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On the characteristics of anti-intellectualism

by Nick Baez

Those of you who have been reading my articles will realize that not only do I hold science and reason to their proper esteem, but I also believe in making science accessible to the Latino community as a whole. 

Particularly with respect to my teaching philosophy, I believe that we must, as human beings, be willing to critically examine our beliefs for meaning and justification if we wish to add wealth and richness to the world as a whole. However, over the past few years, I have witnessed a rise in anti-intellectual sentiment, both in the classroom (from students) and in public discourse (from elected officials and part of the voting public).

We all remember the last Presidential race, when it was suggested by many that “intellectuals” were somehow “less American” or less able to understand the plight of “real Americans.” We have witnessed an attempt to rewrite the history of this country, out of a fear that students will come to “hate America” if we do not take such action. So how do we recognize anti-intellectualism when it occurs? In my estimation, anti-intellectualism arises out of a belief that a particular field of science/research is invalid or otherwise irrelevant for any one of the following five reasons:

  • Lack of comprehension/understanding of the subject matter: Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be able to give a lecture on the tenets of string theory. However, this should not deter a person from seeking out knowledge on a variety of subject matters, in order to understand the complexities of the world in which we live.
  • An erroneous belief that it will never be personally relevant for you: This characteristic arises out of pure narcissism. It leads to a worldview based on isolationism, and can make individuals blind to injustices occurring throughout the world.
  • It conflicts with what the cable news network told you: A good example of this is found in the rhetoric surrounding the Pledge of Allegiance, which many media outlets would claim is proof that America is a “Christian nation,” and that the Founding Fathers wrote it themselves. Neither of these assertions holds up to fact.
  • The belief that personal opinions have equal or greater weight compared to research and data: This is a disturbing trend in both the academic sector and in public discourse. Whereas scientific data is carefully scrutinized, peer reviewed, and retested, opinions can arise out of a vacuum without any justification for them.
  • The belief that “pop science” draws valid conclusions:  Nowhere is this more apparent than with the anti-vaccine movement (which is thankfully dwindling). Most of you who are reading this article (as well as your parents) are alive today because of the advent of vaccines and antibiotics, perhaps the two most important medical discoveries in human history. Most citizens of highly impoverished nations would do anything they can to have universal access to vaccines and antibiotics. Yet, in spite of study after study that clearly shows negligible risk, there is still trepidation among some individuals with getting vaccinations. There is even a false belief perpetuated by some that vaccines are loaded with lethal doses of mercury. Again, these assertions do not hold up to examination.

If we as a community are to play a major role in defining the agendas of the 21st century, we must be willing to understand that intellect and reason are virtues of global citizens, for they allow us to tackle complex global issues with intricate and creative solutions.

To learn more about Nick, find him on Facebook.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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About Nick Baez

Nick Baez, M.S. is a native of New York, New York (Lower East Side) and currently resides in Denver, Colorado. Throughout his academic and professional career, he has been a scholar in the fields of psychotherapy, anger and aggression research, trauma, youth leadership initiatives, and teaching. Committed to sound research and program development, Nick has been instrumental in tailoring programs to fit the needs of various communities, and subsequently evaluating those programs to ensure that they meet goals and standards. Most recently, Nick was the Mental Health therapist at Centennial High School in Fort Collins, CO. He has been a psychotherapist for 7 years, and specializes in adolescent populations. He has worked extensively with the National Hispanic Institute for 15 years, serving initially as a junior volunteer and currently as a senior staff member and senior alumnus. Through his work with the National Hispanic Institute, Nick has worked closely with thousands of high school students in helping develop initiatives to prepare them for leadership in the 21st century. Nick has conducted peer-reviewed research on risky behavior, anger, anger expression, and aggression, and has been previously recognized for his work by the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association. Nick has also done research on psychological trauma and its effects on cognition and interpersonal relationships. He has been invited on numerous occasions to give special lectures on trauma, co-dependency, ethnic identity, and social conflict.

A cum laude graduate of the College of Natural Sciences at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO, Nick holds a degree in Psychology. He additionally holds a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Colorado State University, and is currently a doctoral candidate there.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

Comments

  1. Jalisco No Se Raja! says:

    Ironically, your defense of intellectualism provoked a visceral reaction in me. I wanted to shout: Yes! Yes! Yes! … while pumping my fist in the air. However, for most, it is fear of change that deters them from the obtainment of knowledge and clarification and eventually, of enlightenment. Fear of change in their religious/historical/patriotic beliefs, traditions, and narratives discourages many to question because to question means to doubt, which is true. However, for some, doubt is a good thing, a healthy thing; for others, it’s fraught with anxiety as it represents possible change from a belief system inculcated over a lifetime. For these, change is anathema so it’s better not to know. For these, it’s better to simply believe what their parents or grandparents believed, or accept the truths as given by the cable news networks (the modern clergy to those who worship at the altar of nationalism/patriotism).

  2. Joseph Robredo says:

    Excellent.

  3. Julio says:

    One of the very few articles published here that make sense! Go NIck!

  4. I really enjoyed reading this article and share the sentiment. To bring about change the first & easiest thing we can do is have this conversation with younger generations.

  5. Nancy Sepulveda says:

    I LOVE this comment! ^ Makes me want to do my own fist-pumping :)

  6. Nick Baez says:

    Thank you all for your commentary! Jalisco: spectacular comment! I appreciate all of you for reading!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Development: We should never allow ourselves to have shortsighted educational goals or to adopt a mindset of anti-intellectualism, for this prevents communities from adding to the wealth of the global experience.  We must seek [...]

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  3. [...] familiar with my writings will recall that a little over a year ago, I published an article on the nature of anti-intellectualism. Among the five characteristics I discussed, one such characteristic deserves further attention: [...]

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