[FoRK] why is "elite" a dirty word?

rudy rouhana < rudy at comlaw.org > on > Thu Mar 16 07:20:13 PST 2006

  I can think of a few reasons.
 a.) Elite is more often than not a subjective term that absorbs the bias of whoever uses it to describe something.
 b.) Elite entities are often times granted such status not based on their own merit, but rather the funds granted to them or the reputations of those that established them.  
 b.) Elite is more often than not the end game, rather than a constant state of competition.  Hence the appeal of sports in broadcasting.  Yes, there are elite teams for reasons that have nothing to do with pure competition.  Take the Yankees for example, their marketplace and owner wealth give them a distinct competitive advantage.  However, they are still required to prove themselves each year, and in any given year they are more likely to not finish with a championship and be the elite team of the league.
 However, the constantly correcting mechanism of sports doesn't extend to other areas as elite entities typically are allowed to perpetuate themselves without constant competition in the marketplace.  Harvard will always be Harvard; they have an elite reputation that will likely never be questioned by society even in the face of their now former University President's opinion on the ability to succeed in engineering and science.  I can think of many reasons why someone who could meet the standards to attend Harvard wouldn't actually have the opportunity:  Despite Harvard's endowment paying millions to their fund managers, many students are in incredible debt when they leave, and assuming such debt may not be an option for some students.  The University has practiced discrimination in who they accept. (Look up some of the roots of the term: "grinders") Spaces are reserved for kids who attend premier boarding schools, kids who without the benefit of extremely wealthy families
 are not academically distinct than other. And so on...

So, the student who opted to go to State U. likely will have a much greater time achieving elite anything status, while the student waltzing out of Harvard will have a society predisposed to accept what they say as having higher value.



----- Original Message ----
From: Corinna <corinna.schultz at gmail.com>
To: fork at xent.com
Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2006 8:42:56 AM
Subject: [FoRK] why is "elite" a dirty word?

OK, I understand why "liberal" is an epithet, as in "tax and spend liberal". 
And "liberal
 can connote permissiveness, looseness, etc.  But why the word "elite"? 
I've always had positive connotations with that word -- such as success, 
competence, being in 1st place -- and I find it jarring when it is used in a 
demeaning manner.  Who are they referring to when they say "elite" in this 
way?  Here's an example:

"I'm waiting to hear the words 'I was wrong' from some of the world's most 
elite journalists, politicians and Hollywood types...."


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