Wednesday, 28 November 2007

The Upper Hand of Mediocrity

“It is now time to address, once and for all, the archaic and socially exclusive policy of academic selection.” [1] Why don’t these blighters just cut to the chase and have us all mucking out pig-sties in our fair and democratic turn? And whilst we’re in the grip of the mania for abolishing archaic and socially exclusive things, — of the mania for abolishing anything that might stand in the way of the one society of mass-uniformity —, why not go to the crux of the matter and abolish thinking for oneself? After all, some people are better at it than others — surely that’s unfair? And thinking for oneself is in truth socially exclusive, and it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to find it archaic and outmoded as well: it is certainly unbefitting of the era of the mass.
Let the open secret be once expressed and the moon-calf be brought to light, strange as it may appear therein; narrow-mindedness and stupidity always and everywhere, in all situations and circumstances, detest nothing in the world so heartily and thoroughly as understanding, intellect, and talent. Here mediocrity remains true to itself, as is shown in all the spheres and affairs that relate to life, for it endeavours everywhere to suppress, indeed to eradicate and exterminate, superior qualities in order to exist alone. [2]
Now mediocrity has the upper hand, and resentment against excellence and advantage grows apace. Resentful mediocrity is at the very heart of the power of the modern state, in the service of which uniformity simplifies the problem of control.

[1] Mike Ion, “Select gatherings”, Comment is Free (The Guardian’s weblog), 28th November 2007.
[2] Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Philosophy at the Universities”, Pererga and Paralipomena, Vol.1, tr. by E.F.J. Payne, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p.164, original emphasis.


Anonymous said...

An interesting posting.

My starting point is that I beleive that all students deserve equitable access to challenging and meaningful learning regardless of race, ethnic group, gender, socio-economic status, geographic location, age, language, disability, or prior achievement. This concept has profound implications for teaching and learning in all schools and suggests that ensuring equity and excellence must be at the core of systemic reform efforts in education as a whole.

Selection at aged 11 may ensure excellence for a few (though most research casts doubt on this) but it does not help achieve equity.

Anonymous said...

I think Mike Ion - interesting name that - has a very good point. It's time that woman stopped selecting for charm, better looks and dancing ability and gave me a chance.

Or is Mr Ion - where does that name come from? - only interested in eliminating selection in one of our inherited qualities?

Sky Captain said...

Regardless of prior achievement?
Why bother?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ion has quite a point. Perhaps we should abolish all exclusivity in our educational selections. Henceforward, all medical school slots shall be selected from the general population through lottery. Everyone should have equitable access to performing surgery on others.