Surviving Anti-intellectualism

Empty desks...

Empty desks…

None of my old friends ever went to college. Zero! None of my extended family has ever gone to college. Zip! I don’t think I even have cousins that have gone to college, and coming from an Amish family, you know that I have a crapload of cousins. Maybe it should come as no surprise that almost everyone I interact with discourages, in one way or another, my college education.

When I first told my family that I had enrolled in college, I expected silent pride at the least. Instead, they told me that they would be proud of me if I returned to the Amish. I guess anything less wouldn’t qualify. When asked what I plan on “becoming”, I said I want to become a rocket scientist (after being unable to adequately explain what it means to be a physicist). My father suggested that scientists, are on the whole, not a very bright lot of people. After that very uncomfortable exchange, I don’t bring up the subject of education anymore.

My fiancee’s Amish family rewards our dreams of education with what appears to be barely suppressed derision or perhaps they’re just skeptical of our mental well-being. They offer all sorts of tidbits on why we should just stay where we are and keep doing what we’ve always done. My friends don’t actively discourage our dreams of education, but they will readily admit that they have no desire for one themselves.

Most Amish and ex-Amish regard higher education (anything more than 8 grades) with disdain and derision. They consider it unnecessary, impractical, and a distraction from the meaningful things in life–whatever they think those may be. I find it difficult to understand that kind of mentality. I’ve always enjoyed learning, and I have an insatiable curiosity about the mechanics of the universe. I am utterly unable to understand how some people can be anti-LEARNING.

In any case, they’re not going to change my mind about education. If anything, it’s only further cemented my urge to intellectually distinguish myself from them.

Image credit: Empty desks image copyright (c) 2007 Richard Lee and made available under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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