The Corner

The “Lite” In “Elite”

A reader:

You’re right about the “lightness” of a lot of the Ivy-style cognitive elites. But there’s something else: despite the fancy degrees from fancy colleges, they’re often not very well educated. They’re glib enough, and can b-s their way through most situations, but I suspect many of the liberal arts graduates are shockingly ignorant about the liberal arts, having instead spent their college years deconstructing and surveying and networking and grade inflating.

It wouldn’t be all that bad if the CE had Greek and Latin classics flogged into them, British-boarding-school style. That would at least give them an idea of how someone other than Right Thinking People Like Us behaved. Instead they got a steady diet of swill, and were generously graded for their efforts.

Obama’s frequent gaffes make a lot more sense when viewed in this light.

True enough, I think, and you can never have enough of the classics. Nothing is more chastening than to find out that the brilliant idea you had and were thinking maybe you’d write a book about or base a policy on, already occurred to someone else and got argued to pieces 2200 years ago. One great advantage of a good education is that it dethrones your ego: a thing that seems … not to have happened much to Wonder Boy.

Still, it’s the aspect of not having been marked much that makes so many of the elites seem so light, of having got through life without touching the sides: of never having been closely acquainted with people who make a living on just a high school graduation diploma, never having engaged with the physical world and all its cussedness and contrariety, never having built anything or made anything, never having tasted despair, failure, and humiliation, never having been broke, hungry, fired, suckered, beaten, lost. I’d guess that not many of them are Samuel Beckett fans.

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