Elitism, especially in education, is almost universally acknowledged today to be a Bad Thing, to the extent that even those who actually believe in it feel called upon to explain that they mean a kind of meritocracy (in opposition to socialistic leveling) in which unavoidable natural differences in intellectual ability and talent are recognised and properly supported, rather than the bad sort of elitism that just protects the privileges of the already privileged. This being the case, it’s scarcely surprising that accusations and imputations of ‘elitism’ have become a conventional means of discrediting one’s opponents in any education- or culture-related debate; the only interesting thing is the particular grounds named or implied as justification for slapping on such a label. Looking back on the whole RIII thing from the perspective of a week and a half, one of the more striking aspects of the discussion – above all in the responses to critical comments made by myself and others – was the prevalence of the term ‘elitism’, even more than accusations of jealousy and petty-mindedness. Further, the same ideas surfaced in discussions of the proposals for a revised National Curriculum for History; again, not in the initial criticisms, but in the response to the criticisms, exemplified by Niall Ferguson’s piece in the Guardian: Why Michael Gove Is Right (And Not Just Because I’m One Of His Chosen Gurus).
Posts Tagged ‘great men’
Apparently we will discover later today whether a skeleton excavated in a Leicester car park is that of Richard III. Whoop-de-doo. Apparently it has a curved spine and battle injuries (and obviously no one else in the middle ages ever suffered such things), but the crucial piece of the jigsaw will be the DNA test. Too much to hope that the margin of error on such things will be properly explained; I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see whether it’s one in a million or one in seventeen billion that it isn’t the man himself. Of course, even if there isn’t a plausible match (the level of hysteria this morning suggests that they must feel pretty confident), this has still been wonderful publicity for the Leicester Archaeology department, and maybe even for archaeology in general. Who can complain about that?
Well, I’m going to. (more…)