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reverse snobbery re: academic achievement

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I'm not sure if this is the right forum for this question, but here goes:

 

For those of you who have run into this, how do you deal with reverse academic snobbery?  I mean a scenario where someone with less formal education than you being dismissive of your education.  I've known people who apparently think nothing of any value is taught at universities, except for STEM stuff, and that pursuing study in anything other than a STEM field is a sign of a frivolous nature and stupidity.  There is an element of having to hide/downplay your achievements/smarts/knowledge  in order to get along/fit in, but of course that gets old after a while.

 

I'm in such a situation right now and I won't be able to just get out of it in the foreseeable future.  I will eventually, but in the meantime.... what to do?

 

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Honestly, it shouldn't matter what they think. You will fit in with your own field, and if other fields resort to snobbery, ignore them (when possible). Their opinions can't hurt you if you didn't care about their opinions in the first place.

 

Also, you shouldn't feel a need to downplay your accomplishments. Be proud of what you've done.

 

In the case of being forced to interact with such people, stand up for yourself. Let them know that you are proud of what you've done and that a balance of studies is important, not just STEM ones. Don't resort to insulting anyone back, of course, but make it known that you are not going to let them belittle you with ignorant comments.

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As a rule of thumb, I don't bring up being a Ph.D. student with people outside of my department unless they ask me about it first, e.g., "what do you do for a living?" and then I tell them; the idea being that if you're modist about it and realize that it's just a job like any other, then there's no implication of "I'm better than you because I'm more educated." For me, this boils down to the same situation as back in high school where people try make you feel bad for taking difficult classes. People are always going to get on your case for stuff like that. As long as both of you are contributing to society, there's no reason for one to be demeaning to the other because of their education, but that's life. 

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"I don't bring up being a Ph.D. student with people outside of my department unless they ask me about it first, e.g., "what do you do for a living?" and then I tell them; the idea being that if you're modist about it and realize that it's just a job like any other, then there's no implication of "I'm better than you because I'm more educated."

 

That's exactly what I mean by downplaying it.  Add in a person thinking they are better than you because they are less educated, i.e. too smart to fall for all that degree malarkey.  To give you a fuller picture, these are people who think I'm "weird" because I read books, by choice.

 

 

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For those of you who have run into this, how do you deal with reverse academic snobbery?  I mean a scenario where someone with less formal education than you being dismissive of your education. 

 

Why is this bothering you? I'd imagine anybody you'd be dealing with for a career would be relatively appreciative of higher education. Assholes rude enough to dismiss your education in your face will find a flaw with you one way or another, so screw them.

 

Also, just because somebody has "less formal education than you" doesn't mean s/he is stupid. Sometimes PhD people have been studying one thing for so long they lose perspective, so don't dismiss other people's views so easily. Louis CK just had a bit in his new HBO special Oh My God about how the 50 year old garbage man is infinitely smarter than the 23 year old with 3 PhD's.

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"I don't bring up being a Ph.D. student with people outside of my department unless they ask me about it first, e.g., "what do you do for a living?" and then I tell them; the idea being that if you're modist about it and realize that it's just a job like any other, then there's no implication of "I'm better than you because I'm more educated."

 

That's exactly what I mean by downplaying it.  Add in a person thinking they are better than you because they are less educated, i.e. too smart to fall for all that degree malarkey.  To give you a fuller picture, these are people who think I'm "weird" because I read books, by choice.

 

If they think you're weird for reading books by choice...why exactly do you care what they think? As soon as anyone tells me something like "I never read a book, I can just look it up online" I mark them off as an idiot and disregard what they say unless it pertains to their specialty. I've been dealing with this in my community since undergrad, so I don't mess around now.

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Why is this bothering you? I'd imagine anybody you'd be dealing with for a career would be relatively appreciative of higher education. Assholes rude enough to dismiss your education in your face will find a flaw with you one way or another, so screw them.

 

Also, just because somebody has "less formal education than you" doesn't mean s/he is stupid. Sometimes PhD people have been studying one thing for so long they lose perspective, so don't dismiss other people's views so easily. Louis CK just had a bit in his new HBO special Oh My God about how the 50 year old garbage man is infinitely smarter than the 23 year old with 3 PhD's.

 

I didn't say people with less education are stupid.

 

"Bothering" is too strong of a word. It's more like "I'm in a situation where this is an issue, it interferes with getting certain things done, and I'm looking for solutions".  I figured that others with advanced degrees might have encountered this as well, and might have good suggestions.

