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Fostering a Culture of Learning: Why Fighting Anti-Intellectualism Strengthens Society

In American society, there exists a serious and growing threat to the prosperity of our people. This would be the disregard and outright contempt that many hold for institutions based around education. This threat has been magnified by the anti-intellectual attitude of President Trump and his supporters.

It seems that there is always money to go to war or bail out the rich, yet there is so seldom any slice of the pie left for the public school teachers of America. This is because warmongering and big business are largely-respected aspects of our culture; our legislators don’t care that the men and women tasked with shaping the minds of our youth are paid as little as $27,274 a year (Montana state average) all while also having to pay for various school materials out-of-pocket. Why would they? Higher wages for teachers would mean higher-quality education, and any power-hungry politician knows that an uneducated populace is easier to control.

If we as a nation were to encourage learning rather than insult and spit upon those who choose to participate in higher education or label all professors and intellectuals as elitists, perhaps we could move up a few spots from our current abysmal rankings for math and science. If our president didn’t ignore the facts and surround himself with people who hold no respect for empirical data, we might have a culture that appreciates the STEM fields, and empowers institutions that fund important research.

We would recognize the significance of the tuition crisis, and implement methods to fund tuition-free university, which Slovenia, Finland, and 22 other countries have already done. The truth is that we are country with countless state and federal lawmakers who do not see much use for education and don’t understand the merits of learning and thinking; they do not care if people who educate children receive meager salaries, or if those who have performed exceptionally throughout their years of schooling must go into extreme debt just to attend college. We must build a culture that respects the sciences, academia, and the pursuit of knowledge, so as to create a more prosperous nation.

A study in 2013 found that over 30 million adult citizens are unable to read, and that over 66 million adults are below a fifth-grade literacy level. When looking into illiteracy in America, you’ll find that a sizable chunk of those who suffer from it are in predominantly-black areas of the country. Detroit, Michigan, whose population is around 83% black, has a functional illiteracy rate of 47%. Some of this is based on social remnants of a time when African-Americans were banned from reading and writing. A lot of this is also because of the fact that many of these communities are rather poor, which leads to bad schools, which can lead to gang activity becoming more of a priority to their youth than learning. It is of the utmost importance that we as a collective provide relief to these neighborhoods by empowering their schools and developing educational programs for their youth.

All of this is surely enough to display the importance of moving our culture beyond the “liberal elite”-bashing we constantly participate in when we disparage the professors and students at American universities. I would say that the benefits of building a culture that cares about learning are immeasurable, but really the benefits are all very plain to see. Prosperity comes from the ground up, and the ground is, undoubtedly, schooling.

So many believe that if the populace has plenty of guns at their disposal, they can fight a tyrannical government; but without intelligence, any revolt is doomed to fail.

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