Since anti-intellectualism has often been most effective in politics (e.g. with victims such as Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s, Eugene McCarthy in the 60s, and even Bill Clinton in the 90s), I’m not surprised to see a present-day application via the “professor” label.
With regard to the article, I’m not sure I agree—initially at least—with Charles Ogletree’s assertion that today’s manifestation in relation to President Barack Obama is a “thinly veiled” kind of racism (article’s phrase, Jack Stripling is the author). The problem I have with that line of thinking is that it’s nowhere in the recent history of anti-intellectualism—as a broad social phenomenon at least. All of the late twentieth-century political figures that were objects of anti-intellectualism were white. Indeed, if there’s any historical racism associated with political anti-intellectualism it’s in the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr. was never derided precisely for his mental prowess. To carry Ogletree’s argument a bit further, it seems to me that if any “uppity” association occurs to racists in relation to Obama, it will be because of his newfound aggressiveness (i.e. bully pulpit), not his mental ability. The “professor” appellation is likely just straightforward anti-intellectualism on the part of some opposition that may be racists.
Returning to Stripling’s article, I do appreciate the thinking in this passage related to David S. Brown: It’s no surprise that the anti-intellectualism that Hofstadter wrote about has resonance among some Americans today, says Brown, a historian at Elizabethtown College. Higher education programs are increasingly moving toward the pre-professional variety, and students and parents are inclined to press colleges about how their programs will lead to jobs — not to intellectual growth, Brown says. In that context, the stereotypical liberal arts professor is ever more marginalized.
When I first read the InsideHigherEd article I thought that, with more people than ever in college and even more than ever in graduate school, this line of political strategy can’t be effective, long term, beyond a limited cohort of our citizenry. But I hadn’t directly linked today’s anti-intellectualism, as Brown did, to the ongoing vocationalism (read: devaluing of the liberal arts) that’s occurred in higher education—beginning after World War II but increasingly evident in the last 10-15 years. – TL