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Friday, January 21, 2005

In Defense of Elitism

This book, while not a must-read, is worth a look. The author, William A. Henry III, lists plenty of examples of how and why our society is failing because of misguided egalitarianism, the idea that not only should everyone have an equal start in life, but that everyone should finish equally too.
We have taken the legal notion that all men are created equal to its illogical extreme, seeking not just equality of justice in the courts but equality of outcomes in almost every field of endeavor.

Feminism, multiculturalism, bans on hate speech, and affirmative action are some of the touchy social topics he ridicules. Culturally he slams the "universal self-celebration of the masses," including the proliferation of camcorders and karaoke; the victimization, entitlement, and lottery mentalities of the public; the proliferation of entertainment; as well as cotton candy journalism, both print and electronic. Much of it is highly inflammatory, and most of it is dead on and wickedly amusing.
Every corner of the human race may have something to contribute. That does not mean that all contributions are equal. ...It is scarcely the same thing to put a man on the moon as to put a bone in your nose.

And before you go calling him a racist, he defends his statement by saying that real racism is found in the condescension that minorities must be coddled instead of challenged to compete with and equal the best in the culture they presently live in.

As far as education goes, he lambasts the current trends of mainstreaming, ending ability tracking, social promotion, sanitized vacuous textbooks, rewritten self-esteem raising history, and schools used primarily as therapy. He believes far too many people are unnecessarily attending college and far too much money is being thrown away subsidizing the effort. The great economic cost produces only dubious results. He blames the desire to elevate everyone to college level for bringing colleges down to everyone's level.

What to do about it?

Surprisingly, he believes less higher education would help. He recommends most community colleges and state teachers colleges be done away with because they serve the educationally marginal. Those students would be better served with vocational training in high school and on-the-job training at work.
The vital thing is not to maximize everyone's performance, but to ensure maximal performance from the most talented, the ones who can make a difference.

For everything else he advocates a common sense return to meritocracy.
The point of elitism is not, when all is said and done, to promote envy or to enlarge the number of society's losers. It is to provide sufficient rewards for winning.

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