that idea. Teaching in the 19 th century was a rough fight. Most teachers were poorly equipped in the first place, and students further had to deal with few books, random curricula and dull tasks.
Chapter 12: The School & The Teacher In 1902 the New York Sun complained that the child must be kept amused and entertained, and taught whatever he pleases. (303) These students left school with atrocious math and language skills, and a paltry grasp of history. Then, as now, people commented that if education was so vital, there should be better money, work and results for the nation.
Chapter 12: The School & The Teacher The focus of schools then was the political & economic benefits, not an appreciation for high culture. Echoing President Obama’s recent address that failing to complete high school is equivalent to betraying your country, education was a child’s civic duty, since it was the path to power and success.
Chapter 12: The School & The Teacher Children would learn how to behave and work, and wisdom would be secondary. This attitude seriously minimized the Founders’ practiced intellectualism, though schoolbooks were very effective at spreading this idea. As cited earlier, cultural education was viewed as the domain of an inferior and lazy European elite.
Chapter 12: The School & The Teacher The teacher was a role model, since home was not always the best learning environment. Unfortunately, the salaries & status of the American teacher were far below that of his international counterparts.
Chapter 12: The School & The Teacher There would be good student rapport, but teachers were often known for their “mediocrity” (312). The life looked pathetic, and men often left the jobs for other more lucrative fields. Schools would often hire men who were disabled, cruel, lazy or inept
Chapter 12: The School & The Teacher The maladroit character Ichabod Crane became the popular stereotype. He was good at his job and women appreciated him, but he wasn’t a hero to men.
Chapter 12: The School & The Teacher The problem with men was tackled when the German model for a graded primary school run by women was instituted, especially when most men were off during the Civil War. Still these women were young and had little preparation.
Chapter 12: The School & The Teacher It was often dubious whether diplomas even mattered if a student would enter a job that didn’t require it. America was a rarity in the Westernized world for its shoddy treatment of teacher, student, and education. With generations of citizens passing through this system, one can clearly see the root for many social ills.
Chapter 13: The Road to Life Adjustment In this chapter Hofstadter links the factors between school and life. High school can be a tool of tremendous opportunity, and he notes that the focus on a later college education became another point of argument. It would keep kids from working as child labor, but the byzantine operations of a typical high school left many kids doubtful and hostile
Chapter 13: The Road to Life Adjustment Many prominent people said school should prepare kids for life, not college, and put the arts on the back burner. Further, school should be for all kids, not just the privileged (often wayward) college-bound. A popular pamphlet, “The Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education” in the early 20 th century called for mandatory education. This text cost only a few cents and was printed by the thousands, and had a tremendous impact on educational attitudes.
Chapter 13: The Road to Life Adjustment Immigrant children were sent to school to learn ‘the American way of life’, conduct and hygiene, not to learn a fancy lesson on poetry or sculpture. Education became more localized against the looming autonomy of the university.
Chapter 13: The Road to Life Adjustment Out of the practicality sphere came the life-adjustment movement, where the value was placed in applicability. Kids would learn how to apply skills in terms of driving a car, showering, babysitting, buying groceries, preparing a meal and navigating around the city, for example.
Chapter 13: The Road to Life Adjustment While this method of schooling has continued, often successfully, it raises the question of whether one’s IQ can change, and whether a solid liberal arts intellectual education is truly feasible or even desirable for a mass population.
Chapter 13: The Road to Life Adjustment Some educational leaders argued that everyone should be trained as a slow learner, to pick up ‘the basics’, and gifted students often found themselves lumped in with special ed, or at least an ‘unusual’ group. If the main goal is a well-behaved and productive citizen, then these classes work quite well. That next step towards further self-realization & intellectualism, though, continues to evade most educators.
Conclusion Even though Hofstadter’s book was published 45 years ago, it is still a highly fresh read. So many of the issues he addresses are wholly relevant to the modern American landscape. In terms of education, politics, class & economic differences and religion, it feels as if he was making insightful comments on 2009.
Conclusion Hofstadter would most likely have been appalled by the decline in most of the areas he writes about, and it is clear that all the problems we complain about have substantial documented historical causes behind them. While we often look at the ‘50s and ’60s as a more focused and diligent age, it is clear the seeds were being sown for the arrogance and ignorance that pervades our land.
Conclusion The parallels between his time and ours are repeatedly astonishing. However, one can only hope that Americans can rededicate themselves with the new administration can begin to do the work of reversing such a callow and venal trend in order to restore American respect and credibility.