Academic institutions often face the charge of academic elitism.
Academic elitism suggests that in highly competitive academic environments only those individuals who have engaged in scholarship are deemed to have anything worthwhile to say.
The tendency towards academic elitism is most pronounced in the most highly competitive and highly regarded institutions.
This form of elitism is observed in the streaming education systems that exist in most developed countries. More attention and resources are afforded to students who are deemed most intelligent at an early age. This inequality tends to further separate the elite from the remainder of society. Streaming systems include branded institutions, gifted classes, and other elite student groups. Countries with extensive private school systems also exemplify this trend.
Some arguments for the elimination of academic elitism are: that it is an inherently exclusionary process; that it serves to hamper the advancement of human knowledge by ignoring potentially valid ideas; that it encourages waste through the development of a winner-takes-all mentality; that academic institutions are unreasonably shielded from economic competition by government funding programs; and that selection processes are unfairly biased towards certain groups.
Some arguments for the acceptance of academic elitism are: that elitism is an illusion which masks an inherent human tendency to group by abilities and interests; that human societies are best advanced by those who are most willing and able to participate in academic study; and that human societies require a vetting process that leads people to roles that will yield to most efficient management of societal resources.
Authors including Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and Ayn Rand have explored both sides of social elitism. They present theoretical examples of the dystopian societies which might result from either extreme support or extreme undermining of elitism.
Last updated: 07-30-2005 16:44:47