The Real Elitism

You cannot force someone into being a scholar. Our education system has yet to unearth this truth.

Part of the problem stems from the blindly efficient march of globalization and our frantic attempts to adapt our workforce to its dictates. We don’t make things in this country anymore. Instead, we pay people in other countries drastically lower wages to build things for us. The days when high school graduates en masse could find permanent, respectable employment on the factory floor is more or less over. The only ticket to a middle class standard of living, we are told, is a highly technical education.

In response, we batter ill-prepared students through a process during which they’ll take on tremendous debt, meantime diluting the standards to which capable students are held. Yes, success within the traditional education system is drastically unfair. Tests are by nature skewed to favor people from well-educated families. This is because the traditional education system hails from a time when obtaining a college degree wasn’t the only path to respectability. If you weren’t inclined to write papers, read books, and take exams, you could still receive vocational training, pursue a respectable profession, and hold your head up high, because society understood that some types of people excel in the classroom and others don’t.

Those professions have dwindled but they still exist. We need electricians, auto mechanics, and plumbers as vitally as lawyers and college professors. Neither job is inherently more meritorious than the other. Neither practitioner is inherently more intelligent than the other. With certain exceptions (viz. drug dealing) the profession itself doesn’t determine how much respect someone should be accorded. It’s the manner in which someone practices their profession that matters.

So when someone says that too many people attend college, they’re not being elitist. While we’re about it, they’re not being racist, either. In fact, the people who argue that we should hold everyone to standards biased toward a select few are the real disciples of elitism. College is not for everyone. We need to stop making this a value judgment. Some are much better served by attending a two-year technical college. Some are much better served by enlisting in the military, gaining a transferable skill set, and entering the civilian sector. The fundamental injustice is that some of these paths are harder to tread than others. I doubt we’ll ever rectify that.

What we should not do is hardwire ill-fitted students to assume that a system which militates against their nature is the only path to happiness and success. The system and the student suffer because of such thinking.

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