Unapologetically elitist

From Uscolia: “Imagine the earth as a gigantic experiment in learning. Every minute 256 babies are born with brains identically wired for inquiry and knowledge. A minute later, however, each newborn in its crib, cradle, bassinet, basket, or carry cot is exposed to different signals that begin to shape its brain, and each one embarks on a separate trajectory leading to a different adventure. It is called life. The way the stimuli are organized and presented to these newborns determines the path they take through life. If you are aware of it, you can help guide its course to a considerable extent. But you must have a path marked, or at least a direction of travel—mapped out at birth or close thereafter.” Uscolians believe that they have discovered such a path.

On this day, when Uscolia is published, 256 babies continue to be born every minute. But the parents of how many of these will read Uscolia? Indeed, the parents of how many will read any book? The parents of how many can read at all? The parents of how many can afford to spend time, energy, and resources on anything not directly related to survival? Perhaps the greater good would be better served if Uscolians showed us how to spread basic literacy to hundreds of millions who still haven’t achieved it, to inhabitants of the Amazon basin who have never heard of amazon.com. Until that happens, let us learn from the Uscolians all we can—without teaching.

Are Uscolians, then, unapologetically elitist? In a way they are. By definition, the acquisition of any knowledge or skill is elitist, because it separates one from all those who lack this knowledge or skill. The more learning you acquire, the narrower the circle you belong to becomes. If you are literate you already belong to an elite, admittedly a large one, comprising 83% of the world population, leaving the remaining 17% behind. If you completed high school, you belong to a smaller elite, comprising 66% of world population, and if you have a college degree you are part of a 7% elite, leaving 93% of the population behind. Those who achieve true excellence in the sciences, arts, business, or some other area are likely to belong to a highly exclusive club, leaving more than 99% of the human race in the dust. Any gain in knowledge and skill advances you and separates you from those less knowledgeable and skilled.

With aristocracy all but gone, elites are what we have left to emulate and endeavor to join. They are not as alluring as the aristocracy but are more accepting and offer many more options for joining because they come in many flavors: cultural, financial, political, religious, military, and others. In societies in which most of us have a fair theoretical chance of becoming part of at least one of these, elitism is not a slur word.

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