Tag Archives: elitism

Elitism and education

The constant hurling of “elitism” as some sort of invective against liberals strikes me as a misguided effort to undermine the advantages of a good education. Conservatives are attempting to disassociate educated, liberal members of the government from the rest of the country by claiming that their education makes them unable to solve problems in a manner that would benefit the most people. They say: The educated are not like you and me. They couldn’t possibly understand what we, the (so-called) normal people, are going through.

I have to disagree.

One of the benefits of education is an awareness and understanding of the world, or at least a desire to understand the world. Sure, there is a disconnect, at least in terms of experience, between someone who went to college and someone who didn’t. But that does not mean that one cannot understand the other’s situation. Or that he/she wouldn’t want to understand. And Ivy League grads, the most maligned of all, consist of people from farms and suburbs, from cities and small towns. The pool of experience is wider than most people think.

It seems strange to tear people down for working hard and doing well in school, and then in their chosen career. Personally, I would rather have someone well educated running the country. The government needs people who fully understand the context, history and possible solutions of the problems it is currently dealing with. We need policy wonks and people who never tire of reading page after page of legalese. Education not only gives people the skills to handle this sort of minutiae, but it also teaches them how to think analytically.

Granted, I’m biased. I went to college and graduate school, and have more education experience than real-life experience. I am part of the educated, liberal “elite.” But my education has allowed me to apply what I learned in the classroom to what I see in the outside world. I’m very grateful for that.

“Elite” is used as an insult so often, and in many different circumstances, that it has lost some of its power. Just because someone has opposing political views doesn’t make him/her an elitist. And just because someone is well educated doesn’t make him/her unable to sympathize with the plight of the “common man” (another trope, along with “Joe Six-Pack” and “average American,” that is overused and was created to suit a specific need rather than accurately describe a large group of people). None of these terms seem to mean much anymore.

A normal person is simply that – a person. Funny how “normal” encompasses such wide variation in background, experience, education. I’ll probably be taken to task as an elitist defending her own. But I think hard work and education should garner pride, not shame. I want whoever is running the country to be smarter than me. It’ll help me sleep at night.


Filed under Philosophizing, Politics