I attribute Americans' lack of interest in hard facts to 50 years of very comfortable life in America. I don't think Americans are perceived as hostile to global knowledge; we are correctly judged to be just plain ignorant. Aside from our recent inept attempts to cure the world of "Islamofacism," our isolationism is now being replaced by an unbecoming xenophobia. Put up walls. Take down the Statue of Liberty. Like the Romans of the 5th century, we are a nation in decline.The first thought that came to my mind was "This question doesn't really make much sense... Since when are Americans hostile to knowledge? And who cares?"Like an alcoholic, we are addicted to our creature pleasures and useless information- caught in a perpetual world of Pong. We have abrogated our responsibility to be truly informed to a pack of people who merely manipulate us. And like an addict, we will not discover the cure, knowledge and active participation, until we hit bottom. But we will, at any moment, be able to tell you the latest basketball scores and where Britney is spending the night.Americans are among the dumbest populations on the planet, on average.The majority of americans are anti-intellectual as a culture. They are fearful and resentful of the the well educated and intellectual. They have great respect for hard work and creativity but are averse to considering an issue from many angles and withholding judgement. They like to judge and act fast.What I learn those years is that the average america cares only for what happens in the area where they belong. Most people watch only local TV news and reads only local newspapers, in which the references to World news are almost none.Is it perhaps the Imperial Ideology propagated in the popular media? It can be summarized as follows: "all we want is to help these people to develop and establish Democratic rule -like ours in their country. We may steal their raw materials, meddle with their politics -so we can ensure the siphoning of these materials,and those who do not like that or resist, we must reform or eliminate. Our citizens, this is all they have to know -nothing else. If they know more, that could endanger their way of life." A bad picture must be painted of these people, so exploitation can go on without serious resistance in the homefront. It worked during slavery, it can work now. The result?A psycological block for any substancial knowledge for the Other.Americans can be best compared to a human baby. A baby has an egotistical sense of self, which makes him/her focus on his/her own needs. They are incapable of paying attention to anything else as they only aware of how everything revolves around them. Since they only perceive and observe their inmediate surroundings they miss out on a world beyond their natural borders.We, fellow Americans, still think of ourselves as an 800 pound gorilla, as a king of the hill in a global scene. But the paradigm is shifting, as it has been for the past several decades.There is a tradition of anti-intellectualism in the United States.Don't know. Don't care.It is fairly obvious for most of the worlds citizens that American ignorance is barely just one symptom of a nation that has an ego far above its reality.America is a culture of individuals,the focus is on self and individual responsibility for one's own actions,there is much less of a collective consciousness here and that often fractures along ethnic and religious lines.We are a terribly ignorant people. Partly because our failure in our education system, and partly because of our isolation. Prosperity and relative geographic isolation create the illusion that we are unaffected by the affairs of our neighbors.When you grow up in a different country, as I did, you are not told by the school, media, church, family etc, that you live in the greatest place on earth. You love your land but you read literature from other countries, you listen to music in other languages, you follow sports that involve many different countries.It's self-evident. The Bush years are proof positive that a large portion of Americans are driven by fear and ignorance. Whenever I correspond with people outside our borders, I apologize in advance.A third reason is that gaining knowledge about foreign affairs inevitably leads to debates over foreign policy, economic systems, and politics, and in today's hateful, hyper-partisan environment, that leads to ferocious angry arguments. Most of the American students I've talked to say they "hate" politics and avoid any discussion of politics. So they remain amazingly ignorant.We have an indifference to world knowledge that may have roots in our position as a superpower, imagining that our superior ecomomic and military might extends to cultural superiority.anybody who has travelled to other countries can regale you with stories about the ignorance displayed by americans. it is, literally, impossible to have a conversation with an american that has anything to do with any other country or culture.For decades politicians have shoehorned themselves into being elected by disparaging "elitist, latte-drinking eggheads and