Williamson Evers on Anti-Intellectualism in America

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 12, 2009 1 min read
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Williamson “Bill” Evers, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a conservative, expounds on why students in the U.S. don’t perform as well in math and science as students do in some other countries. His views are published in a Q&A in the Stanford Review. (It’s promoted on Evers’ Ed Policy blog, which he infrequently updates.)

Textbooks in the United States lack depth, and teachers here aren’t as well prepared as teachers in some countries, Evers contends.

In addition, Evers notes that U.S. culture has a current of anti-intellectualism, as Americans admire characters such as Huck Finn and Davy Crockett for not liking school. (“Scout” in the well-loved To Kill a Mockingbird, which I read for the first time this spring, is another famous fictional character who doesn’t much care for formal education.)

Evers says that in countries such as Hungary and Israel and in East Asian countries, people place a “high value on book learning.” (I’m thinking, too, of how a Russian-born friend of mine talks about how he and his classmates were required to read a long list of classics during school breaks in his home country.)

Readers, what do you think? Does a love of book learning or anti-intellectualism have the upper hand in our society?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.