The overlap of anti-intellectualism and anti-credentialism

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

During the eras when I was part of a business that was doing well, and I was the one doing the hiring, I tended to ignore people’s school accomplishments, and I insisted on looking at actual projects they had done. So in that sense, I’m anti-credentialist. But I’m unwilling to declare loyalty to that movement, for reasons I’ll explain.

By way of digression, I’ll admit that some credentialists also pretend to be anti-intellectual. I’ve noticed this especially in British politics where, depending on what is needed for a particular performance, a wealthy right-winger will either brag about having gone to Oxford and gotten top marks, or they will pretend to be unable to understand complex arguments because they are loyal to common sense, and they want to pursue common sense policies, rather than complicated ideas dreamed up by intellectuals. I’m thinking in particular of debates over austerity. Catch a few old interviews where Paul Krugman was brought in to debate with a Tory MP. The charade is embarrassing to watch.

Still, there are places where anti-intellectualism also overlaps with anti-credentialist sentiments, which is why I’m wary of calling myself anti-credentialist. Consider how funny it is to refer to the “Left” in the USA, a group whose largest demographic is non-whites who lack the money to pursue higher education, and then insist that they are credentialist:

And now you’re going to gibber at me about drug use and child neglect. And – not here, but elsewhere – someone is going to call for more federal money dumped into the place. They’ll call for more Head Start, more jobs programs. The left who – with more than a bit of self flattery – will flap gums about how our technological society is leaving people behind, how all these poor people simply aren’t SMART enough to make money and thrive in the new new technological world.

This flatters the left insanely because they clearly are “smart” enough to thrive in the new technological world. Lately in reading their stuff it’s all about power couples and marrying intelligent people and – bah. They wouldn’t know intelligent people if one bit them in the arse. They are what in our school system were A students. These were never – at least when I was going through school – the actual SMART people (unless the smart people made a great deal of effort.) True geniuses tended to be odd. They dressed funny, sometimes had er… hygiene issues, and they had the confounded habit of correcting teacher. As such, they were heartily despised by all right thinking people, and usually managed Bs, unless they were really really smart, in which case they trolled the D/F region. In adulthood the geniuses I’ve known – those functional enough to hold a job – tend to hold jobs in convenience stores, fertilizer plants, or other menial positions where the fact they don’t dress fashionably and haven’t attended Harvard doesn’t matter.

This is why the beautiful people hold on to CREDENTIALS over accomplishments as signs of their specialness.

Which is why the “economy” the left is thriving on is a combination of glitz, glamour and valueless money printed at speed and of crony capitalism which devours the real substance of prosperity accumulated by our ancestors.

Post external references

  1. 1