Elite[s] and elitists, Cooper and Others

Ven vendersleighc at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 4 20:18:39 EST 2003

Robyn wrote that 

MInnow wrote (irrc)
>But....  Here's the crunch.  What if some people

simply *are* better?  The
>corps de ballet can do things I couldn't if I 
tried for fifty years; they
>are simply better than I am, at that thing.  *I*

can't light a candle by
>thinking at it.  And so on.  Is it elitist for 
me to point out excellence,
>any more than it is elitist to point out a lack 
of excellence, in someone


<The PC majority who believe in improving 
children's self-esteem rather than 
teaching them anything would say "yes". Like in 
Autumn Term by Antonia 
Forest, when the girls point out the 
ridiculousness of Keith's praise: "We 
all acted Edward beautifully...">

>I'd say for instance that DWJ is a member of an 
elite, in that she writes
>excellent books and most people don't; does my 
saying so make her an
>elitist, or me an elitist, or is it simply a 
statement of what looks like a
>fairly obvious fact?  (A parallel would be that 
I can point out that the
>monarchy exists without necessarily being a 
monarchist, I suppose.)>

Hmm, elitist, monarchist, racist, doggist (I've
really heard this one) fascist...... the ist
suffix doesn't do the same thing to the meanings
of all these words or, by analogy to racist a
monarchist would be anti monarchs, or some
monarchs, well it makes my head hurt really. I'm
not at all sure whether an elitist is someone who
thinks they are a member of an  elite which is
superior and deserving of privilege; or somebody
who thinks that granting privilege and/or giving
over decision making to  an elite group is a good
thing; or both. Just believing that elites exist
doesn't make you an "elitist" in my view, thats
about how you behave around, and what you believe
about the status, of elite groups.


<The issue here is not saying someone is good at 
something (or range of 
things), but making the argument that because of 
his/her ability or 
intelligence, he/she is therefore a better 
*person*. That's where elitism 
garners criticism. It's like saying white people 
are better than black 
people: we recognise this as a problem (I hope). 
So saying smart people are 
better than stupid people is viewed similarly.>

How are we judging better? I think it becomes
elitist if clever people are regarded as always
better than stupid ones -- rather than just
better at being clever. (And lets not get into
all the arguments about measuring intelligence
but recognise that subjectivity seems bound to
creep in). 


<Since I am in trouble for calling my 4th year 
class a bunch of ignoramuses 
for not having heard of Stephen J Gould, I am 
currently in a bit of hot 
water for being an intellectual elitist, myself.>

This sounds unreasonable since ignorance can
always be corrected, its not like you called them
thick (my Dad, as a teacher in the 70s was fond
of saying "the only thing you'll ever pass is
water!"  However my inner schoolgirl, channelling
your pupils,  says "Its not our fault nobody in
science told us, and our parents don't buy the
right kind of newspaper.......if you teachers
want us to know about something you have to tell
us, right?!"* To which my outer(?) adult says
you'll never learn anything if you are not
prepared to learn for yourself! And my point
is................ it's too late at night to have
a point so I will just offer this ramble instead.

*A french teacher once told off my class because
none of us had heard of Charlotte Corday and that
was pretty much my reaction then.


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