academics". Anyone whose aura smacks of intelligence married to book-learning is viewed with suspicion as being disengaged from and disdainful of the common people, hopelessly out of synch with average folks' hopes and dreams. This is laughably hypocritical in a country that worships elitism when it comes dressed up as celebrity or the aristocracy of the rich (no matter how poorly those rich men may pretend to be dirt-farming good ol' boys.)I believe the problem has no solution. Rampant anti-intellectualism has been a part of American life for so long, now fostered by the complete irrationality millions of religious fundamentalists, that is only likely to grow.Pride in not knowing and not giving a damn is a venerable American tradition, particularly in Texas and the south.Somehow or other the culture in the US has cultivated, and generally accepts that the US is somehow exceptional in all respects. With US exceptionalism comes a certain hubris that (i) the rest of the world should somehow automatically accept that view, (ii) that there are no lessons to be learned by the US, (iii) that US practices are best practices, (iv) the rest of the world should automatically and immediately accept US policies and practices, and (v) there is something wrong with the rest of the world if they don't.Because it's human nature to tune out whatever has absolutely no impact on one's immediate daily concerns.People dislike us because we're free, hard-working and God-fearing people, so, to hell with them.Certainly when I travel or live abroad most expatriates share the same opinion or witness Americans as ignorant AND arrogant at the same time. America's main downfall in this arena is not that we Americans don't know many things , but rather the annoying 'defensive ignorance' that pervades our culture- as in, "Why would I want to know that? Only dorks know that stuff".Though there are stellar exceptions, Americans are infused after birth with arrogance and ignorance.Why limit it to global knowledge? Americans don't know much about anything. A very large number of American adults are functionally illiterate. By the government's own estimates, about 90 million people are either completely or functionally illiterate.I don't think that those in power are unhappy with the situation, because an ignorant electorate is easily manipulated. Witness the 'Patriot' Act and the various erosions of civil liberties in the past 7 years.It's not just perception. Americans are hostile toward knowledge. In America, opinion is king, facts mere pawns to be pushed about. Our so-called pundits slap on a label first, then conveniently skip supporting arguments. Name calling simply seems to sell better here than reason.two words...American exceptionalism..ie Americans percieve themselves to be somehow above or apart from the rest of the world. Unfortunately for them, they're different all right, but not in the nice ways they think.Anyway these discussions always seem to rely solely on anecdotes, which are entertaining (and/or cringe-worthy) but totally useless.American culture has been built upon a tradition of pragmatism, with a focus on individual happiness built into the very constitution. It should not be surprising that the mainstream culture would be characterized by people who only know things that are of direct benefit to themselves.One factor is that individual Americans don't need global knowledge.I have to agree, however, that many but not all Americans appear to have a very limited degree of intellectual curiosity about the world around them and tend to believe that the U.S. is the be all and end all of everything that goes on in the world.Lamentably, it seems to me that people who are smart are often thought of as 'too smart for their own good' in the States, and it seems to be something of a sport to bring such people down. Until most people in the U.S. see the advantages of culture and knowledge rather than deprecating them, things are not likely to change.Instead of trying to get along with our global neighbors, we bully them. Instead of trying to understand the customs of our global neighbors, we force ours upon them. This does not breed love for us in the rest of the world. It breeds contempt. What is the cause of terrorism against us? We are. What is the one true weapon against such terrorism? Knowledge. That leads to understanding and compassion.The answer is simple. Americans are perceived as being hostile to global knowledge, because they are hostile to global knowledge.Culturally, we've come a long way from 1958, when we gave Harvey van Cliburn a ticker-tape parade down Broadway for winning the gold medal in the Tchaikovsky piano competition in Moscow. That would never happen today. We don't teach music anymore in most school districts. But it's comforting to see Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs in the pages of the Times, where we can read about his integration into the polite society of East Hampton and the Upper East Side.Is it any wonder that Europeans find us boorish and ignorant?Kultur? What kultur? Clearly, my friends, we live in the post-literate age, I'm