Academic Elitism

Academic elitism suggests that in highly competitive academic environments only those individuals who have engaged in scholarship are deemed to have anything worthwhile to say, or do. It suggests that individuals who have not engaged in such scholarship are cranks. It is possible, though, to value serious scholarship without being an academic elitist, of course. A lesser and broader form of this, intellectual elitism, exists in non-academic circles, so academic elitism might also be viewed as a further extreme of intellectual elitism, depending upon one's perspective.

The tendency towards academic elitism is most pronounced in highly competitive and highly regarded environments. The peer review of academia process is occasionally cited as suppressing dissent against “mainstream” theories (part of an overall system of suppression of intellectual dissent). Some sociologists of science argue that peer review makes the ability to publish susceptible to control by elites and to personal jealousy. Reviewers tend to be especially critical of conclusions that contradict their own views, and lenient towards those that accord with them. At the same time, elite scientists are more likely than less established ones to be sought out as referees, particularly by high-prestige journals or publishers. As a result, it has been argued, ideas that harmonize with the elite's are more likely to see print and to appear in premier journals than are iconoclastic or revolutionary ones, which accords with Thomas Kuhn's well-known observations regarding scientific revolutions.

The tendency towards academic elitism is noticeable in some education systems (particularly in developed countries). More attention and resources are afforded to students who are deemed most intelligent at an early age. This inequality tends to further separate the elite from the remainder of society. Streaming systems include branded institutions, gifted classes, and other elite student groups. Countries with extensive private school systems also exemplify this trend.

Site Map