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If they think you're weird for reading books by choice...why exactly do you care what they think? As soon as anyone tells me something like "I never read a book, I can just look it up online" I mark them off as an idiot and disregard what they say unless it pertains to their specialty. I've been dealing with this in my community since undergrad, so I don't mess around now.

 

Maybe writing them off as idiots IS the solution! 

 

I used the word "cowl" yesterday with someone who didn't know what it meant, so I've probably alienated her now.

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This seems a little different than "reverse academic snobbery". It sounds more like you are dealing with people who consider studying liberal arts, non-STEM, etc. a complete waste of time, and there's nothing you can do to convince them otherwise. Just do as everyone else says and ignore them. I wouldn't "write them off as idiots"; you'll most likely develop a superiority complex and a lot of cynicism if you do this often. People will always have their opinions.

 

Why try to force something with people you have little compatibility with?

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Perhaps you should check out more job type web resources where they discuss having to work with jerks since that is a situation where you can't avoid the problem people. I think we could give better advice if we had more context. Is the issue that they refuse to take any suggestions you make seriously or just that they are rude in general? If it's the later and you're in a situation where you must respond I would come up things to say to deflect their comments and move the conversation on to another subject. "Yeah, being able to think critically/write well/do thorough research is totally useless, what do you think about x" or "yeah, but it was a fun waste of money/I met cool people/etc, isn't y annoying?" and then move the topic onto something else where you guys have common ground etc. Think of jokes to make about your reading hobby too. I usually go with relating it to television or share the plot of an entertaining book I've recently read. You don't need to waste your time justifying your choice. Make a comment that signals you are done with the subject and move on. 

 

If this is a work thing I would suggest having a meeting with your supervisor under the guise of asking for advice. "I'm having trouble being taken seriously/communicating with coworkers, do you have any advice on what I can do to?" type of thing without calling people out or naming names. This lets your boss know there are issues without seeming like you want to blame others and they might have good solutions. 

 

As far as using words people don't know, I would just try to be good natured about it if they ask about a word. Make it clear that you're not trying to make them feel dumb and if they don't understand something they should ask and you'll happily rephrase. 

 

Find someone removed from the situation to vent to and hang in there.

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This seems a little different than "reverse academic snobbery". It sounds more like you are dealing with people who consider studying liberal arts, non-STEM, etc. a complete waste of time, and there's nothing you can do to convince them otherwise. Just do as everyone else says and ignore them. I wouldn't "write them off as idiots"; you'll most likely develop a superiority complex and a lot of cynicism if you do this often. People will always have their opinions.

 

Why try to force something with people you have little compatibility with?

I agree with the OP's sentiments as well as the quote above. I have some relatives who are engineers and graduated with a B.S. in some form of engineering. I have total respect for what they do! It isn't a field I wanted, and they are very passionate and hard-working in their careers. Ever since I decided I wanted to major in music performance in undergrad, and went for my Masters in teaching, it seemed like my life choices were inferior to theirs. There is no explanation I can give about the amount of hours of practicing, the hours of studying, and the difficulty of my juries that they will understand. There isn't a way to make music perf. and music ed have anything worthy of their respect. After teaching six years and my dream changing, I am now going for a MS in Communication Sciences and Disorders, and I am still, somehow, not worthy of any respect for my career choices from my engineering relatives. I don't care to be superior to them- thats the reverse of the problem we already have. Music ed, SLP and engineering are totally different fields, and all are necessary. I have simply decided to let it go. They will never see me as an intelligent person. They will never give me the validation that I crave, so I get that from my professional peers and colleagues and leave it at that. My need for validation can also be a personal reflection on how I have had to learn how to teach things besides music VERY quickly and without guidance, and finding success in my 4th and 5th grade math students test scores (yay!). It can also come from knowing that I am an expert in my field, and I see that in the resulting performances of my music students. So, maybe you can look for other ways to get that level of validation you crave, and allow the jerks, as you might think they are, to go their own separate way.

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Hmmm... I'm thinking that if I should simply not-care that they are reverse-snobbing me then it should be OK for me to regular-snob them.  And if they don't like it, they can just ignore it!  If they can dish it out, they can take it!

