The Growing Tide of Anti-Intellectualism

October 20, 2014 at 11:07 am 1 comment

The issues raised about education are particularly relevant to this blog. State cutbacks of funding to universities send a message about what’s valued and what’s not. CS departments in state schools (and elsewhere) are facing enormous increases in enrollment, and without additional resources, are going to be imposing caps — which will serve to reduce the diversity of computing, as it did in the 1980’s. Where we place our resources indicates our values.

Spaf's Thoughts

There is an undeniable, politically-supported growth of denial — and even hatred — of learning, facts, and the educated. Greed (and, most likely, fear of minorities) feeds demagoguery. Demagoguery can lead to harmful policies and thereafter to mob actions.

I’ve written on this topic here before. I also have cited an excellent essay from Scientific American about how the rising tide of anti-intellectualism threatens our democracy and future (you should read it).

What prompts this post is a recent article about a thinly-veiled political probe of the National Science Foundation, combined with the pending national election in the US. (Some of these issues apply elsewhere in the world, but this is a US-centric post.)

This view is also reinforced by my current experience — I am on a combined speaking tour and family vacation in Poland. I recently visited a memorial to the Katyn massacre, remembering when Soviet…

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Women computer science grads: Raw numbers went up as percentages went down In Silicon Valley diversity conversations, age is left out

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Raul Miller  |  October 20, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    A possibly related issue is the ratio of compensation between administration and educators.

    In a cash rich environment, administration flourishes at the expense of actual education. So, regardless of the motivation of the politicians (which I will agree is often enough suspect), I also see the value in trimming back the school management.

    Of course another aspect of this is that some “schools” will thrive by sacrificing education at the expense of other forms of trickery. These people will thrive, for a time, and eventually be discovered and trigger another funding squeeze.

    A practical solution, here, might be to leave in place some of the [often substandard] money collection mechanisms while at the same time finding ways to use student and educator resources to supply some of the missing necessities and educational activities and references.

    In other words: concentrate on making sure the students get adequate nutrition and have places to sleep. And make sure they are at least able to learn about the basics. If library resources are lacking, use that to fuel original research. If research resources are lacking, study what people have done in the past when educational resources were far more scarce while negotiating for access to more current approaches.

    Etc. etc.

    And make sure you have some administrators on your side and support them. The administrative system will be looking to cut funding, increase the supply of administrators all the while trying to find somewhere else to pin the blame…

    It’s the same underlying process which leads to these current funding cuts.

    This kind of observation about how people work is what leads to things like “checks and balances” in government, and war and death when government gets out of control. [And, in the current U.S.A. our civil services have gotten large enough that they are probably in need of governance – or perhaps something useful to do with their time – even more than the rest of the population. At least if they keep busy they’re out of other people’s hair…?]

    That said… also keep in mind that recent deregulation of monetary instruments (Reaganomics and so on) have resulted in most of the supply of money winding up in the hands of people who have nothing better to do with their lives than collect money. It’s not just the “1%” but it’s also a population and investment base which is mostly in other countries (many with systems of bribery and/or violence to serve as their economies – look at central america for example – and then imagine how the successful people there expect to interact with us…).

    So… all judgement of human structures aside… there’s every reason to believe that the funding simply isn’t available, and that if you want to succeed you’ll have to find some other metric for success.

    Reply

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