LJWorld.com weblogs Llama's Pasture.

Hard-Working or Elitist?


I'm curious why certain individuals are labeled as elitist, while others are lauded for how hard-working they have been to earn their fortunes. In America, I think people generally have a fair amount of mistrust for any group that they feel wields too much power. The Elitism label is one I see tossed around frequently, though, and it's almost always attached to liberal academic elites.

I guess the bigger question here is why do we regard academics- professors, scientists, and the like - as these snobby elitists?

Why do we regard business owners as hard-workers?

I don't have statistics to measure it, but it seems that a reasonably attentive person with a fair amount of drive can have some success in either department.

Now, I have something not very politically correct to say: I think that part of it is that people don't feel like they can succeed in the academic realm. Think about it - most people dislike school. And part of that needs to be addressed by the people who run the education system. But, in general, I think a person gains a higher amount of respect for being a corporate executive than a senior professor, more respect for being a middle manager than a laboratory scientist, more respect certainly for being just about anything than for being a teacher.

Succeeding in academics requires a lot of hard work and dedication, just the same as succeeding in any other arena of life. Let's have some thoughts!


llama726 7 years, 7 months ago

Taking bets on who flies off the handle and makes an unfounded assumption about my questions.

monkey_c 7 years, 7 months ago

Some may think that business owners are more productive and academic-types enjoy relishing in their own thoughts, feeling superior about their grandios thoughts and abstract interpretations while contributing relatively little. Note I said "some people" lol, in some cases this is true, I think, In other cases not true of course. I assume when and if someone discovers a cure for cancer it will be an academic/scientist type and not a shop keep. In the mean time, I believe many people resent the nonproductive thinking - not doing type. Then there is that old saying, you know the one, those who can do, and those who can't teach.

llama726 7 years, 7 months ago

I do know that old saying. I'm wondering where it came about. A great many of my instructors have "done," as you say. There's a reason that many community colleges are staffed with people who used to work in the fields in which they teach.

I guess my question is more: Why is it that their thoughts and "abstract" interpretations are considered relatively worthless - eg., climate scientists, Women's Rights professionals, educators (who, by the way, provide the fundamental knowledge needed by those very business owners), while someone who opens a shop selling junk food is considered productive?

Scott Drummond 7 years, 7 months ago

Who controls the public discourse? Increasingly a bunch of businessmen. Not surprisingly they tend to appreciate and promote business success. If intellectuals ran the nation's mainstream media the result would likely be just the opposite.

kthxbi 7 years, 7 months ago

now you are just baiting them. "Climate scientists”," Women's Rights professionals"....

llama726 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm asking them to disprove any semblance of value while provide a context for blanket value of any business owner being greater than any academic. Maybe it is baiting, but I'd like to hear some reasoning.

monkey_c 7 years, 7 months ago

Would you suggest that a shop keeper would be unable to keep proper records of finances, or unable to know the strengths/weaknesses of his or her company without having been instructed on proper accounting methods by a degreed proffessional? I disagree. Often academics spend far too much time stating the obvious as if it were a magnificently insightful gem. Often the abstract thoughts are absolutely worthless. Once in a while a discovery will be made and that is invaluable. I do suppose that the time wasted pontificating on various ideas with no end benefit contibutes toward the greater discoveries. But, a wigget maker produces something of value with every wigget he/she makes. All day, every day productive. All that being said, as the offspring of a professor...there is no better job in the world. If I'd have had a brain in my head I would have followed in his footstep and gotten paid to think. Awe, yes, a dream job indeed.

llama726 7 years, 7 months ago

Can you give me a specific example? You say "often," I just want to know the basis for that.

Furthermore, no, I'm not saying it's impossible. But a basic literacy in reading and mathematics obtained from educators certainly predisposes one to success, or else businesses wouldn't care if you had at least a high school diploma, would they? I'm not saying that every single person in the world should be concerned with the obscure history of a certain group in the 1300s, but that doesn't mean that there's no value to be gained from the research of said topic in a larger scope.

BABBOY, thanks for your thoughts. I will keep your suggestion in mind about my insecurity (although I am a "producer" as it were, so I feel like I can excel in either avenue and find both of them to be challenging).

Olympics 7 years, 7 months ago

Did someone just let go of their handle?

akhmatova 7 years, 7 months ago

Why? Look at the CVs of some professors at KU and you'll wonder how anyone could have that many hours in a day to accomplish so much.