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This seems a little different than "reverse academic snobbery". It sounds more like you are dealing with people who consider studying liberal arts, non-STEM, etc. a complete waste of time, and there's nothing you can do to convince them otherwise. Just do as everyone else says and ignore them. I wouldn't "write them off as idiots"; you'll most likely develop a superiority complex and a lot of cynicism if you do this often. People will always have their opinions.

 

Why try to force something with people you have little compatibility with?

 

Hmm...I might have spoken too strongly by saying "write them off as idiots". Idiots is a bit too dismissive. Still, on a case-by-case basis, I do consider most people who think along those lines as idiots (and I won't deny having a boatload of cynicism, directed especially towards the socio-economic environment I come from).

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I don't know this exact situation, but sometimes I think it comes from a defence mechanism related to not having the option (or at least not percieving having the option) of staying in school so long.  It's the idea of, "Yeah, I could have stayed in school forever too, except I don't have parents that will subsidize my education, so I have to work for a living," or "I have a family to support", or "I have responsibilities in my hometown."  Even though this forum is full of people who have gone to grad school in spite of poverty and family responsibilities, these issues really do hinder people from getting a higher education, so I can understand why they would feel a bit resentful towards those of us who have the luxury (and let's be honest -- it IS a luxury, albeit a grueling one) to stay in school so long.

When I was working, I got frustrated sometimes by how little anyone was willing to invest in me -- I couldn't find any scholarships to take masters classes on the side, or income-based discounts to conferenes, or really any other way to better myself.  But: I was generating income, supporting myself, paying taxes, and contributing to the economy.  There is valute in work.  If I had stayed a "working stiff" my whole life, I too might be dissilussioned by those that could go into debt and/or get paid to pursue their passions while I had to keep toiling away to make ends meet.

The other thing I see -- the side with more reverse snobbery perhaps -- is that it can seem flighty or induldgent, like skirting responsibility to be a productive member of society.  Some people go to graduate school because they don't know what they want to do with their lives and, as PHD Comics says, "it seemed better than getting a real job". 

To combat this, it might be best to talk about what your career goals are; most people respect honest work, although with varying standards for what's "honest."  So if you say, "I want to be a professor, so I am going to graduate school," or "My experience working in X field exposed me to problems in Y that I want to help fix, so I am studying Y with intent to work in that field", they may see that you really are trying to become a tax-paying, contributing member of society, and may be more understanding. 

(Oh, and as a side note, I do realize there are ways to contribute to society other than generating income/taxes, but it's a good one, and I assume that this is the most universally valued contribution among those who look down on higher ed.)

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(the following is in no way meant to disparage any previous posters)

 

While I'm sure that on occasion reverse academic snobbery exists, I think more often than not it's a phenomenon much like "reverse racism" - in that the very people who feel they are being wronged are in fact simply worried they will not get the advantage they feel they are owed.  I'm not an anti-intellectual, and there is certainly a strange cultural undertow which sometimes makes me feel as if I'm swimming upstream when I strive to be well informed, articulate, and logical.  For example, the constant need for politicians in America to make a big show of being "plain spoken" and folksy.  So in a broad sense, yes, I think culturally there is an annoying smart vs. "real" perception problem. 

 

But, on an individual basis, I have to assume everyone is trying their best.  I just assume an intentional posture of niavete in order to not become an ass-hat myself.  Because for me it is better to assume if someone boasts to me that they would never be bothered to read a book that perhaps they have an undiagnosed learning disability, or an incredible strength in art, or simply a strong preference for auditory learning but they listen to pod casts religiously - whatever, than to assume they are just a big stupid idiot who hates smart people.

 

I barely graduated high school, I'm the only one of my friends from that period of my life who did finish high school, I married a high school drop out, and I spent much of a decade working in a hair salon.  Many of my clients were college students, graduate students, law students, or scientists from the nearby national lab.  The most articulate, interesting, and accomplished people also tended to be the people who just spoke to me like I was a person and were completely unconcerned with impressing me or impressing upon me the importance of education.  Occasionally I had a jackass in my chair, and it's 50/50 that person thought I was an elitist high brow snob or an uneducated idiot rube.  

