Note: This was originally written on April 18, 2006, but as I was still substitute teaching at the time, I decided not to post it. Here it is now:
Steve Sailer recently posted an email where it was mentioned that the upper middle-class often has little to no respect or knowledge of the lower classes. (The email was in response to this earlier posting).
This reminded me of some of my own experiences.
I have recently been making some small amount of money by substitute teaching, and I have noticed, among other things, just how different from me a lot of the non-college-rack students are. I think a lot of people in the "cognitive elite" (basically, anyone who goes to a competitive college or to grad school) assume that the difference between an honors student and an academic student is the ability to understand calculus, or to do sumplification of trigonometric equations, or somesuch. The differences are often much more - fundamental.
This worries me tremendously; not because of some snobbish concern that the hoi polloi are a bunch of yahoos, but because I fear that the cognitive elite who run the corporations and the government are likely as isolated from this, just as I would have been were it not for my experience subbing. Ignorance, particularly when you are ignorant of the fact that you are ignorant, can be extremely dangerous. As Steve Sailer has pointed out, policy-makers have a tendency to assume that everyone thinks and responds like they do, and thus base policies on what would make sense for them. This is tremendously dangerous, though, when the people whom the policies effect react and respond to incentives quite differently. If most of them are like I was, then the elite areway too isolated in their ivory towers.
I have known about this in theory for quite some time; which, I suppose, is why I have been able to adapt to substituting so well. I don't get discouraged if all of my students do not show the potential to become rocket scientists because I was not under the delusion that they would all be able to do so. But I never really understood how stark the differences between people at different cognitive levels are.
I really think that everyone in the "cognitive elite" ought to do at least a month of substitute teaching, at a high school of middle school where they will be teaching students on the left half of the bell curve. I think it might force our future leaders to make policies based on a representative sampling of all parts of the U.S. population, not just based on what they think their friends would go for.
That is all.