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Educational Elitism July 1, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, societal commentary.
Tags: , ,

I came across yet another article rehashing the topic of too many kids going to college.  Not surprisingly, it was written by Charles Murray (of Bell Curve fame).  I’ve seen a handful of articles by him, all having the same theme.

When I first read these articles, I was unaware of the Bell Curve connection.  However, I still felt the extreme hypocrisy that seems to characterize these rants, well thought out as they may be.  He claims, in this particular article, that allowing everyone who wants is creating a classist society: there are those who go to college and those who don’t.  Those who don’t, he claims, are mistreated in society.

These articles bother me because, while he rants about the system, he proposes no alternatives and even seems to hold the past in high regard.  The past, when you were stuck in a job that your parents did, or women were stuck at home.  Somehow, it’s more noble to say that one couldn’t afford to go to college than to have tried and failed, in his mind.  He claims that college for everyone means there are no more excuses to not finish…if you don’t, you’re viewed as dumb and lazy.  Never mind that, in the classist systems that existed at the beginning of the last century, simply being poor meant you were dumb and lazy.  Francis Galton may not have been around at that time, but eugenics was certainly alive and well – and often targeted the poor.

Of course, throughout all of this is the thread that SOME people should be allowed to go…and that the reason most people don’t belong in college is, in fact, because they are dumb or lazy.  In other words, he’s reframing his elitism to make the rest of us look like the elitists.  It feels like he’s trying very hard to keep elite educations in the hands of those who, in his opinion, are truly deserving…not that he actually cares about creating a meritocracy.

After Murray’s article, it was refreshing to read William Deresiewicz’s The Disadvantages of an Elite Education.  The essay is long (by internet standards, mind you), but well worth every word.  He talks about how those at elite schools tend to be the ones who work the system, and do so without necessarily thinking.  They aren’t independent minds.  They are there to become part of the system and let that system propagate.  And these are our future leaders: trained to be part of an elite system, not to really think about where we’re going and how their decisions affect the rest of us.

This was a considerably more in depth view of the educational system, a real critique, and a real assessment of the problem…far different than complaining that every yokel is taking away the status of the elite.



1. micronix - July 2, 2011

I admit I didn’t read the article. However being a plumber or carpenter, or some skilled labor position that doesn’t require a college degree is seen as a bad thing. Only college degrees are seen success but colleges don’t offer some positions or a technical school might be more suited to some people.

Plumbing requires a fair amount of training and I think people learning about plumbing is just as good a position as learning about existentialist philosophy except that in the end plumbing is more useful.

So they way I see it is that we need to give a better rep to those carrers that require some skill but are not offer as college majors. We need to tell kids that it’s ok to learn vast amounts of plumbing knowledge and be the best at that.


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