afraid. Increasingly, young people are unable to express themselves articulately. Their attention span is pitiful, scattered and fragmented. Mindless nauseating trash is treated as entertainment!I get somewhat defensive -- ever tired of all the American bashing -- but this is one accusation that I sometimes wonder about myself.Perhaps it's not that Americans are becoming less informed but that technology makes it ever easier to witness our shortcomings.Unfortunately, a quick scan of the responses illustrates the point -- there's a strong, anti-intellectual tradition in American culture, and it's getting deeper and broader.Possible American Characteristics: Deep consumerism. Strong value on titiliation for entertainement. Wealth generating machine but income distribution system is failing. Used wealth & other qualities to be imperialistic, despite some attempts at spreading democracy and economic equity. Inately violent (eg 40,000 firearms deaths/yr--nowhere else is such a disaster so rampant). High value on individualism may explain some of the above, and the lack of social care (health care, pension, equity, the only country relying on property owners to fund basic education (which poor quality is a major cause of these problems). In sum, "adolescent"?Kids are lazy in the USA - it's that simple. They see celebrities, reality show stars, sports and pop stars all earning big bucks so easily. They actually believe it's all real life. Kids think earning money and what it can buy is all there is. Science, physics, geography, history - PLEASE! Since when did thesemake you rich?Many Americans have grown up with the misconception that our country is the center of the world, admired and envied by the rest of the planet as the premier working democracy. In the last 30 years, as the quality of American democracy has become increasingly compromised and the country's foreign policy has become more belligerent and self-centered, enough people around the world have come to dislike us and mistrust us that the man in the street knows that all is not well with America.Tell us "America is the greatest country on earth" from the time we are born, and we start believing it.Three principal philosophies which reinforce each other: (a)know-nothing anti-intellectualism and willful ignorance deriving from fundamentalist religious beliefs and poor education; (b)faith in the exceptionalism of America and Americans; and (c) libertarian, entrepreneurial capitalism, particularly in relations with the rest of the world.When future historians write of this time I think they will point out that American society became adept at producing a kind of simulated national reality largely divorced from the reality of the global forces that would determine the nation's future. Part and parcel of a culture of consumerism ( as Benjamin Barber has written) that has as it purpose the endless presentation of fake choices over a focus on real need.Not only do Americans know fewer (if any) facts, but they cannot assemble the facts they might know contextually, and are thus unable to come up with relevant conclusions.So why has America-bashing become such a popular pastime? As knowledge isn't profitable, it is considered non-valuable in a society obsessed with consumption. This is true in all countries, but maybe more so in the USA. As the prime exponent of materialism, it would be logical that the US is also the prime exponent of hostility to knowledge.I vowed to myself to leave my vocabulary intact, and notice the responses, rather than edit (which I realized I *had* been doing). Since then I've been called "the culpability woman" for using the word during a discussion of Jacob and his sons, I've had a lawyer note that he'd read the word "concomitant" before, but he didn't think he'd ever heard anyone use it in conversation before, and I've had an entire classroom of adults stop to laugh when I used the word abrogate in context.Somehow, Americans are allowed to be "hard working" but not erudite. It seems that being an intellectual is considered un-American.I remember some American patrons asking me directions to some place and I was telling them how to get there and how far it was and one of them interjected "We don't know nothin about no kilometres" I was amazed at the pride with which this statement was made. It was in an accent I have come to associate now with the south but I wondered if it was emblematic of the American zeitgist then with the leading proponent being their recently appointed commander in chief, George Bush.Who on Earth wouldn't want to be a citizen of the United States?The answer to your question is: There is no answer. Each American is different. Some might be hostile to global knowledge but there are many other Americans.I'm not saying the American Way is right or wrong, just that the firm belief in its rightness which underscores American ideology, I think, tends to preclude open-mindedness about other cultures, at least in a macro sense.Hm...could it be because we don't seem to want to talk to anyone? Americans are notorious for being monolingual and proud of it; I've been