Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
In our current condition in the United States, we immediately suspect that these words cannot be of recent vintage, and in fact, were written nearly two centuries ago by James Madison.
In fact, as Isaac Asimov points out in the 1980 essay "A Cult of Ignorance," America has a long tradition of anti-intellectualism. Indeed, as he says,
The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that, "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
As a result of this belief, he states, the quality of American education has remained lackluster, producing a populace with little ability to read anything beyond the simplest type of material.
And, at the time of the inception of the Reagan presidency, he notes that the term "elitist" has begun to be employed as a pejorative to describe the well-educated and particularly those with domain expertise. "Don't trust the experts," has become a rallying cry. The problem with these beliefs, he says, is that they inherently disenfranchise those who hold them and insist on remaining ignorant. As Asimov puts it
I contend that the slogan. "America's right to know" is a meaningless one, when we have an ignorant population, and that the function of a free press is zero, when hardly anyone can read.
We now have a president who has an administration dedicated to the reduction of funds for scientific research, the elimination of scientific criteria for environmental research, and a drastic curtailment of educational funding, in general. One could argue, then, that a "cult of ignorance" arguably even worse than that described by Isaac Asimov, is thriving in the United States. One may hope that the nation will soon return to the control of those who believe, with Madison, that knowledge should forever govern ignorance.