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Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Wisdom of Blue-Collar Intellectuals

It isn't only the intellectual elite who write worthwhile, important, and influential books. A new book by Daniel J. Flynn describes some really important books that were written by men he calls "blue-collar intellectuals." That's the title of his book, and the subtitle is: When Everyman Elevated America. Here are some of these famous authors who had big ideas, were smart and superb writers, but didn't have the advantage of advanced college degrees. Mortimer Adler did not even have a high school diploma, but he worked his way to an Ivy League Ph.D. anyway. He started the famous Great Books Movement, and it became one of the most successful adult education programs in history. Milton Friedman was raised by Jewish immigrants whose home was also a sweatshop, but he became one of the 20th century's most important economists and even won a Nobel Prize in 1976. Will and Ariel Durant had only one college degree between them, but nevertheless they were two of the 20th century's most popularly read historians.

The author of this book, Daniel Flynn, argues that blue-collar intellectuals were a uniquely 20th century American phenomenon. Public libraries donated by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie enabled the working class to educate themselves, and then cheap printing and communications advances enable them to share their knowledge with others. There was a big demand for the books written by blue-collar intellectuals throughout most of the 20th century because there was widespread demand from ordinary grassroots Americans to read good books for intellectual betterment. The author deplores the fact that American lifestyles have changed: the highly educated do not try to reach out to ordinary people, and the average American doesn't feel a demand for intellectual betterment. The name of this book is by Daniel Flynn Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Everyman Elevated America.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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