embarrassed in more than one international airport because some American tourist got huffy because everyone there did not speak perfect English to accommodate him or her.Americans do however love myths. Religion is all over the place. Every turn there are self help books touting reassuring ideas that amount to a cult of beliefs.Give someone findings that do not agree with all these optimistic beliefs and you have hostility.Americans have turned into a collection of self serving comfort seekers. Generally that means the avoidance of anything difficult, like the pursuit of knowledge, and the embracing of all things that soothe the physical senses to the point of habitual over consumption.Why strive to be anyone else, or learn anything about any other society? Especially if we can “kick their a$$,” or “nuke ‘em,” should we choose to. Chest-beating is the culture.If you are poor? Oh, well. It’s your fault.I can hardly carry on an interesting conversation about politics with most people in America because the process has been so corrupted by partisan hackery that people are constantly spouting out talking points that I know they didn't learn on their own.We are a profoundly anti-intellectual culture. Though the media is hardly the only cause, it does much to enable and encourage our ignorance. The cheesy banter of Ken and Barbie television news people is particularly sickening.Global ignorance for many Americans is the net result of living in a culture and system where consuming is considered more important then learning.Because our culture is either appropriated or self-referential, our national identity or sense of self is limited. Hence our net worth or our physical selves have misappropriated value compared to our intellectual selves which are devalued. We move so easily in America from life to life, from class to class, and we shed history as easily as last years' hot phone.A large percentage of United States schoolchildren are simply taught to be consumers,by learning to read the advertising but not learning to write well enough to complain about the defective goods they're buying.The answer is a huge YES. Americans have wrapped themselves up in the fantasy that their country represents the world, and the bigger fantasy that the world is preoccupied with them. They are deeply wrong on both counts. Even the much lauded American idealism and version of democracy is in not held in awe - especially when populations around the world see elections that are decided by courts and uneducated American presidents creating chaos around the world. This isn't helped on the ground the ever-more pervasive "ugly American", which has only gotten more ignorant and more ugly.Americans over schedule their lives. The energy is admirable, but the lack of contemplation time is lamentable. Exhaustion leads them to relax by watching television.In general, I believe that American society has a short attention span, and that we as a nation become disinterested in a single subject quickly.I'm from Switzerland and I cannot tell you how many people - college educated people - have come up to me and said "Oh, you speak Sweedish" or "Oh, you speak Swiss?" Or better yet: "How come you're not blonde?"I am going to answer instead the question "Why are Americans stupid? I think that because America was hatched and nurtured in a relative wilderness rich in resources without serious impediments to its exploitation, it attracted and bred adventurous, creative, bold people who devalued the conservative intellectual traditions of Europe. Its vastness and richness and isolation from threat have made Americans increasingly arrogant toward the rest of the world and inclined to feel entitled to whatever they want. Hence the hysterically exaggerated response to 9/11-- ("What? Someone dared to attack us? God is on OUR side." ) and general lack of curiosity as to why this (certainly horrific) event occurred. This is one of a piece America's self-stupidification well-described by others here.The problem is that folks who don't want to get a headache attempting to unravel complex problems or get bored implementing real solutions for the long term (or determine for whom they should vote) can in a matter of minutes shop across the cornucopia of media product to buttress their predetermined and sometimes baseless point of view.Yet, for a country so rich, you treat your citizens pretty badly. Low minimum wage, no universal health care and a weak public education system. Many smaller nations have all these things with much lower GDP's. Why is that? Americans should be out in the streets demanding better services from their leaders, but everybody's living in their own bubble of ignorance -- believing the U-S is the greatest place on earth. Don't get me wrong, there are many fine things about America. But when it comes to basic needs (wages, health care & education), there's a lot of room for improvement.I am just as disturbed by current trends in this country as most others here are. But I get very suspicious about all-knowing statements like "American society is..." or "Americans think..." or "the average American..." These