RoeDapple 7 years, 7 months ago

Hey llama, don't get me wrong, I had many, many good teachers when in school. There were a few I will call "elitist" for lack of a better word, who would inform me that unless I went on to get a degree of some sort instead of pursuing my dream job from age ten of being a truck driver I would never succeed in life. From the time I climbed into that first hay truck at 15 until I retired (the first time) at 53 I never regretted my choice. I measure my success as having done a job well and getting paid a fair wage for it. No yacht on the lake or jet at the airport, but I'll compare my job satisfaction, lifetime salary and retirement income with any of those naysayers!

RoeDapple 7 years, 7 months ago

By the way, it wasn't all hay trucks ;-) Over the years I drove tankers, flats, box and reefers. Doubles and triples too.

llama726 7 years, 7 months ago

My grandfather drove trucks for his whole life after the Army, my stepfather for his whole life after the Navy. It's a good living, and no one has ever doubted how hard they worked and how important what they did was (if we didn't have truckers, our towns and cities would starve).

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 7 months ago

Actually, I think it's pretty elitist that these "hard working businessmen" (emphasis on the men) want to tell me, my daughters and my granddaughters what we can and cannot do with our bodies. I think it's pretty elitist that anybody with a job thinks they have the right to call anyone without a job, "lazy", "welfare moochers", "sucking up my tax dollars" "good-for-nothings", with no regard whatsoever to the circumstances of that joblessness or regard to the fact that in the last decade millions of jobs have disappeared that will never come back. I think it's pretty elitist (and xenophobic) that anybody who even looks like a Muslim is automatically a terrorist and anybody who looks Hispanic is automatically an illegal alien. I think it's elitist that there are people who think there is no way a black man could have become president without having a forged birth certificate. Bottom line, there all kinds of ivory towers and professors aren't the only ones who live in them.

llama726 7 years, 7 months ago

1) Please explain why you are soooo focused on the fact that he is biracial. 2) Define "liberal academic elite," and tell me what the difference between George W. Bush (Yale educated) and Barack Obama are, other than their political affiliation and policy differences - in terms of elitism?

xclusive85 7 years, 7 months ago

So, I am college aged working on my master's degree. I went to class today and my professor showed up and right away started talking about the election and how the results would lead the nation into a state of despair because the democrats had lost so many elections. I am a Republican, which is like a curse word to her. She was telling us for weeks before the election that if we didn't vote as she was voting that we would be doing a great injustice to everyone living in the city, county, state, and nation. I believe it is this type of attitude that defines the elitism. Because I see things differently than her I must be wrong in my conclusions. Well, I seem to be doing just fine without her political input. Maybe she should just teach and not get into a political discussion in a class that has nothing to do about politics, but rather a biology class.

llama726 7 years, 7 months ago

I'd lodge a complaint with the college. That isn't right for an instructor to do in any situation, just as it isn't tolerated in the business world (except it is, where I work, I've been called a socialist and gotten to hear Glenn Beck talking points a lot. I just shrug it off and don't participate in those conversations or let them get to me, anymore, but that doesn't mean it's appropriate). Every class I've ever been in, they print on the syllabus who you can go talk to if you have a concern with the instructor, and you should absolutely follow through with it. Science classes should never cross over into politics.

I had the same thing happen to me in an Economics class, from the opposite perspective when Obama was elected. The same doomsday sort of speech, just the other way around.

llama726 7 years, 7 months ago

"A classic moment. A true moment. Then there is my sister-in-law's engineering professor bf who, upon moving her into her new house, fiddled with a shelf in the entertainment center over the course of time that it took me and the other 4-5 stupid, non-elitist grunts with mere B.S. degrees to move two U-Haul loads of very, very heavy furniture in 95 degree full humidity heat."

So you know a lazy person, and a "stupid" person who are both academic elites. I don't get it. These are just anecdotes. I know a lazy manager in a business (several, actually) and I can't count the number of stupid people I've encountered in my working life who are inexplicably thrust into managerial positions. I don't think that all businesspeople are stupid. I don't think all businesspeople are lazy.

notajayhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

"Then there is my sister-in-law's engineering professor bf who, upon moving her into her new house, fiddled with a shelf in the entertainment center over the course of time that it took me and the other 4-5 stupid, non-elitist grunts with mere B.S. degrees to move two U-Haul loads of very, very heavy furniture in 95 degree full humidity heat. "

Hate to point this out, Tom, but who was it that had the brains in that particular case? ;-)

brian1981 7 years, 7 months ago

Maybe people see businessmen and businesswomen as less "elitist" because they actually get out of bed every morning and produce jobs, widgets, and services that help build and fuel the economy, and because if they start to lose their ability to run their business well or make themselves valuable enough to society, they will quickly run out of money and cease to exist, Darwin-style. A businessperson HAS to be in tune with at least some segment of society or they will go extinct. So businesspeople are both productive and evolving to the needs of their environment, which happens to be society.

