"In the very years of forced egalitarianism--when we believe
that every child must go to college, every person own his home, and
every traditional institution topple--the most brutal elitism is
permitted and praised if only it is committed in the context of a
physical challenge. Yes, in elementary school every player gets a
trophy, but soon the superiority of the best athletes is not hidden but
"Could we achieve the same sort of social cohesion through some other,
less brutal, means? Yes and no. In theory we could have a nation
devoted to literature and the debates of public intellectuals. ...
responded to and encouraged an attempt by a generation of Americans to
acquire the education that time and circumstance would otherwise make
impossible. The intellectuals have always disdained these efforts of
the striving middle classes . ... More recently, Oprah's book club
tried to make some movements in this direction, but it was also derided
as a little déclassé
. This is always the problem when people
try to pull themselves up and improve. Egalitarianism is always easier
to achieve through reaching down than reaching up.
achieve just such an egalitarianism of interest by reaching down. The
achievement of the sports culture in America is that it permits a clear
recognition that some people are better than others--elitism--without
producing a cultural divide between those who can truly appreciate it
and those who cannot."
- Geoffrey Vaughan
, political scientist writing about "Our Egalitarian Elitism" at First Things
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