 

I have strong feelings about this, because I've been on both sides, and have been perceived as being on both sides the entire time depending on who I was with and what I was doing.  In the end I found that as with anything, you won't change anyone who isn't interested, who has their guard up, and the more you push the more they will build up a defense against you and what you represent.  If you have a jackass in your salon chair, or in your life, treat them well until you get get them out the door and don't let them back.  And if you're dealing with a non-jackass, don't push an agenda or a belief system, and if someone is interested in your views, your beliefs, or your value system (including placing a high value on education) they will see that in your actions and ask you directly if they want to know more.  (All this is, of course, just one blue collar lady's opinion)

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(the following is in no way meant to disparage any previous posters)

 

While I'm sure that on occasion reverse academic snobbery exists, I think more often than not it's a phenomenon much like "reverse racism" - in that the very people who feel they are being wronged are in fact simply worried they will not get the advantage they feel they are owed.  I'm not an anti-intellectual, and there is certainly a strange cultural undertow which sometimes makes me feel as if I'm swimming upstream when I strive to be well informed, articulate, and logical.  For example, the constant need for politicians in America to make a big show of being "plain spoken" and folksy.  So in a broad sense, yes, I think culturally there is an annoying smart vs. "real" perception problem. 

 

But, on an individual basis, I have to assume everyone is trying their best.  I just assume an intentional posture of niavete in order to not become an ass-hat myself.  Because for me it is better to assume if someone boasts to me that they would never be bothered to read a book that perhaps they have an undiagnosed learning disability, or an incredible strength in art, or simply a strong preference for auditory learning but they listen to pod casts religiously - whatever, than to assume they are just a big stupid idiot who hates smart people.

 

I barely graduated high school, I'm the only one of my friends from that period of my life who did finish high school, I married a high school drop out, and I spent much of a decade working in a hair salon.  Many of my clients were college students, graduate students, law students, or scientists from the nearby national lab.  The most articulate, interesting, and accomplished people also tended to be the people who just spoke to me like I was a person and were completely unconcerned with impressing me or impressing upon me the importance of education.  Occasionally I had a jackass in my chair, and it's 50/50 that person thought I was an elitist high brow snob or an uneducated idiot rube.  

 

I have strong feelings about this, because I've been on both sides, and have been perceived as being on both sides the entire time depending on who I was with and what I was doing.  In the end I found that as with anything, you won't change anyone who isn't interested, who has their guard up, and the more you push the more they will build up a defense against you and what you represent.  If you have a jackass in your salon chair, or in your life, treat them well until you get get them out the door and don't let them back.  And if you're dealing with a non-jackass, don't push an agenda or a belief system, and if someone is interested in your views, your beliefs, or your value system (including placing a high value on education) they will see that in your actions and ask you directly if they want to know more.  (All this is, of course, just one blue collar lady's opinion)

 

I'm reminding myself to upvote you in the morning!

"You have reached your quota of positive votes for the day"

 

Queen of Kale, this post touched my soul!

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 While I'm sure that on occasion reverse academic snobbery exists, I think more often than not it's a phenomenon much like "reverse racism" - in that the very people who feel they are being wronged are in fact simply worried they will not get the advantage they feel they are owed.

Thank you for this. I have been following this thread and wanting to say something very similar but couldn't figure out how best to accomplish it.

In addition, a lot of the comments that write others off as idiots is illustrative of why, precisely, people might be "anti-intellectual." I wouldn't want anything to do with us either if my entire sample were people who treated me poorly and made me feel stupid. People who don't read (for whatever reason) are still actually valuable members of society and should be treated just as well as we treat people who do read -- I don't even think that should have to be said...

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Anti-intellectualism in American culture (and I guess in Canadian culture as well, apropos your listed location, margarets) is pernicious.  Personally, I haven't had to deal with it much, but I'd suggest trying to ignore it when you can.  If the problem persists, nicely tell the person or persons to stop, explaining why it bothers you.  I just don't understand why someone would gleefully admit to not reading, for example; if there are factors beyond your control that prevent you from so doing (learning disabilities, etc.), I get that.  But if you're just being willfully ignorant, then my immediate reaction is to think, "this person is a moron."

 

If you're up to it and feel that it is appropriate, engage in a defense of your field.  This is surprisingly easy to do: the arguments in favor of many disciplines, even in the purportedly "useless" humanities, are quite strong.  I will gladly argue with someone over the value of what I do.

 

I know it's cool in America to flaunt one's idiocy, which is reflected in American politics and culture at large, but I want nothing to do with it.

