In Why We Hate the Smart Kids, Grant Penrod argues that school students actively incorporate the notion of anti-intellectualism into modern society. Being inspired by successful people in mass media who have never received a university degree, teenagers undermine the importance of education and view intellectuals as “nerds”. Penrod’s essay argues that children who strive for academic achievements are excluded from social activities because they are looked down upon by their peers.
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The author makes several intriguing points about the issue. For example, Penrod (2003) argues that one of the reasons why intellectuals are disliked by society is the “perception that concern for grades and test scores excludes the coexistence of
normal social activities” (p. 2). The author, however, states that this perception stems from the fact that intellectuals are excluded from such activities in the first place because of their status. The problem is that intellectual students do not even have the chance of socializing because they are initially labeled as “nerds” and, therefore, struggle to be a part of the community which essentially dislikes them.
Another interesting idea that Penrod conveys in the essay is the obsession with becoming successful. The author states that the media does not correlate success and intellectualism (Penrod). The common idea is that one has to strive for success while being wealthy is a key factor of such achievements. Therefore, monetary obsession and inspiration from popular celebrities who never had any academic achievements lead to anti-intellectualism. However, the common idea that success equals happiness is the result of social conditioning and is being actively reinforced by the mass media. People believe that monetary success is essential, whereas, in reality, most individuals find happiness in other areas such as relationships or helping others.
In the article, Jeremy Dowsett talks about the importance of understanding what the term “white privilege” means. Many white people get offended when they are called out on being privileged, viewing this term as a synonym to “racist”. However, in reality, the phrase “white privilege” refers to the fact that individuals of Caucasian ethnicity do not have the same range of obstacles to live a happy life as people of color do (Penrod). America has experienced centuries of oppression towards the Black community. To explain the concept of white privilege, the author creates an analogy between social inequity and riding a bike in a big city.
Dowsett is successful in illustrating a concept which is rather difficult to grasp using a simple and easily understandable analogy. For instance, the author suggests that in a big city where most people use cars as their preferred means of transportation, riding a bike can be both scary and dangerous (Penrod). While people who ride a bike on a daily basis are permitted to be on the road, they often face inequity from car drivers simply “because the whole transportation infrastructure privileges the automobile” (Penrod 8). Similarly, although people of color have equal rights to the white community, they are constantly oppressed by the system of racial injustice.
Another interesting point made by Dowsett is the idea that privileged people are not essentially bad. Therefore, the term “white privilege” is not an insult. Instead, it is the statement of the fact that white people do not have to worry about being oppressed and facing inconvenience in order to be safe. The system is skewed and, therefore, different ethnic groups have to experience the American reality differently (Penrod). The system is created to serve the white community while people of color have to struggle to be a part of the society, even though both groups have equal rights by law.
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Dowsett, Jeremy. “What Riding My Bike Has Taught Me about White Privilege.” Be’chol Lashon, 2014.
Penrod, Grant. Why We Hate the Smart Kids. 2013.