are very crude judgments to make about any society. Contrary to the image projected by our nationalist mass media, American society is not some unified whole. It is riven by multiple hierarchies of class, ethnicity, and other structures of domination that shape the entire distribution of knowledge as well as wealth and political authority in our society.Our public education has always been devoted to creating "good citizens" which in fact means having people who will show up for work on time, do as they are told and not complain. Anything else is counted as a "frill" by the business and commercial interests who have always controlled American public education.A great example of American anti-intellectualism can be seen on Facebook.The great American rugged individual is heir to the legacy of ancestors who came here to avoid authority, to lose their traditions, to reinvent themselves, and to do it themselves. Knowledge and information are far less important than self-reliance, self-indulgence, and the appearance of success. American souls have been pawned for generations to shore up illusions. In the last 50 years, we have bought a more insidious standard: sitcom as personal values model. The rest of the world is watching USA-Tube in wonder and revulsion, laugh tracks intact, no love lost.American society and culture was built by persons who were proud they left the Old World and came to build a new society, and they to a great extent actually wanted to forget about the societies from which they originated and that had not treated them well. There is thus an inbred bias against older societies.That's why the world thinks Americans are dumb. Because Americans prove it on a regular basis.Americans don't learn about the complexity of the broader world because we think we don't need to. Then an event like 9/11 happens, and when our leaders say 'we have to attack Iraq to be safe. trust us, it's big scary complicated world out there, but we'll do what we have to be safe,' most people don't have the background to question that wisdom, or to realize that geopolitics might be a little more involved than 'you're either with us or against us.' They just go with their gut, and five years later, we see the result.So, not only is anti intellectualism and cultural ignorance a well established American tradition, it looks as though we don't even have an intellectual elite that can hold its own.Much of the International community is astonished by the abscence of rigorous public scrutiny. On a more personal level, many Americans seem unable to craft a critical view of the true intentions of their Institutional pillars, much in the same way a child cannot bear to think a parent might be fallible, so defensiveness or agressiveness often overcomes the integrity of public discourse.There's on old saying in the Netherlands, where the Reverend says to the Director: If you keep them poor I will keep them ignorant. So there's nothing new under the sun.It's true. Americans are dumb. In short, we are self-centered and cursed with an educational and informational infrastructure that indulges our most immature tendencies.To break through this self-imposed me-bubble requires sustained attention outside of oneself towards the world, which takes work. People are mocked for even discussing difficult subjects; like YOU know so much. Culturally we have become expert in mass consumption.The public intellectual is dead in America.Alas, most Americans have allowed themselves to be persuaded that they are consumers and have forgotten that they are citizens. Consumers tend to behave like mindless or single-minded zombies, and so for them, the desire to get stuff has taken the place of the desire to learn.I think that the reason Americans are so complacently ignorant is that they don't have to know anything. Think of it: is truth in the balance when we speak of the personal knowledge of faith, is truth anything more than a package of legends handed down in religion, or even the civic religion of our national history, for that matter? Does anyone need to function at any level higher than repeating and responding to platitudes?As George Bush would ask, "Is our kids learning?" America has a long tradition of anti-intellectualism. It feeds on the popular tradition of 'fat, dumb, and happy' rooted in immediate individual gratification.One area I've read that we're defficient in is geography. I'll bet most Americans know where the moon is. Since we're the only nation that's been there.This is why a lot of groups here in America hate the New York Times - because it's willing to even pose a question like this. I'm sure the right-wing blogs will be calling this discussion evidence of the NYT's "blame America first" attitude. But a little introspection never hurt anyone.Has America "dumbed down"? Well, there is an old Greek proverb, once used by Michael Dukakis to describe Bush senior, that "a fish stinks from its head". Here, we have chosen Dubya twice. Show me who you have chosen to lead you and I'll show you who and what you are. I rest my case.
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