Ignorance is bliss. Or is it? In “The Age of American Unreason” Susan Jacoby—author of “Freethinkers” (2004)—explores the anti-intellectualism (too much learning can be a dangerous thing) and anti-rationalism (there are no facts, just opinions) that increasingly characterize American culture and political discourse.
Among other things, Jacoby explores the erosion of Americans’ knowledge about geography, science and history; the public’s short attention span (fostered by TV, video and other digital media); and the failure of the country’s public education system.
Jacoby frets that too many Americans are proud of their ignorance and even openly hostile to knowledge, a state of affairs that has corrupted the nation’s political process and, in part, explains George W. Bush’s victory over John Kerry in 2004. With Bush’s last day (1/20/09) now just around the corner Jacoby questions whether the American people have learned their lesson: “It remains to be seen,” she writes, “as the current presidential campaign unfolds, whether Americans are willing to consider what the flight from reason has cost us as a people and whether any candidate has the will or the courage to talk about ignorance as a political issue.”