Greg Jayne’s column (“Can intellectual curiosity make America great again?” May 14) got my curiosity going so I reached for Webster’s Dictionary to try to figure out why “intellectual” is the dreaded “I” word. Here’s what I found:
Intellectual: 1. Done by, or appealing to the intellect. The word is sandwiched between “intellect” (1. The ability to reason or understand) and “intelligence” (1. The ability to learn and understand; 2. The ability to cope with a new situation.) Wow! I’m thinking we could use more, not less of this.
But anti-intellectualism isn’t new. Consider these excerpts from Kurt Vonnegut’s speech to the graduates at Southampton College in 1981: “Our leaders are sick of all the solid information that has been dumped on humanity by research and scholarship and investigative reporting. They think that the whole country is sick of it, and they could be right. It isn’t the gold standard that they want to put us back on; … They want to put us back on the snake-oil standard again.” Also: “We need you because we hope to survive as a species, and you are in possession of or can get possession of solid information which, properly understood and put to use, can save us as a species.”
I’d like to save us as a species, wouldn’t you?