Monday, October 25, 2010

New Elite

By coincidence, this article touches on issues that I wrote about earlier today:

That a New Elite has emerged over the past 30 years is not really controversial. That its members differ from former elites is not controversial. What sets the tea party apart from other observers of the New Elite is its hostility, rooted in the charge that elites are isolated from mainstream America and ignorant about the lives of ordinary Americans.

Let me propose that those allegations have merit.

One of the easiest ways to make the point is to start with the principal gateway to membership in the New Elite, the nation's most prestigious colleges and universities. In the idealized view of the meritocrats, those schools were once the bastion of the Northeastern Establishment, favoring bluebloods and the wealthy, but now they are peopled by youth from all backgrounds who have gained admittance through talent, pluck and hard work.

That idealized view is only half-right.  Over the past several decades, elite schools have indeed sought out academically talented students from all backgrounds. But the skyrocketing test scores of the freshman classes at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and other elite schools in the 1950s and 1960s were not accompanied by socioeconomic democratization.

I'd recommend reading the whole article.  I generally agree with what it said, and have said similar things in the past.  Increasingly, the thing that differentiates groups in our society is the way they think.  In the past, elite status was tied to inherited wealth and privilege, but today, elite status is closely tied to having a different culture, education, and way of thinking.

As a side note, I have seen two blog posts that react very negatively and emotionally to this article, while giving completely different reasons for the dislike.  That is often a sign that it contains a truth that people do not want to admit and think about.

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