Now compare this to academics who are employed by tax-payers, produce nothing tangible to the economy, and are practically unfireable after they get tenure.

llama726 7 years, 7 months ago

Interesting take.

"Now compare this to academics who are employed by tax-payers"

Except they're also funded by grants and might bring more money to their employer in terms of those grants from both public and private sources than they take out with their paycheck.

"produce nothing tangible to the economy,"

Except additional better trained employees to participate in that economy, as well as new inventions or breakthroughs, as with science.

"and are practically unfireable after they get tenure."

That's a good point, but the same can be said of many corporate executives and other higher-ups in businesses.

llama726 7 years, 7 months ago

Glad you said most. There's a place for fundamentals of almost everything I've learned in my (anticipated) profession.

Jim Phillips 7 years, 7 months ago

The answer is simple. It has nothing to do with one's chosen profession or life path. An Elitist is one who is intent upon contolling, regulating, and dictating his own ideals upon those whom he thinks is inferior to himself while insisting that the laws he proposes do not apply to him. Stereotypically, the Academics have been largely placed in this light. The truth of the matter is that I have run across many business men who, because of the money they either earned or inherited, felt they were to be accorded a higher status. Elitists are determined by their attitudes toward others.

llama726 7 years, 7 months ago

I think that is the truest definition of the word, absolutely. Well-put.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 7 months ago

Very well put and actually relates to my own previous post.

riverdrifter 7 years, 7 months ago

I'd wager that my daily work regimen would plow TomShewmon under in two weeks. But, I'm tired of my regimen. I'm going to take ten days off and go pheasant hunting. I usually average about 4.5 - 5 miles per day hunting, by the GPS. My lab will easily triple that, btw. We'll end the trip by hunting geese. Something you do just lying there -after doing all the work setting things up.

camper 7 years, 7 months ago

I once had a boss whom I believed was an elitist. At the time he did not like my style of supervising, which was basically trust people and show them respect and dignity. I was basically a hands off supervisor. My boss, on the other hand, told me that I was too patronizing and preferred me to keep the slack tight.

One thing I cannot figure out though, this old boss of mine, while a business manager, was certainly no right winger. So that taught me a valuable lesson that I still need to work on which is that ones background, education, or poliitics does not determine if one is or is not an elitist.

Even at that, I'm still not quite sure I even understand what an elitist is, because it is usually one person diagnosing another. One persons judgement of another. Are we to trust this diagnosis? After all, elitisim is not necessarily a tangible thing.

KansasTinman 7 years, 7 months ago

Elitist has nothing to do with one's job - or political, and everything to do with one's attitude. I see extreme elitism in Glenn Beck's chalboard and Rachel Maddow's smirk. I also see it in both Kris Kobach's "Illegal is Illegal" and the South Lawrence Trafficway protestors.

notajayhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

I won't get into your question as to why academics are accused of being elitists more than businessmen or why because it's based on at least one false premise - i.e., that the two are mutually exclusive. When I got my business degree, there were essentially two major groups in the program, the younger ones and the non-trads. The non-trads, as a whole, garnered a much bigger share of the academic honors, virtually all of us having had significant real-world experience before beginning the program.

I use the elitist label a lot more recently, mostly in regards to politics. The closest parallel I can think of is movie critics. It amazes me sometimes that critics pan very popular films and love the ones nobody will pay to see. Sorry, but movies are a medium of entertainment, and if it isn't entertaining, then it wasn't a good movie.

Our form of government, at least in theory, is a representative one. We choose the candidate that best represents our values, our interests, our preferences and priorities. When a large majority chooses one candidate, it's nothing more than elitism for a small minority to claim the majority made the 'wrong' choice, since by definition, the winner of the election is the choice of the people and therefor represents that majority.

Liberty275 7 years, 7 months ago

"climate scientists" Con artists

" Women's Rights professionals" LOL. Do women have special rights now? Should we burn the 14th amendment NOW or should we urinate on it first? Either way is OK with me, I have a spare copy to take the place of the one your special rights recipients dessicrate.

"educators" Meh. I did 3 years as a GTA with complete control over the class and curriculum. It was easy. Being an educator doesn't make you elite. It does make the people that can't do anything think they are elite. I found most of them considerably ignorant about anything they weren't told back when they were in school.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.