shared an article from Psychology Today, on how anti-intellectualism is killing America
(and by America the authors mean the U.S.)
One of the things I've noticed over the years is that too many of the US people I know don't develop their own tastes. Now, I'm not talking about my friend set because, frankly, y'all not only have your own tastes you share them at top volume over the internet, and I love you for it. But among the people I know briefly or at one remove or are cousins, I've seen a trend for a good part of my life that certain things aren't "real."
I'm going to use music as an example, specifically two forms I like very much: Opera and Jazz. I can't count the number of times I've heard people say something along the lines of "no one really
likes opera." The implication being that if I've said I like opera then I'm either pretentious or lying or both (and in some cases it's not implied it's flat out stated).
But I try to explain that I have my own tastes. I don't like all opera. I don't like all operas by the same composer. I don't like the same composers as my mother and father or my best friend.
When I was tutoring (5th - 8th graders), I would try to get them to tell me what they liked or didn't like as part of a lesson. Most of the time they wouldn't. They'd tell me that they didn't want to go to a museum because they didn't like museums. When I asked which ones they'd been to, they admitted they'd never been to one, but they already knew they wouldn't like it.
If I asked about a specific book or song or whatever, I'd often find them waiting until I said whether I liked it or not so that they could agree with me. I tried to explain that I didn't care whether or not they liked it, I just wanted them to a) give their opinions and b) say why they liked or didn't like it.
This ties back, in my head, to critical thinking. The anti-intellectualism we're seeing isn't new. It may have become more widespread since Richard Hofstadter wrote about it in 1966, but he noticed a history, going back at least as far as de Tocqueville, of valuing the popular above the particular. I'm not saying popular culture has no value. I write fanfiction, for heaven's sake.
In my mind this comes down to taste-shaming. If you don't like country music, you're not a real American. If you do
like opera or cool jazz or going to museums, you're not a real American.
(A propos of nothing, there was a discussion at The Guardian last week related to the marginalization of non-white culture in the US. One commenter asked where was Kanye West's country album as if West needed to extend his reach into white culture. For the record, I'd listen to Kanye West's country album. I also like some of his music.)
I can think of no better way to encourage critical thinking than to cultivate one's own tastes. It means listening or viewing or tasting things you might never consider in the normal run of things, but it also means that a person can find the most beautiful piece of music in the world (mine's "The Martyr" by Modern Jazz Quartet. What's yours?) or let her eyes rest on an exquisite painting. It can be as simple as statement as "I prefer Brussels to Paris."
To my mind this is the first step toward defining values and defining values is the required step to being a responsible voter which is the next step toward being a good citizen. It all starts by being able to say, "I like that, and here's why."