The teen years are hard … for everyone. It’s difficult to be a teen, but it’s also hard to parent and teach teens. When we consider bright, articulate, smart teens who have a passion for learning, we up the ante significantly. Having to deal with the effects of anti-intellectualism in of all places -school – can be devastating for many. It begins with name-calling and exclusion from social groups, but can escalate to more troubling actions.
What exactly is anti-intellectualism? Simply put, anti-intellectualism is hostility towards and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals and intellectual pursuits. (Wikipedia) It is the derision of education, philosophy, literature, art and science as impractical and contemptible.
Teens are particularly susceptible to the effects of anti-intellectualism. Peer groups are extremely important during these years and teens don’t want to be seen as geeks and nerds. Gifted teens don’t want to be stereotyped as intellectual and feel they’ll be unpopular and bullied. Many of them see athletes, artists, musicians favored by society and want to ‘fit in’.
Image courtesy of Ashwani Garg, MD via Twitter
Anti-intellectualism can manifest in schools in many different ways such as placing sports above academics. It can lead to ridicule and bullying of gifted students and especially twice exceptional kids. The rise of high school dropout rates is one indicator of the increase in anti-intellectualism.
There are some coping strategies which gifted teens can use to combat anti-intellectualism. Gifted teens need to develop self-awareness about the nature of their own intellect; choose a personal path forward. Confronting anti-intellectualism can only succeed when done in a positive manner. At some point, teens need to understand the roots of anti-intellectualism; why others feel this way.
How can parents and teachers help gifted teens deal with anti-intellectualism? They need to mentor GT teens by providing them information on the causes of anti-intellectualism. Also, they can serve as role-models for gifted teens; responding to anti-intellectualism appropriately as well as inform GT students about ways to self-advocate in the face of anti-intellectualism.
The consequences of anti-intellectualism for the future of our society may be severe. Anti-intellectualism at its very root rejects critical thinking and is against anything considered elite. The very ideas that move a society forward are now suspect; we come to hate the things that could save us. Anti-intellectualism brings with it higher crime rates and incarcerations; lower literacy rates; less social mobility.
It’s important not to trivialize the signs of anti-intellectualism if we are to continue moving forward as a civilization. As parents and teachers, we must understand the effects it has on our brightest students and work to support them in their endeavors. The transcript of this chat may be found at our Storify page.
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About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: email@example.com
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1966) (Amazon)
The Age of American Unreason (Amazon)
Anti-Intellectualism in Education (1955 Preview Only)
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.