October 27, 2013

The Brains Of This Operation: A Few Quick Thoughts On Experts And Academia

In Tea Party America, scholars are dismissed as elitists, and academia is repudiated for being out of touch. It seems there are a number of conservative Americans who feel menaced by the very existence of smart people.

I like to think that I’m a fairly intelligent person who doesn’t get trapped in rigid ideological thought. But I also recognize there are people in this country of higher intelligence, who know a thing or two about the subject or subjects for which they’ve studied. And you know what? I don’t feel threatened by them. I’m not intimidated by their existence.

If there is something to fear, it would be know-nothing know-it-alls banding together to form an influential political coalition that threatens to undermine our representative democracy.

We should not slander and vilify people for knowing more than we do, or diminish the work they do by saying they exist within an ivory tower. Society faces huge challenges like growing poverty and climate change. We cannot dismiss expertise in favor of fear based opinion. Stop fearing the experts, and start listening. We can have a healthy and honest debate if we are all working from the same fact-based reality.

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