Are we afraid of smart people? I know middle school age kids often deride or shun "nerds" for their smarts. Why must adults? This spills into candidacies for political office, including this year.
In their debates, Scott Brown mockingly called Elizabeth Warren "Professor". (This is comes from someone in a $675 barn jacket and for-show pickup truck.) Presidential race drop-out Rick Santorum claimed that "elite, smart people" would not be on his side, as if smart people were the bad ones. Look at some of the past choices for vice-presidential candidates. Quayle and Palin? No comment needed there. Somewhat apart from politics, an alarming fraction of the population is dismissive of scientists' findings on topics from pollution (including climate change) to seat belts to vaccines to fluoride in tap water. Closer to home in Belmont, high school parents become apoplectic when there are possible reductions in freshman sports; but if math were about to be cut, they'd be home watching TV.
Many in society fawn over elite athletes and entertainers, but not elite thinkers, and especially not government thinkers. Why not? The more I think about this, the less I think I understand what's going on. But I have some guesses.
We may want to feel we're at least "as good as" our elected officials, so perhaps their self-advertised talents alienate us. Part could be the general anti-government sentiment in the US, where a smart official does not seem to fit. Many want to be able to relate to a candidate, so they are attracted to the "regular guy" (like Brown in his costume).
I'm sure it is also partly because we no longer have a sufficient attention span, so any thought more complex than can fit in a 140-character tweet is out of scope. Perhaps on a good day we may make it to the end of a USA Today capsule article. Are the days of getting into an in-depth exploration of a topic long gone?
This also leads to forcing black and white answers on gray questions. It's only gotten worse since Bush II's "you're with us or you're with the terrorists". Candidates are pegged as liberal or conservative, rarely the gray-area moderate of decades past.
In my job I interview a couple people per month, so I occasionally read trade rag articles about interviewing. One point I found interesting was that many are afraid to hire people they feel may be "smarter" than they are. The author stressed that managers should not fear hiring smart employees. The rationale is that if my employee does well, my company and I will do well. I don't want the regular guy - I want the better guy (or gal). My competitors can have the regular one.
For elected and appointed officials, I'm quite happy to support someone smarter than I am, as long as they're pushing for the policies I care about, of course. I may not want to have a beer with them (well, some I actually do), but I want them to do a job that I could not do myself and do it well. Brains are one of the key criteria for important jobs, and we should not fear them.