Who is Paul Stoller? He’s Professor of Anthropology at West Chester University in Pennsylvania and the author of ‘The Power of the Between.”
In a recent Huffington Post opinion piece, Stoller declares that “voters have elected public officials whose profound ignorance and boundless stupidity threaten our society–men and women, for example, who are suspicious of people who read.” Yes, voters sometimes elect public officials based on factors other than intelligence. Rhetorical skills and catchy mottoes come to mind.
Indeed, success in politics has never been predicated on IQ because intelligence does not guarantee good governance. If it did, we’d simply elevate the smartest among us to positions of power. Stoller should be happy that we don’t. Peter Singer would have had him killed by now.
Anyway, Stoller’s example of ignorant and stupid public officials is “anti-science” Republican candidate for U.S. House District 7 David Rouzer. During a primary debate, Rouzer criticized Department of Energy employees for “sitting there reading books and reading magazines.” In the context of the debate, Rouzer denounced the operation of the federal bureaucracy, not the act of reading. Stoller suggests that the employees were reading scientific books and magazines, but there is no evidence of that. I watched the clip and Rouzer never describes the reading materials at issue.
That said, I agree with Stoller’s larger point that “our nation’s future depends on the capacity to nurture our students, to demonstrate to them the benefits of reading widely and thinking deeply.” But we can (and should) do this in spite of who we elect to Congress.