Donald Trump: Anti-Intellectual

Last night  I tweeted @johnfea1

Granted, my thoughts on the passing of a constitutional amendment were a bit far fetched. 🙂  I would probably compare them to what I wrote in 2012 about requiring all Americans to take two years of post-secondary liberal arts training.  But I do believe in the ideas behind these less than practical proposals.

After doing some very basic research, I learned that Donald Trump has a B.S. (Bachelor of Science) in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania.  Trump’s degree was awarded by the Wharton School of Business, not the School of Arts & Sciences.  The degree also appears to be connected to Penn’s program in Real Estate.  I may be wrong, but I doubt the students in Trump’s program were deeply invested in liberal arts learning.  (Although Economics could certainly be taught in this way, as it is in the B.A. program in Economics in  Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences).

I have no idea how Trump’s education at Penn is connected to his lack of curiosity about the world and I would hesitate to say that one’s degree automatically explains one’s level of curiosity as an adult.  (This is why I think my idea for a Constitutional Amendment is probably far-fetched).

I do, however, want to suggest that Trump’s approach to the world, if he has one, does not reflect the kind of intellectual curiosity that should be required of a President of the United States.  Trump does not seem to read.  He does not seem to have any interest in learning from the past or understanding this present moment in our nation and the world in a larger context.

His comments to Chris Wallace about his lack of interest in the daily security briefings reveals his anti-intellectualism.  Frankly, I want my POTUS to be reading those briefings as much as possible.  It suggests that he or she is engaged with what is happening in the world.  I am no expert on the content of these reports, but I imagine that the information contained in them provide much fodder for thinking –in down time, in the shower, while trying to fall asleep at night, on Air Force One, while walking on the White House lawn–about how the country (and the POTUS who is leading it) should respond to global events. This practice of perpetual thinking and reflecting is the mark of an intellectual.  And it is a necessary prerequisite for action in the world.  It also is a hallmark of any liberally-educated person.


Strange creatures bursting forth from a human stomach.  Giant walruses. The Rolodex.  The Loch Ness monster.  Flemish self-portraits in airplane toilets.  Author Brian Dillon calls these things “curiosities.”

Over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, Rutgers University history professor James Delbourgo has a brilliant essay on the idea of curiosity through history.  Here is a taste:

Curiosity was a passion routinely denounced by medieval clerics as a sinful lusting after forbidden knowledge, especially heinous in Eve and her female heirs. Yet, by the 17th century, it epitomized the new science’s focused male attention on matters of fact, exemplified by works like the Micrographia (1665), from which Robert Hooke’s magnificently magnified flea is reproduced in all its glory. What Curiosity makes less clear is the historic relationship between curiosity and commodity. Dillon provides some clues here: his linking of curiosity with avarice, for example, and an extraordinary cloudburst of objects on the ground sketched by Leonardo da Vinci, accompanied by the legend, “Oh, human misery, how many things must you serve for money?”
But these clues are few. Early-modern curiosities weren’t just weird; they were objects charged with power, exotic commodities to be bought and sold, and which bought their collectors status. By the 17th and 18th centuries, Dutch and British collecting had become especially commercialized. The physician Hans Sloane paid great sums for his curiosities, and tours of his collections rang with talk of their enormous value. They became the foundation of the British Museum in 1753, the first national public museum.