The Chinese have had a long history of bringing intellectuals into public service positions and have very much revered the idea of the “scholar-leader.” Do you think of our political leaders as scholars as well as rulers? Why or why not? Would the American public value leaders who were more academically oriented? Why or why not?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

China's reverence for the scholar leader has deep roots in Confucianism and a long tradition that weaves it strongly into the fabric of the culture. Meritocracy, or the idea of exams to appoint qualified people to government and leadership positions, originated in China.

The United States does not have the...

View
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

China's reverence for the scholar leader has deep roots in Confucianism and a long tradition that weaves it strongly into the fabric of the culture. Meritocracy, or the idea of exams to appoint qualified people to government and leadership positions, originated in China.

The United States does not have the same reverence for the scholar leader, and this back goes to our early roots as well. The early mythologizing of the American character created by writers such as Washington Irving established the United States as different and superior to Europe by rejecting European traditions of scholarship. In "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," for example, Irving has a red-blooded hero, Brom Bones, use common sense and practical ingenuity to best the weak, superstitious, tradition-bound schoolteacher Ichabod Crane. This idea of the anti-intellectual trickster hero who lives by hardiness and good sense wends its way through Mark Twain, where the school-hating and adventure-loving Tom Sawyer is much preferred to his scholarly half-brother Sid.

This sensibility has worked its way firmly into the American political system to the extent that scholar candidates, especially for president, tend not to fare well: they are often labeled as elitist and out-of-touch. In politics, the down-to-earth, practical candidate is often preferred as being more relatable and having more common sense—Eisenhower to the "egghead" Adlai Stevenson, Donald Trump to the more intellectually qualified Hilary Clinton. Whether this wariness of intellect and scholarship is a problem depends on the politics of the beholder.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team