lisa_emily, June 12, 2008 (view all comments by lisa_emily)
Jacoby was inspired, or rather compelled to write this book after hearing a conversation on 9/11/2001- according to The New York Times (2/14/2008), it went something like this: “This is just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said. The other asked, “What is Pearl Harbor?” “That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War,” the first man replied. At that moment, Ms. Jacoby said, “I decided to write this book.”
After reading this article and few more reviews, and after seeing Ms Jacoby give a book reading in San Francisco, I became inspired to read it. I mostly wanted to see how if I was as ignorant and uninformed as the rest of America; and I also have a deep curiosity to understand the strange history of America's intellectuals.
After reading this, I am curious to see how Jacoby's book departs or expands upon Richard Hofstadter's book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. I think Jacoby does present some of the challenges Americans face in issues of education and critical thinking. Religious fundamentalism and video media are the main culprits to intellectual downfall, according to Jacoby, and I agree. However, I am more concerned of how Americans lost a respect and desire for knowledge and rational understanding. We had a trajectory for such values, but what happened? Where do we fall to the wayside? Jacoby's book excellently diagrams how we have gone awry and what are culprits, but I perhaps I wanted to dig a little deeper into the murk.
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aeduston, May 4, 2008 (view all comments by aeduston)
A great, literary and eye-opening look at American education, popular culture and politics. Critical and fascinating - one of my best reads in years!
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Inspired by Richard Hofstadter's trenchant 1963 cultural analysis Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Jacoby (Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism) has produced an engaging, updated and meticulously thought-out continuation of her academic idol's research. Dismayed by the average U.S. citizen's political and social apathy and the overall 'crisis of memory and knowledge involving everything about the way we learn and think,' Jacoby passionately argues that the nation's current cult of unreason has deadly and destructive consequences (the war in Iraq, for one) and traces the seeds of current anti-intellectualism (and its partner in crime, antirationalism) back to post-WWII society. Unafraid of pointing fingers, she singles out mass media and the resurgence of fundamentalist religion as the primary 'vectors' of anti-intellectualism, while also having harsh words for pseudoscientists. Through historical research, Jacoby breaks down popular beliefs that the 1950s were a cultural wasteland and the 1960s were solely a breeding ground for liberals. Though sometimes partial to inflated prose ('America's endemic anti-intellectual tendencies have been grievously exacerbated by a new species of semiconscious anti-rationalism'), Jacoby has assembled an erudite mix of personal anecdotes, cultural history and social commentary to decry America's retreat into 'junk thought.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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