I like your article and I agree with some points but I disagree that Friends was responsible for or had any hand in the anti-intellectualism that is rampant throughout America. Friends is just another in a long long line of entertainment showing Americas hate towards those who take pride in being smart. Being smart is seen as being smug, arrogant or elite. Whereas refraining from intellectualism is seen as being down-home, real and simple(in a positive zen like way). Look at All in the Family, look at Wild Bill Hickok these are people not celebrated for their intelligence but their lack of it.
While I am glad that you were seen as the “bully killer” in the school you taught at. Having been a teacher myself I have first hand knowledge that fighting against the bullies who pick on nerds is like trying to stop a tsunami with a paddle. Hell even the word nerd is so loaded with negative connotation that popular culture had to usurp the word geek in order to portray any positive aspect of intelligence. The anti-intellectual sentiment is fed to us through our books, tv shows, movies, news, politics and peers. While america was founded by intellectuals it has always taken pride in being the scrappy, fly by the seat it his/her pants, loud mouthed, overconfident brute that punches first and asks questions later. Look at our mythology: superman, batman, avengers almost all superheroes are not intellectuals they are strong fighting types that defeat evil intellectuals, like Lex Luthor.
As for Ross and Rachel why wouldn’t the arrogant brainy one want to be with the cute valid one. Isn’t that the American Dream? As a boy I was fed the dream of get rich and marry some arm candy so much. And for women as girls they are fed the highest achievement they can aspire to is to find a rich guy to marry.
While I wish the fix to the anti-intellect culture was as simple as read a book or don’t believe the hype, the fact is that you would need a monumental shift in American culture to counteract the centuries of hating the smart. Judging from the current election cycle I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Again, I did like your article but I see the anti-intellectual sentiment in this country runs far deeper than Ross and Rachel.