Home > Uncategorized > Shameful Shunning of Nobel Prize Winners: Evidence of Anti-Intellectualism in an Evidence Free World

Shameful Shunning of Nobel Prize Winners: Evidence of Anti-Intellectualism in an Evidence Free World

I read with deep dismay a recent NYTimes article by Sarah Bowen and Mark Nance, associate professors of sociology and political science, respectively, at North Carolina State University. Both are visiting researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and both had the opportunity to attend the Nobel Prize Award ceremony this year, a ceremony where eight of the 12 individual laureates were American. But Ms. Bowen and Mr. Nance were distressed to learn that President Trump was turning his back on this opportunity to display patriotism and support for the educational opportunities in our country. They write:

As Americans, this was an especially good year to attend. An impressive eight of the 12 individual laureates were American. Watching the ceremony, it was easy to feel patriotic. The laureates on stage represented decades of persistent, innovative work. They showed the intellectual power of the United States’ educational system and the transformative research it produces. We thought about the thousands of students who had passed through their labs, classes and office hours. While the awards are given to only a select few, we know well that each laureate represents an entire intellectual community.

But this year, the American Nobel laureates were shunned by President Trump. Breaking with recent tradition, he refused to invite them to the White House. This is difficult to understand. If you’re interested in building up and blaring out American greatness, why not show off what’s already great about the country? In this scenario, the laureates are like the proverbial canaries in a coal mine. The contrast between their warm celebration in Stockholm and their cold reception back home is a harbinger of the United States’ future irrelevance.

It’s clear to me why Mr. Trump decided to shun the American Nobel laureates. To have them come to the White House he’d have to acknowledge the “…intellectual power of the United States’ educational system and the transformative research it produces” and in doing so reject the longstanding narrative of “failing American schools” that so-called reformers use as the basis for privatization. To have them come to the White House he’d have to acknowledge the America doesn’t need HIM to make the nation great, it needs to build on the intellectual greatness of its colleges and universities. And Ms. Brown and Mr. Nance point out another problem Mr. Trump would face if he invited the Nobel Laureates:

Finally, two of the eight American laureates this year are immigrants. In fact, since 2000, 39 percent of prizes awarded in physics, chemistry or medicine have gone to immigrants The Trump administration’s hostility to immigrants and refugees is well documented. It deports children brought to the United States by their parents, children who have never known another home. It hammered away at the ill-considered travel ban until it squeaked — for the moment — past judicial review. It even tried to block a girls’ robotics team from Afghanistan from entering the United States for a competition. 

In short, Mr. Trump’s decision to shun the Nobel laureates, to deny them an opportunity to receive as much praise in America as they received internationally, exemplifies the anti-intellectual bent of his entire administration. And that anti-intellectualism is NOT the way to greatness. It will fulfill the prophesy of a Nation at Risk. It will ensure that our students are left behind internationally and our nation will become second rate. Instead of excoriating public schools and our excellent post-secondary schools our leaders should be bolstering them and pointing out to its citizenry that they ARE the best in the world.

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