Sunday, August 01, 2004

Anti-intellectualism, starting in the White House
I just read an interesting piece by the esteemed Dr. Henry Louis Gates in today's NYT about the responsibility of black leaders/adults to talk to black kids about the choices they will make (a la Bill Cosby's recent controversial remarks), in light of the beautiful vision of Barack Obama. The essay includes bits from a conversation between the two of them.
Making it, as Mr. Obama told me, "requires diligent effort and deferred gratification. Everybody sitting around their kitchen table knows that."

"Americans suffer from anti-intellectualism, starting in the White House," Mr. Obama went on. "Our people can least afford to be anti-intellectual." Too many of our children have come to believe that it's easier to become a black professional athlete than a doctor or lawyer. Reality check: according to the 2000 census, there were more than 31,000 black physicians and surgeons, 33,000 black lawyers and 5,000 black dentists. Guess how many black athletes are playing professional basketball, football and baseball combined. About 1,400. In fact, there are more board-certified black cardiologists than there are black professional basketball players. "We talk about leaving no child behind," says Dena Wallerson, a sociologist at Connecticut College. "The reality is that we are allowing our own children to be left behind." Nearly a third of black children are born into poverty. The question is: why?
The jaded fear of intellectual pursuits and curiosity is a widespread American blight. One thing's for sure: kids aren't born with this lack. Adults show the way. And while a single President can't turn that sort of thing around (if they could, then the eminently curious Clinton would have inspired it), having a brain-dead leader, bragging of his barely average literacy, can't help. I love that Obama mentions that anti-intellectualism now starts at the top.

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