Edited by Two Espressos

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I'm not sure if this is the right forum for this question, but here goes:

 

For those of you who have run into this, how do you deal with reverse academic snobbery?  I mean a scenario where someone with less formal education than you being dismissive of your education.  I've known people who apparently think nothing of any value is taught at universities, except for STEM stuff, and that pursuing study in anything other than a STEM field is a sign of a frivolous nature and stupidity.  There is an element of having to hide/downplay your achievements/smarts/knowledge  in order to get along/fit in, but of course that gets old after a while.

 

I'm in such a situation right now and I won't be able to just get out of it in the foreseeable future.  I will eventually, but in the meantime.... what to do?

 

OP, I once heard that 80% of questions are really statements in disguise. With that said, I can't help but wonder if what you term as "reverse academic snobbery" is in fact your reaction of those people not oohing and aahing over your prestigious affiliations and accolades as you feel they should be. It's almost as if how dare those with 'less formal education' (which is quite the coded language btw) not find value and subtle enviousness of my achievements, smarts and knowledge --- how are you assuming they don't have any of that themselves? I also have a very hard time believing that the main source of your interactions and conversations with these people surround them bashing your education, and if so, perhaps it is time to forcibly remove yourself from interactions with those people at all costs. I think you downplay your attributes, not as a consequence of their 'reverse academic snobbery', but it is because you realize that you cannot use that arsenal in order to make yourself level, or in most ways, feel superior to them as you internally believe you are. 

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soul: whoa, cool the judgmental jets, there. i encounter this in my field of work and study, and i don't even have a degree beyond a B.S./B.A. right now- so, obviously, i don't expect any oohing or aahing. however, i expect everyone i work with to respect everyone else for what they bring to the table. none of us would have our jobs if we weren't qualified in our own special ways; i learn just as much from people with GEDs as i do from people with PhDs, as long as both ends of communication are open and respectful. there is a difference between not hearing the praise you think you deserve, and having people go out of their way to actively step on your toes and put you down. 

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soul: whoa, cool the judgmental jets, there. i encounter this in my field of work and study, and i don't even have a degree beyond a B.S./B.A. right now- so, obviously, i don't expect any oohing or aahing. however, i expect everyone i work with to respect everyone else for what they bring to the table. none of us would have our jobs if we weren't qualified in our own special ways; i learn just as much from people with GEDs as i do from people with PhDs, as long as both ends of communication are open and respectful. there is a difference between not hearing the praise you think you deserve, and having people go out of their way to actively step on your toes and put you down. 

 

Thank you for your reminder to be respectful and nonjudgmental, Pears!

 

Putting aside any debate regarding elitism, I know that I can get frustrated when I have accomplished something big and am very excited about that thing but someone responds with a put-down or something snide. To me, this feeling is less about "Look at me, I'm successful and want you to recognize it," and more about "I'm excited and happy and want to share that feeling but you want to take it away from me." Sure, I know I should just brush it off, but I think most people would admit it doesn't feel good to have someone suck the joy out of your moment, regardless of their or your academic experiences, etc. I've had this happen with people who are educated, and that is actually more upsetting to me. If someone doesn't have experience in my field, I just try to remind myself that field successes aren't always recognized as such by people in other careers.

 

I think we should also be mindful of when we are the ones who have the potential to either celebrate or suck the joy out of others' successes. My sister recently received an A in her first community college course, and called me because she was excited. I made a point of congratulating her and recognizing the hard work she put into it. We don't have to rate successes in terms of academic prestige; instead, just being happy for each other makes everyone feel supported and encouraged.

Edited by Linelei

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The OP's conceptualized this term "reverse academic snobbery" as a function of an individual's education level. Terribly misguided. I fully stand behind my original comment.

 

To place my position in further context, I am an academic engineer and even in a STEM field, I still face onslaughts of family and close friends who are not entirely receptive of my continuing to a PhD. The gamut runs from 'you're an engineer- why don't you go out and work', to 'you should have went to medical school', etc. And these are people with considerably less education than I. Do I think that their sometimes hurtful comments and opinions about my academic successes are a function of their lower level of education? Absolutely not. In fact, once I began to be self-effacing and honest with myself, the reason why their comments hurt so much because therein lies elements of truth. I am taking a financial risk in endeavoring for tenure track position instead of working in industry or attending medical school. I am taking a risk in family planning. I am taking a risk in my own emotional sanity and mental health. These are indisputable facts. Sometimes it is good to be around those that are not shielded by the 'life of the mind' to keep life in perspective, unless it becomes emotionally unhealthy, and in that case it is time to restrain yourself at all costs from those individuals. 

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